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Voices in the Wilderness, Voices in the Wilderness, 081730939X, 0-8173-0939-X, 978-0-8173-0939-8, 9780817309398, , , Voices in the Wilderness, 0817357807, 0-8173-5780-7, 978-0-8173-5780-1, 9780817357801, , , Voices in the Wilderness, 0817387587, 0-8173-8758-7, 978-0-8173-8758-7, 9780817387587,

Voices in the Wilderness
Public Discourse and the Paradox of Puritan Rhetoric
by Patricia Roberts-Miller

Trade Cloth
1999. 224 pp.
978-0-8173-0939-8
Price:  $34.95 s
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Quality Paper
2013. 224 pp.
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978-0-8173-5780-1
Price:  $24.95 s
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E Book
2013. 224 pp.
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978-0-8173-8758-7
Price:  $24.95 d
Expected Availability 12/15/2013

What has gone wrong with discourse and deliberation in the United States? It remains monologic, argues Patricia Roberts-Miller in Voices in the Wilderness, which traces America’s dominant form of argumentation back to its roots in the rhetorical tradition of 17th-century American Puritans. A work of composition theory, rhetorical theory, and cultural criticism, this volume ultimately provides not only new approaches to argumentation and the teaching of rhetoric, composition, and communication but also an original perspective on the current debate over public discourse

Both Jürgen Habermas and Wayne Booth—two of the most influential theorists in the domain of public discourse and good citizenry—argue for an inclusive public deliberation that involves people who are willing to listen to one another, to identify points of agreement and disagreement, and to make good faith attempts to validate any disputed claims. The Puritan voice crying in the wilderness, Roberts-Miller shows, does none of these things. To this individual of conscience engaged in a ceaseless battle of right and wrong against greedy philistines, all inclusion, mediation, and reciprocity are seen as evil, corrupting, and unnecessary. Hence, the voice in the wilderness does not in any real sense participate in public deliberation, only in public pronouncement.

Arguing that our culture’s continuing affection for the ethos of the voice crying in the wilderness is one of our more troubling inheritances from the early American ambivalence to public discourse—including the Puritan denigration of rhetoric—Roberts-Miller contends that the monologic discourse of the Puritans in fact contains within it arguments for dialogism. Thus, the history of rhetoric can provide much richer fields for reimagining discourse than heretofore credited. Roberts-Miller concludes by extending her findings into their practical applications for argumentation in the public sphere and in the composition classroom.

Patricia Roberts-Miller is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Missouri-Columbia.


“This book examines what has gone wrong with public discourse and deliberation in the United States using the American Puritans as a case study that informs our understanding of current practice.” –Gregory Clark, BrighamYoung University


Voices in the Wilderness contributes to the expansion of research beyond the history of ideas about rhetoric to examine the rhetorical and ethical practices of more diverse traditions. Roberts-Miller’s analysis will be of particular interest to scholars working on theories of the public sphere and histories of religious rhetorics.” —Rhetoric Society Quarterly

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