Abraham Lincoln was one of America's greatest public orators. The cadence, argument and power he brought to his speeches, like those of the Gettysburg address almost every American learns in school, still stir the hearts of not only Americans, but countless millions around the world.
This series of 24 lectures examines Lincoln's rhetoric - the public messages in which he evolved his views on slavery and the preservation of the Union and by which he sought to persuade others.
By tracing significant moments in Lincoln's career from the fresh perspective of his use of public persuasion, you'll learn how Lincoln was able to navigate the constraints imposed by both audiences and situations, and you'll understand exactly how he was able to take advantage of creative opportunities.
You also see the extent to which Lincoln's public career developed through his public speeches and writings, and gain valuable insight into the importance of both thinking rhetorically and reasoning with specific audiences and situations in mind.
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A master class in rhetoric from the man himself
This recorded course from the spectacular Great Courses series serves as both a master class in the art of rhetoric, and a deep dive into the evolving philosophies of Abraham Lincoln through his remarkable career. Listening to this course will forever change your view about the 16th president, the civil war, and the state of the union and racism in the mid-19th century.
Perhaps it's because my interest was more about the latter than the former, but I will admit that I didn't really get seriously into this course until about halfway through, when we got to Lincoln's presidency, the Civil War, and his most famous speeches.
The Lincoln Douglas debates during his early Senatorial race are fascinating, but they took up a lot of this course and the discussion around them was as much about Lincoln's debating style and tactics as it was about the substance of his developing philosophy. All that being said, I must admit that understanding how his philosophies developed over time is critical to understanding the man in his later years (and critical for understanding how his 1858 "House Divided" speech was misunderstood then and still today).
Professor Zarefsky is passionate about the subject and is clearly among the foremost Lincoln scholars.
It is worth noting that this course is one of the oldest of The Great Courses recordings, dating back to the 1990s. It's introduced as "The Great Courses on Tape"(!) and Professor Zarefsky can actually be heard flipping pages of notes as he speaks. This of course takes nothing from the excellent presentation of the material.
political leader, in the best sense of the word