Department of Communication
Public Address Conference
Stephen Heidt

From War to Peace: Presidential Rhetoric and the Prospect of Recivilizing the Enemy

This dissertation explains how, at or near the moment of war termination, presidential rhetoric works to produce the conditions for peace at home and, in the process, undoes or escapes archetypal metaphors of savagery. Of central concern is the notion that enemies must be recivilized – dehumanizing images animating America’s drive to war must be rhetorically converted into an image that valorizes the essential humanity of the foreign Other. I argue that rhetorics of peace compose a topoi that presidents use to recharacterize the enemy as a rational, civilized, and human foreign Other with whom peace can be made. In examining presidential texts, I demonstrate how prior presidential representations of the enemy constrain peace rhetoric and force presidents to reimagine the terms of victory, reframe enemy imagery, disassociate those images from their savage qualities, delimit expectations, and redefine the context in which war termination exists.

Stephen Heidt
Georgia State University

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