The rhetoric of persuasion in selected works of Mary Austin

Date

5/30/2001

Authors

Carter, Judith Lynn

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Abstract

This dissertation is a study of the rhetoric of persuasion in selected works of Mary Austin that express her ideas on regenerating modern society with American Indian values. The method of inquiry utilized in this study is neo-Aristotelian rhetorical criticism. A neo-Aristotelian analysis examines the intended effects of an artifact on an audience and the strategies used by the writer for achieving the intended effects. The three principal steps in the neo-Aristotelian analytic process are to reconstruct the context in which the artifact occurred, to analyze the artifact, and to assess the impact of the artifact. The five canons of classical rhetoric are the bases of analysis in neo-Aristotelian criticism. Mimesis is also an element of neo-Aristotelian criticism. Two types of persuasive artifact, functional and literary artifacts, are examined. A historical-biographical analysis is the focus of one chapter which examines the influences of the American Indians on Austin and of her participation in the American Indian regeneration movement. This information reviews the context in which Austin's writings arose and presents the general ideas of the American Indian regeneration movement. A neo-Aristotelian analysis of the functional persuasion in selected works written by Austin is the subject of another chapter. These works promote regeneration ideas and motivate people to learn about and to help preserve American Indian rights and culture. Persuasion in these works ranges from subtle suggestion to formal argumentation. Other chapters focus on the neo-Aristotelian analyses of the literary persuasion in the short story “The White Hour” and the unpublished novella Thinking White. The mimetic analytical function of neo-Aristotelian criticism aids in tracing an idea that Austin developed from a functional persuasive work into a literary ideal. Austin's regeneration ideas are brought to life in these fictionalized accounts of American Indian protagonists and their interaction with the Anglo world. A detailed examination of Austin's persuasive rhetoric concerning American Indians brings insight as to the reason that she devoted so much of her time and her writing to this subject and adds information to the controversial opinions that exist among critics concerning Austin's motives for writing about American Indians.

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Keywords

Language, literature, and linguistics, Austin, Mary, Native Americans, Persuasion, Rhetoric

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