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The Prophetic Tradition and Radical Rhetoric in America

James Darsey (NYU Press: Sep 1, 1999), 279 pages.

This expansive volume traces the rhetoric of reform across American history, examining such pivotal periods as the American Revolution, slavery, McCarthyism, and today’s gay liberation movement. At a time when social movements led by religious leaders, from Louis Farrakhan to Pat Buchanan, are playing a central role in American politics, James Darsey connects this radical tradition with its prophetic roots. Public discourse in the West is derived from the Greek principles of civility, diplomacy, compromise, and negotiation. On this model, radical speech is often taken to be a sympton of social disorder. Not so, contends Darsey, who argues that the rhetoric of reform in America represents the continuation of a tradition separate from the commonly accepted principles of the Greeks. Though the links have gone unrecognized, the American radical tradition stems not from Aristotle, he maintains, but from the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. ~ Synopsis

Table of Contents

    • Preface   
    • 1    Radical Rhetoric and American Community: Threnody for Sophrosyne    1
    • 2    Old Testament Prophecy as Radical Ursprach    15
    • 3    Prophecy as Sacred Truth: Self-Evidence and Righteousness in the American Revolution    35
    • 4    Prophecy as Krisis: Wendell Phillips and the Sin of Slavery    61
    • 5    The Prophet’s Call and His Burden: The Passion of Eugene V. Debs    85
    • 6    The Word in Darkness    111
    • 7    A Vision of the Apocalypse: Joe McCarthy’s Rhetoric of the Fantastic    128
    • 8    Prophecy as Poetry: The Romantic Vision of Robert Welch    151
    • 9    Secular Argument and the Language of Commodity: Gay Liberation and Merely Civil Rights    175
    • 10    The Seraph and the Snake    199
    • Notes    211
    • Index    269