Winter 2011, 41:1, pages 41 - 63
Genre, Location, and Mary Austin's Ethos
Abstract: Scholars in rhetoric are increasingly attentive to the power of places and spaces to shape rhetorical performance. This article takes up the connection between ethos and location identified by several recent scholars, arguing that affiliation with and representation of material environments plays a crucial role in ethos. Ethos strategies are further shaped by genres, which are theorized as locations and environments in order to capture a fundamental dynamic between strategy and social norm. To demonstrate the strengths of understanding ethos in relation to both geographical and genre location, I analyze the ethos-maneuvers of Mary Austin, prominent early twentieth-century feminist, activist, and nature writer whose thirty-year public career merits attention from rhetorical scholars. In articulating how genre shapes Austin's efforts to develop her location in the deserts of the American West into a persuasive public ethos, I argue that ethos emerges in genre-specific formations.
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