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TRIMBUR, John and SMITH, Ruth

Fall 2003, pages 7-24

Rhetorics Of Unity And Disunity: The Worcester Firefighters Memorial Service

Abstract: Rhetorical criticism has generally considered the public memorial speech as a moment of re-establishing societal equilibrium and unity after the disruption of death. In the case of the Worcester Firefighters Memorial Service in 1999, however, the unifying impulses of the speakers both create a public forum for the memorial service and prevent it from cohering. While the eulogists draw on ceremonial conventions of epideictic rhetoric, the line between epideictic and deliberative rhetoric blurs as the memorial speeches become the occasion of differing, divided, and uncertain claims about how the public is constituted and who has grounds to memorialize the dead. Accordingly, we argue that neither unity nor disunity has rhetorical priority, placing the burden instead on rhetorical analysis to account for the complex relations between unity and disunity.

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