Double-Consciousness and the Rhetoric of Barack Obama: The Price and Promise of Citizenship

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2015-09-03 17:13Z by Steven

Double-Consciousness and the Rhetoric of Barack Obama: The Price and Promise of Citizenship

University of South Carolina Press
June 2015
224 pages
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61117-531-8
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61117-532-5

Robert E. Terrill, Associate Professor
Department of Communication & Culture
Indiana University, Bloomington

An examination of President Obama’s oratory as a reflection of the African American experience

Robert E. Terrill argues that, to invent a robust manner of addressing one another as citizens, Americans must learn to draw on the delicate indignities of racial exclusion that have stained citizenship since its inception. In Double-Consciousness and the Rhetoric of Barack Obama, Terrill demonstrates how President Barack Obama’s public address models such a discourse.

Terrill contends that Obama’s most effective oratory invites his audiences to experience a form of “double-consciousness,” famously described by W. E. B. Du Bois as a feeling of “two-ness” resulting from the African American experience of “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.” It is described as an effect of cruel alienation that can also bring a gift of “second-sight” in the form of perspectives on practices of citizenship not available to those in positions of privilege. When addressing fellow citizens, Obama is asking each to share in the “peculiar sensation” that Du Bois described. The racial history of U.S. citizenship is a resource for inventing contemporary ways of speaking about race.

Through close analyses of selected speeches from Obama’s 2008 campaign and first presidential term, this book argues that Obama does not present double-consciousness merely as a point of view but as an idiom with which we might speak to one another. Of course, as Du Bois’s work reminds us, double-consciousness results from imposition and encumbrance, so that Obama’s oratory presents a mode of address that emphasizes the burdens of citizenship together with the benefits, the price as well as the promise.

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Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis

Posted in Autobiography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2014-11-09 17:42Z by Steven

Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis

University of South Carolina Press
May 2014
280 pages
9 b&w illus.
6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61117-352-9
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61117-353-6

Karsonya Wise Whitehead, Assistant Professor of Communication and African and African American Studies
Loyola University Maryland, Baltimore

A rare glimpse into the thoughts and experiences of a free black American woman in the nineteenth century

In Notes from a Colored Girl, Karsonya Wise Whitehead examines the life and experiences of Emilie Frances Davis, a freeborn twenty-one-year-old mulatto woman, through a close reading of three pocket diaries she kept from 1863 to 1865. Whitehead explores Davis’s worldviews and politics, her perceptions of both public and private events, her personal relationships, and her place in Philadelphia’s free black community in the nineteenth century.

Although Davis’s daily entries are sparse, brief snapshots of her life, Whitehead interprets them in ways that situate Davis in historical and literary contexts that illuminate nineteenth-century black American women’s experiences. Whitehead’s contribution of edited text and original narrative fills a void in scholarly documentation of women who dwelled in spaces between white elites, black entrepreneurs, and urban dwellers of every race and class.

Notes from a Colored Girl is a unique offering to the fields of history and documentary editing as the book includes both a six-chapter historical reconstruction of Davis’s life and a full, heavily annotated edition of her Civil War–era pocket diaries. Drawing on scholarly traditions from history, literature, feminist studies, and sociolinguistics, Whitehead investigates Davis’s diary both as a complete literary artifact and in terms of her specific daily entries.

From a historical perspective, Whitehead re-creates the narrative of Davis’s life for those three years and analyzes the black community where she lived and worked. From a literary perspective, Whitehead examines Davis’s diary as a socially, racially, and gendered nonfiction text. From a feminist studies perspective, she examines Davis’s agency and identity, grounded in theories elaborated by black feminist scholars. And, from linguistic and rhetorical perspectives, she studies Davis’s discourse about her interpersonal relationships, her work, and external events in her life in an effort to understand how she used language to construct her social, racial, and gendered identities.

Since there are few primary sources written by black women during this time in history, Davis’s diary—though ordinary in its content—is rendered extraordinary simply because it has survived to be included in this very small class of resources. Whitehead’s extensive analysis illuminates the lives of many through the simple words of one.

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