Complete Story

HALLORAN, S. Michael

Fall 2001, pages 5-18

Text and Experience in a Historical Pageant: Toward a Rhetoric of Spectacle

Abstract: A 1927 pageant at the Saratoga Battlefield illustrates the workings of spectacle, here defined as a public gathering of people who have come to witness some event and are self-consciously present to each other as well as to that event. Like Debord and others, I emphasize a tension between lived experience and text. Unlike them, I argue that spectacle is itself a lived experience that may be of greater consequence than the rhetorical text. I suggest that rhetoricians should strive to get at the lived experience that may be reflected quite imperfectly in the rhetorical text.