Relevant Rhetoric

Relevant Rhetoric is a peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to revealing the relevance and significance of rhetoric in our lives.













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Spring 2015, Volume 6

Welcome to the sixth volume of Relevant Rhetoric: A New Journal of
Rhetorical Studies

Each submission is carefully peer reviewed by members of the Editorial Board. Once again, we received more submissions than ever for this issue. Thank you for your submissions and for your support. This year's volume includes interesting and timely analyses of popular culture including television, film, toys, museums, and a thoughtful piece about how to make rhetorical analyses more timely and relevant.

Please send your submissions and comments to the editor at
For submission information, please visit the relevant tab from the menu.

Enjoy the essays in Volume 6, just click on the title to read the article (it will open in a new window as a .pdf file).

If you’re looking for previous volumes/articles, please visit the Archives tab. The other tabs provide information about the journal’s philosophy, submissions for future volumes, and the Editorial Board.

Essays in Volume 6, 2015

Jimmie Manning, "The Rhetorical Function of Laugh Tracks: Examining Queer Shame in Will & Grace and Roseanne.”
Popular comedic texts have powerful, if not always visible, political implications. This power extends to personal-political topics and issues such as queer identities and relationships. Recognizing humor’s ability to shape discourses, in this essay I examine coming out story arcs from the situation comedies Will & Grace and Roseanne. This analysis indicates that Will & Grace, a program traditionally cited as sophisticated and queer-affirmative, uses humor at the expense of queer stereotypes. Alternately, Roseanne, a show criticzed for using queer characters for shock value, offers a  model for queer acceptance. The study also demonstrates how laugh tracks can be used in rhetorical analysis of sitcoms. It also questions what other elements of an enduring text might need to be questioned in order to consider its legacy.
Pearce Durst, “The Word-less Rhetoric of Leviathan: Observational Ethos in the Digital Age“ 
This essay analyzes one experimental documentary film that obscures or completely avoids the use of words. Leviathan (2012) relies predominantly on aural and visual rhetoric to convey a fragmented, polyphonic, and critically open-ended narrative. It uses numerous small and lightweight digital cameras to extend an “observational mode” of surveillance—where audiences witness the many operations of an industrial fishing boat as a “fly on the wall.” By abstaining from dialogue, the word-less landscape of the film creates persuasive openings for audiences to actively decode meaning and significance.

William Benoit, “Image Repair Analysis of Barbie’s “#Unapologetic” OpEd
–In February of 2012, Sports Illustrated released its annual swimsuit issue. This one included something unusual: Pictures of Barbie dolls in swimsuits. Criticism arose immediately and Mattel responded with an OpEd attributed to Barbie, titled “#Unapologetic.” Persuasive messages can serve multiple purposes. Barbie’s appearance in SI and the OpEd were obviously part of a publicity stunt (Barbie sales had been falling) yet the OpEd also worked to repair the image of Barbie (and of Mattel). This essay applies Image Repair Theory to this unusual instance of corporate image repair. The defense relied mainly on denial and bolstering; criticism of Barbie’s accusers also was implied. This defense may have helped reinforce the attitudes of those who liked Barbie but it is unlikely to have changed many minds of those who thought the doll was a poor role model; Barbie sales continued to drop.

Valerie Lynn Schrader "'Infinite Thousands': The National Museum of the American Indian’s 'Invasion Wall' and the Burkean Pentad"
–This article examines the Invasion Wall of the “Our Peoples: Giving Voice to Our Histories” Exhibit of the National Museum of the American Indian through the lens of the Burkean pentad. Through a rhetorical analysis of the wall, I argue that the National Museum of the American Indian employed a scene-act pentadic ratio in this section of the exhibit, placing emphasis on the act of spreading disease and on the locations to which disease spread. Furthermore, it is suggested that the application of a different ratio may have made a stronger, more accurate historical statement, but it would have done so at the risk of creating a public memory that may have alienated some visitors and jeopardized the exhibit’s and the museum’s purpose.

James C. Bunker,"Deliberative Expediency and Public Scholarship: Addressing the Problem of Timeliness and Credibility in Political Deliberation"
–This essay provides an entry point for scholars who see utility in contextualizing and establishing the credibility of public argument to facilitate citizen evaluation of controversies and to empower public deliberation. It does this by establishing the importance of deliberative expediency and how scholars can overcome issues associated with timeliness to achieve presence in deliberation. It also discusses how archival technological changes enable public scholars to expediently introduce historical argument into contemporary debates. Finally, it revisits the work of Robert P. Newman to discuss how his theory of source credibility is still relevant to public scholars seeking to facilitate deliberation for public audiences.