A highly developed study of the relationships between rhetoric and public culture.
One of the most widely used ideas in scholarship of the humanities and social sciences is that of homology: a formal pattern structuring different kinds of texts, ideas, and experiences. Rhetorical Homologies explores the central meaning of this form in a variety of discourses and also examines the kind of homologies that shape audience responses to personal, public, and political issues. Barry Brummett is most interested in homologies among very different orders of experience and texts: experiences on the battlefield that are homologous to those at a dining room table, for instance. What the common patterns that underlie such cases mean, why they are interesting, and why homology is rhetorical are the subjects of this study.
Brummett focuses on a wide range of topics, from the homologies between rhetoric and weapons throughout history to the homology of ritual injuries as manifested in representations of Christian martyrs, Laurel and Hardy films, the African-American practice of playing the dozens, and televised professional wrestling. Brummett also explores the homology of the Wise Woman, using rhetorical representations of Sojourner Truth and Oprah Winfrey. In a concluding chapter, Brummett argues that the idea of homology is important in understanding how social life is organized in general and that the centrality of discourse in organizing experience makes rhetorical homologies an important perspective for general knowledge beyond the boundaries of this study.