Toward a rhetoric of confidence: rethinking ethos through scams, forgeries, and fake identities

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University of Alabama Libraries

The con artist, a sophisticated rhetorical figure and diverse cultural archetype, reflects the significance and potential of confidence as a rhetorical principle. In this project, I examine appeals to ethos embedded in confidence games to consider how ethos extends beyond traditional notions of the character of the author. This principle persists through the history of rhetoric and functions, in many ways, as the authoritative appeal. Analyzing the structure of confidence games, the character of forgeries distinct from the character of their authors, and the notion of imposture as a mediating rhetorical structure, I develop a framework for extending ethos to decisions underpinning the rhetorical canon of arrangement, the visual design of texts to argue for their own authenticity, and the idea that character is informed by thoughtful imitation. I also explore some of the implications this rhetoric of confidence has on issues such as social media, fake news, and political rhetoric in the post-truth era. In addition, I argue for an emphasis on character in writing pedagogy to enable students to have confidence in their own authorial personas which they can adapt to new writing situations.

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