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Epideictic derailment: unreasonable argumentation in British Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration
Dr John E. Richardson
Queen Mary University London and the University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia)
Date: 25 January 2019
Venue: OU Camden (1-11 Hawley Crescent, NW1 8NP, London)
This presentation explores the rhetoric of the national Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) commemoration ceremony, as broadcast on British television. Dr Richardson argues that the televised national ceremonies should be approached as an example of multi-genre epideictic rhetoric, working up meanings through a hybrid combination of genres (speeches, poems, readings), author/animators and modes (speech, music, light, movement and silence) – meanings that have an epideictic function in that they invoke and recreate “norm circles”.
At the heart of the commemorative practices of HMD is an understanding of the Holocaust as a catastrophe and a great affront to Our values; detailing the circumstances and consequences of the Holocaust acts to revivify Our commitment to the values that it so clearly transgressed. However, achieving this normative goal is dependent on a rhetoricalaccomplishment – on the marshalling of artistic and non-artistic means of persuasion, to demonstrate both the reasonableness of values and the sincerity with which they are held by the speaker. Dr Richardson’s discourse-historical analysis will orient to the ways that poorly selected rhetorical strategies can derail the primary purpose of the epideictic speech: to communicate, and revivify, shared values.
Working within a field of research known as critical discourse studies, Dr John E Richardson’s research interests revolve around social inequalities and language use, and the ways that these interact with and affect each other. In 2017 he was Leverhulme Trust Fellow, analysing British Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations since 2001. He is also the author of the book British Fascism: A Discourse-Historical Approach (2017, Columbia UP) and the editor of the international peer review journal Critical Discourse Studies.
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