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A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois$
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Nick Bromell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813174907

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813174907.001.0001

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The People, Rhetoric, and Affect

The People, Rhetoric, and Affect

On the Political Force of Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk

(p.123) 5 The People, Rhetoric, and Affect
A Political Companion to W. E. B. Du Bois

Melvin L. Rogers

University Press of Kentucky

This essay by Melvin L. Rogers provides an account of the political meaning of the term “the people,” using it to examine the rhetorical character of The Souls of Black Folk and the work’s relationship to the cognitive-affective dimension of judgment. Du Bois illustrates the way the categorization of “the people” makes normative work possible, while drawing attention to the gap between the descriptive and aspirational definitions of “the people” and the mechanisms used to bridge it. This gap prompted Du Bois to stimulate and direct America’s political and ethical imagination, appealing for polity even as he knew he could never be assured of success. As a work of political theory, The Souls of Black Folk connects rhetoric to emotional states as a way to eliminate the divide between descriptive and aspirational definitions of “the people.”

Keywords:   W. E. B.Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, political theory, rhetoric, African American identity, democracy, sympathy, the people

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