From Publishers Weekly
White (Lincoln's Greatest Speech
) traces Lincoln's evolving rhetoric over the course of his presidency in a series of highly detailed critical essays. He follows Lincoln from the cautious, lawyerly text of the First Inaugural to the soaring, triumphant poetics of the Gettysburg Address. As White rightly emphasizes, a great deal of presidential power emanates from "rhetorical leadership." During the darkest moments of Lincoln's generally grim presidency, he had only his own stark eloquence with which to keep his "house divided" from collapsing entirely, and—up to a point—it is intriguing to study the mechanics of Lincoln's vital words. Throughout his book, White not only documents the growth of Lincoln's capacity for great inspirational language, but also shows how each major speech and public remark of Lincoln's presidential career was influenced and shaped by shifting, and eminently practical, political considerations. White is adept at analyzing Lincoln's structural tics and cadences, and the subtle plays of syntax in which he relished the repetition of such complementary words as "renew" and "anew." This level of detail, however, makes for some very long and dry—albeit illuminating—analysis that only the most devoted Lincoln enthusiast will likely be willing to wade through. B&w illus.
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An extension of White's Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural
(2002), this work follows the entire arc of the sixteenth president's Civil War speeches. As president, Lincoln made only three or four public statements per year. White selects 11 and discusses the background of the occasion for their delivery and the rhetoric of their composition. An evocative refrain in White's individual discussions is the consideration Lincoln gave to the sound of his speeches, which are characterized by alliteration, parallelism ("We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth"), and the repetition of anchoring ideas ("If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it"). They also increasingly departed from the legalistic first inaugural address and became markedly theological, culminating in the sermonlike second inaugural address. Stressing how Lincoln intended his words to be heard, White strengthens their appearance on the page. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved