Sharing values to safeguard the future: British Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration as epideictic rhetoric

Discourse and Communication 12 (2):171-191 (2018)
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Abstract

This article explores the rhetoric, and mass mediation, of the national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration ceremony, as broadcast on British television. I argue that the televised national ceremonies should be approached as an example of multi-genre epideictic rhetoric, working up meanings through a hybrid combination of genres, author/animators and modes. Epideictic rhetoric has often been depreciated as simply ceremonial ‘praise or blame’ speeches. However, given that the topics of praise/blame assume the existence of social norms, epideictic also acts to presuppose and evoke common values, in general, and a collective recognition of shared social responsibilities, in particular. My methodology draws on the Discourse-Historical Approach to Critical Discourse Analysis, given, first, its central prominence in analysing argumentative strategies in discourse and, second, the ways it facilitates a reflexive ‘shuttling’ between text-discursive features, intertextual relations and wider contexts of society and history. Here, I examine how a catastrophic past is invoked in speech and evoked through image and music, in response to the demands that uncertainty of the future ‘places upon one’s conscience’.

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