"That the Truth of Things May Be More Fully Known:" Understanding the Role of Rhetoric in Shaping, Resolving, and Remembering the Salem Witchcraft Crisis
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This project investigates how rhetorical texts influenced the witch trials that were held in Salem in 1691-1692, how rhetoric shaped the response to this event, and how rhetorical artifacts in the twentieth and twenty first centuries have shaped American public memory of the Salem witchcraft crisis. My analysis draws from three different chronological and rhetorical viewpoints. In Chapter II, I build upon work done by scholars such as McGee, White, and Charland in the area of constitutive rhetoric to address the question of how the witchcraft crisis was initiated and fueled rhetorically. Then, as my examination shifts to the rhetorical artifacts constructed immediately after the trials in Chapter III, I rely on the tradition of apologia, rooted in the ancient Greek understanding of stasis theory to understand how rhetorical elements were utilized by influential rhetors to craft a variety of different explanations for the crisis. And finally in Chapter IV, I draw from individuals such as Halbwachs, Kammen, Zelizer, and Bodnar, working in the cross-disciplinary field of public memory, to respond to the questions of how we remember the trials today and what impact these memories have on our understanding of the themes of witchcraft and witch hunting in contemporary American society. Therefore, this project uses the lens of rhetorical analysis to provide a method for examining and understanding how individuals, both in the seventeenth century and today, have engaged in the act of updating their reflections about this facet of American history.
Lemley, Lauren (2010). "That the Truth of Things May Be More Fully Known:" Understanding the Role of Rhetoric in Shaping, Resolving, and Remembering the Salem Witchcraft Crisis. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from