Toward a Rhetoric of Insult

Toward a Rhetoric of Insult

Thomas Conley

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226114774

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


From high school cafeterias to the floor of Congress, insult is a truly universal and ubiquitous cultural practice with a long and earthy history, and yet this most human of human behaviors is not often the subject of organized and comprehensive attention. Viewed through the lens of the study of rhetoric, insult, this book argues, is revealed as at once antisocial and crucial for human relations, both divisive and unifying. Explaining how this works and what exactly makes up a rhetoric of insult prompts the book to range across the vast and colorful history of offense. Taking in Monty Python, Shakespeare, Eminem, Cicero, Henry Ford, and the Latin poet Martial, the book aims to break down various types of insults, examines the importance of audience, and explores the benign side of abuse. In doing so, it initiates readers into the world of insult appreciation, enabling us to regard insults not solely as means of expressing enmity or disdain, but as aspects of human interaction.