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 2016, Volume 7

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

Each submission is carefully peer reviewed by members of the Editorial Board. We received many interesting submissions and have encouraged several to revise and resubmit their essays. Thank you for your submissions and for your support. This year's accepted essays include interesting and timely analyses of student excuses, the lyrics of Rush, and a case study of persuasive attack.

Please see a call for Volume 8 submissions, related to persuasive attack, below. Please send your submissions and comments to the editor at or Nancy J. Legge, Editor.

For submission information, please visit the relevant tab from the menu. 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 7, 2016

Kevin A. Stein and Michael K. Ostrowsky, "Taco the puppy is super sick": Student Excuses as a Unique Form of Apologia
The paper, which utilizes Benoit’s image repair framework, analyzes the apologia strategies utilized by college students in their excuses to professors. This represents an important departure from the plethora of apologia studies that examine the face-work of politicians, organizations, and celebrities by shifting the research focus to a less public context. Using a sample of 324 student emails, the findings demonstrate that students employ a variety of strategies for maintaining an appropriate image with faculty. The strategies are generally consistent with Benoit's framework of image repair strategies, but students added linguistic flourishes that are unique to an interpersonal context. The paper discusses the key findings regarding the content of student emails and offers suggestions for future research.

Brett A. Barnett, Rush's Lyrical Rhetoric of Oppression and Liberation
Extending the literature on the rhetoric of song, this essay provides an analysis of a sample of hit songs produced by the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees with a large fan base and a demonstrated influence on popular culture. Analysis reveals that Rush’s greatest hits consistently alternate between the opposing themes of oppression and liberation. Similar to “freedom songs” of the 1960’s civil rights movement, Rush’s lyrical narratives provide a potential source of catharsis and inspiration for listeners. The author concludes that Rush can be viewed as extending freedom songs beyond roots in gospel and folk music and into the progressive rock genre.

James R. DiSanza and Nancy J. Legge, The Rhetoric of Persuasive Attack: Continuing the Development of a Taxonomy of Attack Strategies and Tactics
–One of the characterizing traits of the current divisive presidential nomination process is the strong personal attacks candidates impose on each other. Although there is a significant amount of literature on the persuasive defense, sometimes referred to as image repair, there has been much less work on persuasive attack. Persuasive attacks focus on two things. First, an offensive act is believed by the accused to be perceived negatively by a salient audience. Only if the target of the attack believes his or her reputation will suffer does an attack constitute a threat to his or her image. Second, the accused must be perceived to be responsible, wholly or partially, for the wrongful act. The most extensive typology of attack rhetoric was produced by Benoit and Dorries (1996), who used elements of attribution theory and persuasive defense theory (image repair) to construct a typology of persuasive attack tactics. This paper extends that typology to include categories of ethos to give the theory more explanatory power. This paper tests and applies the extended typology to a persuasive attack that ESPN’s Keith Olbermann made on Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, and the NFL in their handling of the Rice domestic abuse case. The paper provides assessment of the persuasive attack and the extended typology.

Call for Papers for Volume 8 (2017): Exploring Persuasive Attack Theory

Despite its ubiquity, the study of persuasive attack is a relatively unstudied rhetorical genre. A search of the Communication and Mass Media Complete database in the Ebsco Host database for “persuasive attack” OR “persuasive attacks” shows only 13 articles. On the other hand, a search of the phrases “image repair” OR “image restoration” AND “rhetoric” brings up 122 articles. It is clear that much more research effort has been devoted to the study of image repair than the attacks that often create the need for image repair. It is also clear that trends in our culture, including our increasingly polarized politics, intense disagreements over social and economic policies, and the ease with which attacks are leveled and go national on social media, suggest that more academic research should be devoted to this rhetorical form.

Nancy Legge, the editor of Relevant Rhetoric, is issuing a call for manuscripts that focus on persuasive attack and will devote next year’s issue to the submissions that are accepted by the editorial board. Given the limited research on this subject, authors are encouraged to explore new methods and case studies for the examination of persuasive attack. The submission guidelines for manuscripts can be found at: Relevant Rhetoric: Submissions. Please note: submission deadline for essays related to this call is October 30, 2016.

To initiate this discussion of persuasive attack, Nancy Legge and I have contributed an article to this issue that applies a taxonomy of tactics to one of Keith Olbermann’s extended attacks on the NFL, and its Commissioner, Roger Goodell, during the Ray Rice domestic violence incident. The essay is posted above this call. We look forward to publishing an illuminating series of articles on persuasive attack in next year’s edition of Relevant Rhetoric.
James R. DiSanza
Business Manager, Relevant Rhetoric: A New Journal of Rhetorical Studies