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Force of Fantasy

Restoring the American Dream

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Ernest G. Borman


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
6 x 9


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About the Book

In this book, first published in 1985, Ernest G. Bormann explores mass persuasion in America from 1620 to 1860, examining closely four rhetorical communities: the revivals of 1739–1740, the hot gospel of the postrevolutionary period, the evangelical revival and reform of the 1830s, and the Free Soil and Republican parties. Each community varies greatly, but Bormann asserts that each succeeding community shares a rhetorical vision of restoring the “American Dream” that is essentially a modification of the previous visions. Thus, they form a family of rhetorical visions that constitutes a rhetorical tradition of importance in nineteenth-century American popular culture.


Ernest G. Bormann is a professor emeritus in the Department of Speech Communication at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. His many books include Effective Small Group Communication, The Process of Presentational Speaking, Communication Theory, and Forerunners of Black Power: The Rhetoric of Abolition.


“Bormann’s research has been prodigious, and his descriptions are fascinating.  He has located little-known resources and from them is able to provide such vivid details (of the Methodist circuit riders and the camp meetings, for example) that it is almost possible for the reader to share in the fantasy themes. The Force of Fantasy is a tour de force, a remarkable explication and application of a critical system in an important historical period.  It reveals a serious humanistic critic at work explaining another way of looking at human communication, producing new insights into our past and a better understanding of how humans cope with reality.”—Quarterly Journal of Speech

“Bormann is at his best when discussing the rhetorical themes and techniques of individual orators and when sketching the communication styles of Puritan and revivalist preachers.  There is, for example, no better statement about the artistry of Jonathan Edwards’s classic sermons than Bormann’s judgment that they ‘deserve to be studied and appreciated as rhetorical artifacts just as Hamlet might be studied as the highest expression of Elizabethan drama.’  Nor is there a superior summary of the stylistic changes in Abraham Lincoln’s speeches from the 1830s to the 1850s.  As the magnum opus of fantasy theme analysis, Bormann’s study deserves wide reading and close scrutiny.”—Rhetoric Society Quarterly