Saturday, July 16, 2011
Which of the three Aristotelian rhetorical registers -- logos, pathos, ethos -- seems to you the most essential one for King in making his case in the "Letter from the Birmingham City Jail"? Why do you think so? How does it change your understanding of his argument to read it against the grain of this sense, that is to say, what do you find you notice or read differently if you try instead to imagine the Letter as one that foregrounds an Aristotelian register that initially seems to you the least important or conspicuous one? Also, there are real questions about the audience for King's piece -- addressed to "fellow clergymen," but released to a readership much wider than that geographically and socially from the beginning -- to whom is King making his case, and how does he seem to anticipate multiple readerships, and what impact does this have on the consistency of his argument? Do you think that you are in any sense a member of King's intended readership? How might America's canonization and, in a real sense, our domestication of the historical figure of King both enabled and disabled our reading of this essay?