Rhetoric and Pluralism

Legacies of Wayne Booth

Frederick Antczak


LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General
336 pp. 6x9

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Rhetoric and Pluralism is rich in both depth and breadth, an unusual attribute for an edited book. The authors succeed in locating Booth in the field, recognizing his immense contributions, and indicating appropriate areas of controversy and criticism. To the extent that a scholar as productive and complex as Booth can be captured, he is captured here. That he is also celebrated comes as no surprise. It is an impressive book that belongs on the shelves of all rhetoricians.” —Mary E. Stuckey, University of Mississippi

“Wayne Booth has been the Kenneth Burke of his generation, the foremost American rhetorical critic. Nonetheless, the extraordinary success of his seminal first book, The Rhetoric of Fiction, has tended to distract from his subsequent wide-ranging, yet coherent body of work. This collection of essays by former students and other admirers—with a characteristically witty and gracious afterword by Booth himself—is the best introduction I know to this invaluable contemporary writer from whom we still have so much to learn.“ —Arthur Quinn, University of California at Berkeley

Rhetoric and Pluralism makes evident the impressive range of Wayne Booth’s criticism and scholarship, and it shows the importance of his work for the current debates over the study and teaching of literature and criticism. For readers familiar with Booth, the collection offers new points for a dialectic engagement with his rich thinking on rhetoric and pluralism; for readers not that famiiar with Booth, the collection provides a substantial reason to delve more deeply in the work of a thinker who has brought both passion and clarity to the study of discourse.” —James L. Kastely, St. Mary’s University.

Wayne C. Booth is indisputably one of the most important and influential literary critics in American belles lettres. Not only is he widely acclaimed for his stimulating arguments and conclusion, but he is also appreciated for the kinds of activities and intellectual life in which he engages his audience. This collection of essays is not so much a retrospective of Booth’s career, or an accolade in honor of his newly acquired emeritus status, as it is a challenge for him to continue his work and a reflection of both the profit and the pleasure of his company.

The first of five groups of essays situates Booth within contemporary controversies and within the life experiences and roles where such controversies matter most for human character. Booth’s work as a literary critic shapes the second section, which focuses on what the authors see as Booth’s key ethical questions about literature and literary criticism. The thrid section of essays is concerned with the implications of Booth’s writing, particularly in its connection with politics. Booth’s influence in fields other than literary studies provides the theme for the fourth section. The final section explores the problematic but promising relation among assent, ethics, and pluralism. In the afterword, Booth himself reflects on these essays, demonstrating firsthand the critical and ethical qualities he brings to his arguments.

Contributors: Walter Jost, Francis-Noël Thomas, Monica Johnstone, Susan E. Shapiro, Don H. Bialostosky, David Richter, James Phelan, Barbara Foley, Frederick J. Antczak, Peter J. Rabinowitz, Donald N. McCloskey, Eugene Garver, Patsy Callaghan, Ann Dobyns, Alan Brinton, and James B. McOmber.

Frederick J. Antczak is professor in the rhetoric department at the University of Iowa and the author of Thought and Character: The Rhetoric of Democratic Education.