Department of Communication
Public Address Conference
Abbe Depretis

The Carnival of the Courtroom: Anti-War Protest, Public Moral Argument, and the Chicago Eight Trial

This project specifically examines the rhetorical activities of the 1969-1970 Chicago Eight Trial, focusing on the discourse from the trial itself (e.g., the eight defendants, the judge, the lawyers, and the court reports) as well as the discourse surrounding and following the trial (e.g., newspapers, magazines, books, television programs, and films) from 1968 to the present. Because the Chicago Eight Trial played an important role in the discussion of the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement, this project seeks to interrogate the rhetorical dimensions of the discourse within the trial, the media coverage of the trial and its participants at the time of the trial, and the on-going media coverage of the trial in subsequent decades. This trial is situated within the context of anti-war protests in the United States as well as the transformative context of the 1960s involving the contestations surrounding the Cold War, civil rights, political assassinations, and changing sexual standards. Overall, this project aims to deepen our understanding of how public moral argument, combined with the Bakhtin’s concept of the carnival, functioned to challenge the dominant socio/political culture over the U.S. war in Vietnam. In addition, this dissertation looks to the Chicago Eight Trial as a prime example of the ways that the carnival can be used to convey larger arguments about the political, ethical, and social conditions within the United States. Finally, this project seeks to understand the ways that the rhetoric involving the Chicago Eight Trial transcended the immediate context and maintained a place in the collective memories of the trial and of the anti-government protest activities as a whole.

Abbe Depretis
University of Maryland

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