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The Conceit of Context

Resituating Domains in Rhetorical Studies

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Edited By Charles E. Morris III and Kendall R. Phillips

This edited volume features essays derived from presentations delivered at the 15th Biennial Public Address Conference held at Syracuse University in October 2016, as well as additional material. The Conceit of Context explores the often invoked—indeed a central term in the history of rhetorical studies—but less often engaged concept of context. In this volume, we center the notion of context as the site of engagement, critique, and imagination, seeking to deepen the critical and political promise of context in the study of public discourse.

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7 Finding Time and Space within the Text (Bryan J. McCann)

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Bryan J. McCann

Upon viewing Netflix’s Making a Murderer, I was immediately struck by the presence of a familiar context. The county courthouse in which juries twice convicted Steven Avery for violent felonies stands about one hour south of Algoma, Wisconsin. I have vivid childhood memories of sitting in my aunt and uncle’s living room in Algoma. It was filled which various kitschy works of art worthy of the Avery’s owl lamp, deer head trophies hanging from the wall, and my uncle’s gun case. Trips to Algoma from the Chicago Suburbs would include barbecuing in the backyard, watching professional “wrasslin’ ” with my uncle, and following the grown-ups to the hunter and fisherman’s club while they drank beers, played pool, and mingled with other locals. The Midwest accents were thick. Few if any of them had college educations, and yet they possessed a local wisdom that carried them through the days and afforded them resources to tackle life’s inconveniences and crises. When, during one episode of Murderer, Allan Avery, Steven’s father, invoked the analogy of gutting a deer to explain why the murder of Teresa Halbach could not have occurred in his son’s bedroom, I immediately recognized such arguments. Deer hunting and its bloody aftermath are parts of daily life for the poor and working class white folks who fill the scenes of Making a Murderer and the hunter and fisherman’s clubs of towns such as Algoma. I recognized these people.

I draw on this...

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