Public intellectuals, rhetorical style and the public sphere : the politics of thinking out loud



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Our public culture is rapidly shrinking: our nation is replete with residents instead of citizens. Part of the blame for the impoverishment of public life is the retreat and subsequent almost total isolation of intellectuals, those who put their deep training and experience to work in sociopolitical contexts in a public vernacular. The failure of most traditional intellectuals to reach a public audience is a failure of rhetoric; public intellectuals, on the other hand, mark rhetorical success in connecting the worlds of the public and the intellectual to advance change. This dissertation explores the interconnections between public intellectuals, rhetorical style and the public sphere to understand how and why public intellectuals are able to do what they do such that we may be able to encourage this work from others. Most importantly, this intersection may help explain how we can reclaim an active, democratic public sphere in the United States.