Carney, Zoe L. (2010-05). Tropes and Topoi of Anti-Intellectualism in the Discourse of the Christian Right. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • Christianity is not anti-intellectual; however, there is a distinct quality of anti-intellectualism in the rhetoric of the Christian Right. This thesis explores the ways in which rhetors in the Christian Right encourage anti-intellectual sentiment without explicitly claiming to be against intellectualism. I argue that the Christian Right makes these anti-intellectual arguments by invoking the tropes and topoi of populism, anti-evolution, and common sense. I analyze how Pat Robertson, as a representative of the Christian Right, used the stock argument, or topos, of populism in his 1986 speech, in which he announced his intention to run for President. I argue that while Robertson used the generic argumentative framework of populism, which is "anti-elitist," he shifted the meaning of the word "elitist" from a wealthy person to an intellectual person. This formed a trope, or turn in argument. Next, I consider the Christian Right's argument against the teaching of evolution. I analyze William J. Bryan's argument in the Scopes Trial, a defining moment in the creation-evolution debate. I show that Bryan used the topos of creationism, which included the loci of quality and order, to condemn the teaching of evolution, arguing that it would be better to not have education at all than for students to be taught something that contradicts the Bible. Finally, I consider how both Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin used the topos of common sense. Reagan used this topos to create a metaphorical narrative that was to be accepted as reality, or common sense. Sarah Palin, then, used the common sense narrative that Reagan had created to support her views. By calling her ideas "common sense" and frequently referencing Reagan, her rhetoric gives the illusion that good governing is simple, thus removing the space for an intellectual in public life.
  • Christianity is
    not
    anti-intellectual;
    however,
    there
    is
    a
    distinct
    quality
    of
    anti-intellectualism
    in
    the
    rhetoric
    of
    the
    Christian
    Right.
    This
    thesis
    explores
    the
    ways
    in
    which
    rhetors
    in
    the
    Christian
    Right
    encourage
    anti-intellectual
    sentiment
    without
    explicitly
    claiming
    to
    be
    against
    intellectualism.
    I
    argue
    that
    the
    Christian
    Right
    makes
    these
    anti-intellectual
    arguments
    by
    invoking
    the
    tropes
    and
    topoi
    of
    populism,
    anti-evolution,
    and
    common
    sense.
    I
    analyze
    how
    Pat
    Robertson,
    as
    a
    representative
    of
    the
    Christian
    Right,
    used
    the
    stock
    argument,
    or
    topos,
    of
    populism
    in
    his
    1986
    speech,
    in
    which
    he
    announced
    his
    intention
    to
    run
    for
    President.
    I
    argue
    that
    while
    Robertson
    used
    the
    generic
    argumentative
    framework
    of
    populism,
    which
    is
    "anti-elitist,"
    he
    shifted
    the
    meaning
    of
    the
    word
    "elitist"
    from
    a
    wealthy
    person
    to
    an
    intellectual
    person.
    This
    formed
    a
    trope,
    or
    turn
    in
    argument.
    Next,
    I
    consider
    the
    Christian
    Right's
    argument
    against
    the
    teaching
    of
    evolution.
    I
    analyze
    William
    J.
    Bryan's
    argument
    in
    the
    Scopes
    Trial,
    a
    defining
    moment
    in
    the
    creation-evolution
    debate.
    I
    show
    that
    Bryan
    used
    the
    topos
    of
    creationism,
    which
    included
    the
    loci
    of
    quality
    and
    order,
    to
    condemn
    the
    teaching
    of
    evolution,
    arguing
    that
    it
    would
    be
    better
    to
    not
    have
    education
    at
    all
    than
    for
    students
    to
    be
    taught
    something
    that
    contradicts
    the
    Bible.
    Finally,
    I
    consider
    how
    both
    Ronald
    Reagan
    and
    Sarah
    Palin
    used
    the
    topos
    of
    common
    sense.
    Reagan
    used
    this
    topos
    to
    create
    a
    metaphorical
    narrative
    that
    was
    to
    be
    accepted
    as
    reality,
    or
    common
    sense.
    Sarah
    Palin,
    then,
    used
    the
    common
    sense
    narrative
    that
    Reagan
    had
    created
    to
    support
    her
    views.
    By
    calling
    her
    ideas
    "common
    sense"
    and
    frequently
    referencing
    Reagan,
    her
    rhetoric
    gives
    the
    illusion
    that
    good
    governing
    is
    simple,
    thus
    removing
    the
    space
    for
    an
    intellectual
    in
    public
    life.

publication date

  • May 2010