Only fundamentalists steeped in some half-baked post-modernism need apply.
I wrote my Master's thesis on the rhetoric of religion and sources directlyOnly fundamentalists steeped in some half-baked post-modernism need apply.
I wrote my Master's thesis on the rhetoric of religion and sources directly related to that topic are not too numerous. Given that, I was very excited to find this book. But I couldn't have been more disappointed once I had actually read it. It ended up being completely useless for my project and did not even make it into my bibliography. And I used the ideas of Kenneth Burke as one of the focuses of the thesis - something Camille Lewis also focuses on in this book!
One thing that is wrong with the book is that the author loves to hear herself talk; the prose is burdened by needless flourishes and elaborate sentences. Now I am generally the first to praise literary form, but in this book it was merely annoying and pretentious and, I'm afraid, may have been employed as a distraction to keep the reader from noticing the lack of substantial or even interesting ideas.
Besides being a half-disguised apologia for the coprophagous theology of fundamentalism epitomized by Bob Jones University, the ideas herein are so slippery and ephemeral (things like "romantic" and "tragic" applied to entire groups of people) that they are quite useless and have zero empirical traction. Although dressed in pretty and pseudo-sophisticated language, the core arguments are really nothing more than an obstreperous and vacuous attempt to put lipstick on an invisible yet quite malodorous pig. I'll let Lewis give the main argument of the book herself:
"Thus, a third frame of acceptance can be theorized--romance. When the sectarian [fundamentalist] is 'cornered,' as Burke described, the sectarian separates from the dominant culture and that separation forces an entirely new rhetoric. The separatist leaves but never very far so as to guarantee the full attention of the dominant. The sectarian neither tragically purifies nor comically corrects the Other. Instead the sectarian unequivocally and unalterably woos. What the tragic kills and the comic critiques, the suitor charms. The evil enemy, which the comic transforms into a mistaken adversary, becomes a lonely Beloved in the romantic's sight. What goads the tragic and tickles the comic, the romantic personifies. Romantic sectarians identify not through victimage or criticism but through wooing--that irresistible beauty that joins the Other to the sectarian ethic far outside the dominant frame" (p. 128).
Such arguments, while seemingly sophisticated and intelligent, smack of useless wabbajack. Superficially, it sounds somewhat explanatory. But like psychoanalysis and astrology and all the other crackpot systems of explanation, there turns out to be nothing there. More meaningful pabulum has been scrawled on bathroom stalls.