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ERIC Number: ED357406
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1993-Feb
Pages: 25
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Rhetorical Genre: The Countercommencement Address as Jeremiad.
King, Corwin P.
The "countercommencement" address (sometimes composed in reaction to the traditional commencement address) may be usefully criticized as an example of the rhetorical genre known as the "secular jeremiad." This provides a conceptual framework for interpreting the motives and meanings of such an address, which is typically offensive in tone and content, as well as a further application of genre criticism itself. A secular jeremiad replaces the tenets of Puritan religion found in the traditional jeremiad with what can be described as the "civil religion of the American Dream." Secular jeremiads incorporate such values as effort, persistence, initiative, self-reliance, achievement, and material success. Three countercommencement addresses (two published in the "Chronicle of Higher Education" and one reprinted in the "National Review") typical of the genre are analyzed in this paper, which ends with an evaluation that concludes that these addresses are probably ineffective as rhetorical acts because they fail to incorporate a critical element of the jeremiad, the effort to "fetch good out of evil"; that they lack the element of optimism. Countercommencements are rituals, a way for rhetors to repent their own sins, instead of doing what would seem more appropriate in the face of calamity--reforming their own behavior and eliminating the problem. (Thirty footnotes are included.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A