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ERIC Number: EJ771172
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Aug
Pages: 36
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0033-5630
A Traumatic Reading of Twentieth-Century Rhetorical Theory: The Belgian Holocaust, Malines, Perelman, and de Man
Frank, David A.
Quarterly Journal of Speech, v93 n3 p308-343 Aug 2007
In this essay, I seek to read the rhetorical theories set forth by Belgians Chaim Perelman and Paul de Man as responses to the Holocaust. To accomplish this aspiration, I draw from Dominick LaCapra's framework for the analysis of trauma and its expression in historical and theoretical texts. Reading the rhetorical theories of Perelman and de Man, two of the most prominent of the twentieth century, through a lens of trauma theory allows critics to see them as post-war efforts to deal with the implications of the absence of meaning, the murder and loss of 25,257 Belgian Jews, Fascism, genocide, and de Man's collaboration with the Nazis. I argue that Perelman's rhetoric theory better "works-through" the Belgian Holocaust than the one offered by de Man because it offers a vision of reason that can yield justice and places collaborators in the "grey zone" of totalitarian societies and logical positivism, thereby offering de Man partial absolution for his endorsement of the German occupation and anti-Semitism. De Man's rhetorical theory appears to act out the Belgian Holocaust, for it rehearses the act of deconstruction, does not name its traumatic exigence, lacks the theoretical resources to deal with the material past, fails to offer better choices for the present, or provide a vision of the future. Reading rhetorical theories as responses to the exigences of trauma calls for a reconsideration of the contexts and motives driving the creation of the major rhetorical theories of the twentieth century, including those of Heidegger and Grassi. (Contains 186 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Belgium