Generic criticism of extraordinary documents: an inquiry into manifesto texts and genre scholarship

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University of Alabama Libraries

While there is no shortage of rhetorical scholarship on social movements, there is curiously a lack of standalone research on the manifesto texts affiliated with them. At best, they are subsumed with broader inquiries into a social movement and treated as a secondary text rather than as a primary discourse, despite the rich insights they provide both rhetorically and culturally. Additionally, genre criticism as a rhetorical method has also fallen out of mainstream research in recent times. This study attempts to fill a scholarly gap in both of these areas by exploring whether movement manifestos constitute their own rhetorical genre through the examination of The Declaration of Independence, the "Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World," "The Southern Manifesto," "The Woman-Identified Woman," and "Queers Read This." First, by analyzing these texts through the lenses of war myth, Burkean theory, and constitutive rhetoric, this study attempts to determine if manifestos do constitute their own genre. Additionally, it seeks to ascertain whether such a genre provides scholarly benefit beyond classification. In the conclusions, this study discusses whether the evolution of social protest as well as the postmodern turn in rhetorical criticism still allows for meaningful generic criticism to occur. As a result, it is clear that a reconceptualization of genre criticism offers rhetorical scholars a renewed tool in examining social protest and change.

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Communication, Rhetoric