Founding Fathers : constitutive rhetoric and discourses of masculinity




Goad, Rhiannon Jade

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“Founding Fathers: Constitutive Rhetoric and White Masculinity,” uses archival and digital research methods to assess how contemporary political speakers engage America’s past via reference to the Founding Fathers. Through case studies of different political communities—Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians—I draw two conclusions. First, most references to the Founding Fathers do not refer to specific persons; that is, references operate as signifier without a signified. Second, while references to the Founding Fathers are unspecific about the persons they summon, they are highly specific in the kinds of bodies they summon. That is, reference to Founding Fathers tends to elicit identification between white men on the basis of their shared race and gender. From these conclusions, I argue that reference to the Founding Fathers tends to establish political authority based on racial and gendered likeness between a rhetor and the mythologized figures of America’s past, such that whiteness and masculinity serve as architypes for American identity.



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