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By Neil Postman

ISBN-10: 0140094385

ISBN-13: 9780140094381

A super strong and significant book....This is a brutal indictment Postman has laid down and, as far as i will see, an irrefutable one. --Jonathan Yardley, Washington publish ebook international.

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Extra resources for Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

Example text

He did not speak to his audiences extemporaneously. He read his sermons, which were tightly knit and closely reasoned expositions of theological doctrine. Audiences may have been moved emotionally by Edwards' language, but they were, first and foremost, required to understand it. Indeed Edwards' fame was largely a result of a book, Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton, published in 1737. A later book, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, published in 1746, is considered to be among the most remarkable psychological studies ever produced in America.

In other words, the use of language as a means of complex argument was an important, pleasurable and common form of discourse in almost every public arena. To understand the audience to whom Lincoln and Douglas directed their memorable language, we must remember that these people were the grandsons and granddaughters of the Enlightenment (American version). They were the progeny of Franklin, Jefferson, Madison and Tom Paine, the inheritors of the Empire of Reason, as Henry Steele Commager has called eighteenth-century America.

This debate was considerably shorter than those to which the two men were accustomed. In fact, they had tangled several times before, and all of their encounters had been much lengthier and more exhausting. For example, on October 16, 1854, in Peoria, Illinois, Douglas delivered a three-hour address to which Lincoln, by agreement, was to respond. , that he would probably require as much time as Douglas and that Douglas was still scheduled for a rebuttal. He proposed, therefore, that the audience go home, have dinner, and return refreshed for four more hours of talk.

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Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman

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