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Weekend Read: “She is eager to trace for you”


Many pundits have been parsing the policy implications of our new president’s inaugural address. Implications interest me less than articulations, and so naturally I’ve been diverted by the rhetorical rather than the political (and yes, of course, they’re intertwined). Very fun, though, if you haven’t seen it, is a Wordle-style series of charts over at the New York Times that map the frequency of word usage in all the inaugural addresses to date.

If type at relative sizes doesn’t do it for you, but literary criticism does, read Stanley Fish’s Think Again blog, where he’s posted the best piece on the rhetoric of the inaugural. It includes this:

The opposite of parataxis is hypotaxis, the marking of relations between propositions and clause by connectives that point backward or forward. One kind of prose is additive – here’s this and now here’s that; the other asks the reader or hearer to hold in suspension the components of an argument that will not fully emerge until the final word. It is the difference between walking through a museum and stopping as long as you like at each picture, and being hurried along by a guide who wants you to see what you’re looking at as a stage in a developmental arc she is eager to trace for you.

It continues here, a patriotic (rhetorically speaking) Weekend Read.

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August 2021

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