Bringing Rhetoric to the Masses:
An Argument for Including William Lutz in the Contemporary Rhetorical Canon

Paul Cesarini, Doctoral Student, Bowling Green State University


In the brave new worlds of cross-disciplinary writing and post-secondary English pedagogy, there has been a strong emphasis placed language itself as a tool for learning. Teaching ideologies ranging from logical positivism to social constructionism and discourse communities have all been hashed and rehashed, but very little emphasis has been placed on ethical considerations within the disciplines. This is where Rutgers University English Professor WiIliam Lutz, presenter of the annual Doublespeak award and editor of The Doublespeak Review for fourteen years, has boldly stepped in.

Lutz's 1989 Doublespeak book was required reading back in my undergraduate rhetorical theory class; I have used it more than once for classes I have taught, and I'm told it is widely used in other forums as well. His latest book, The New Doublespeak: Why No One Knows What Anyone is Saying Anymore, should be at least suggested reading because like its predecessor it is engaging, informative, and timely to the field of rhetoric.

The term "doublespeak" was coined as an amalgam of two Orwellian expressions, doublethink and newspeak. In 1984, doublethink was the "mental process that allows you to hold two opposing views in your mind at the same time and believe in both of them". The now-classic example of this is "War is Peace".

Lutz mentions how newspeak was the official state language in 1984, a language that was specifically designed to make state-approved "correct" thoughts possible, while simultaneously making any contrary views not merely unlikely but unthinkable. Doublespeak, then, is the language of deceit. Its sole purpose is to make the unreasonable seems reasonable, the blamed seem blameless, the powerless seem empowered. Though the sole point of language is to communicate and clarify, doublespeak miscommunicates and obfuscates.

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less." -- Humpty Dumpty, from Through the Looking Glass
Why Lutz?
His Work, His Themes
Pedagogical Concerns
Sources Last Updated: 97-04-27

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