ABSTRACT

The rhetorical tradition has long been concerned with how to negotiate the discursive juncture between mass and elite audiences. Such a concern has contributed to what might be characterized as the rhetorical tradition's anxiety with regard to its own status. In this article I suggest that this anxiety parallels an ontological conception of the elite as second-order in relation to the first-order mass. I use the standoff between novelist Jonathan Franzen and Oprah Winfrey in 2001 as a running example of status tensions in the public sphere, arguing for a theory of vernacular as language that talks and of specialized language as language that talks about. Finally, I suggest that the separate claims to status of vernacular and specialized language might be resolved by thinking further about Bakhtin's theory of heteroglossia.

You do not currently have access to this content.