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Invoking the Fathers

Dangerous Metaphors and Founding Myths in Congressional Politics

Sarah Kornfield

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Why is the metaphor of the "Founding Fathers" so insidious—and how does it impact American politics?

American politicians routinely invoke the metaphor of the "Founding Fathers" when referring to the men who supposedly set the United States on a path to greatness. On average, the term "Founding Fathers" is uttered by a congressional member every single day that Congress is in session. Why is this metaphor repeated constantly—and what effect does it have on policy? In Invoking the Fathers, communication scholar Sarah Kornfield links this rhetorical strategy to the rise of patriarchal white...

Why is the metaphor of the "Founding Fathers" so insidious—and how does it impact American politics?

American politicians routinely invoke the metaphor of the "Founding Fathers" when referring to the men who supposedly set the United States on a path to greatness. On average, the term "Founding Fathers" is uttered by a congressional member every single day that Congress is in session. Why is this metaphor repeated constantly—and what effect does it have on policy? In Invoking the Fathers, communication scholar Sarah Kornfield links this rhetorical strategy to the rise of patriarchal white supremacy and Christian nationalism in the United States.

Using the House and the Senate as the objects of her study, Kornfield traces the trope of fatherhood across congressional discourse and theorizes a rhetoric of sovereignty in which the founders' most obvious heirs—white Christian men—inherit America and its governance. Congressional politicians use this metaphor in four ways: to supposedly advocate for rights and liberties, to demand checks and balances, to celebrate American exceptionalism, and to call for bipartisan politics. These four situations are all, at their core, disputes over what kind of nation America is or should be.

Metaphors are not harmless, Kornfield argues, and this one is particularly pernicious: the fatherhood metaphor is taken up and violently embodied by men's rights groups, white supremacist groups, and Christian nationalists. Ultimately, the book demonstrates how this gendered metaphor creates and reinforces a legislative system in which some are considered more equal than others.

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Reviews

Sarah Kornfield has demonstrated the power of rhetoric to shape our lives and of excellent rhetorical analysis to enhance them. Anyone seeking insights into American politics, the functions of rhetoric in politics, or the art of masterful rhetorical analysis will find Invoking the Fathers an invaluable gift.

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Book Details

Release Date
Publication Date
Status
Preorder
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
280
ISBN
9781421449739
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: Rights and Liberty
Chapter 2: Veneration and Cynicism
Chapter 3: Checks and Balances
Chapter 4: Debate and Bipartisanship
Chapter 5: Losing Faith
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Sarah Kornfield
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Sarah Kornfield

Sarah Kornfield (HOLLAND, MICHIGAN) is an associate professor of communication and women’s and gender studies at Hope College. She is the author of Contemporary Rhetorical Criticism.