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Flying Over The Rhetorical Big Country

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[Note: this is the first of two posts summarizing some of the points I'll be covering in my presentation at the Rhetoric Society of America's 2018 Conference in Minneapolis on Thursday May 31st.]
“I see the shapes  I remember from maps. I see the shoreline.  I see the whitecaps.” —Talking Heads, “The Big Country.” 
In “The Big Country,” the final track on More Songs About Buildings and Food, David Byrne describes the experience of looking out of an airplane window and feeling abject disgust at the scene below. From such a height, Byrne looks down on the world with an elevated sense of self. On the surface, “The Big Country” is a rejection of rural, flyover America. What begins with childlike awe shifts in the refrain as Byrne sardonically jeers “I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to.” From such a height, Byrne is able to distance himself from the places he sees. In many ways, the song grapples with scale and the isolation it produces. The album as a whole contends with an in…

Travels with Rhetoric

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[Note: this is the first of a series of posts reflecting on a research trip to Greece taken December 2017.]

This past winter I spent a month in Greece, traveling and researching, something I’ve wanted to do for years. I have long been interested in the relationship between the material environment and ancient rhetorics, especially concerning Plato’s dialogues, but I never had the means to go and see the places I was reading and writing about. I was very fortunate to receive a research travel award from my institution, which made this incredible opportunity possible for me. My trip led to more discoveries than I can ramble off in one post, but I’m planning a series of future posts reflecting on parts of the trip and how it contributed to my thinking about rhetoric and writing.
Figure 1: The Greek Agora. Photograph by the Author. I began dreaming of Greece when I was researching the role of place in Plato’s dialogues as a master’s student living in Auburn, Alabama. To me, the place seem…