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Writing Samples

Writing Samples
CWID: 10090852
Writing Sample #1
Perspectives on the Origins of Different Races in Antebellum Literature
Race has been a perennially prominent issue in American history. Encountering people with
different hues of skin was not something unique to the European migration to the New World.
However, an ethos that combined the ideas of Manifest Destiny necessary to rid a land of its native
inhabitants and humans as chattel to construct a nation upon the newly cleared land certainly forced
a reappraisal of how those with white skin accounted for others of different racial groups.
Combined with the growing acceptance of Enlightenment ideas, especially the increasingly
favorable view of the natural sciences even amongst biblical literalist, this reappraisal during the
Antebellum era produced a variety of perspectives ranging from microevolution to curse theory to
polygenesis1. A variety of documents published in the 1840s and 1850s demonstrate how virtually
everyone, from phrenologist to theologians to medical doctors, by inference or direct statement,
viewed “negroes” as less than fully human if not an altogether distinct and separate species.
The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal was a weekly publication began in 1828 and
continuously published until it became the still prominent and highly reputed New England Journal
of Medicine in 1928. The format of the April 24, 1844 edition of the journal is similar to many
current journals. Published weekly at about twenty pages per edition, this issue had only one image,
a basic drawing to illustrate a point in one of the articles. This issue included a section on deaths in
childbirth and a book announcement as well as letters to the editor on pancreatic diseases, the use of
tonics, and a report on an autopsy. It also includes notes from two delivered addresses by Dr. Josiah
Nott about the origin of “the black man” under the title of “Caucasian and Negro Races.”2 Arguing
As terms, microevolution, curse theory, and polygenesis are probably anachronistic. However, the
concepts are clearly present in the writings of the time.
“Caucasian and Negro Races,” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 30, no.12 (April 1844).
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for what would today be labeled polygenesis, Nott is recorded to have taught that “the human race
are [sic] descended from original stocks, which were essentially different” and that an “all-wise
Creator” chose to place each “in the climate and situations best suited to their organization.”3 It does
describe each race as human, but the negro race is “suited to (the African) climate and no other,” as
the death rate of negroes in northern cities being “nearly three to one” shows.4
The article says that Dr. Nott rejects the Genesis account of creation and thus the Hamite
curse argument for the origins of the Negro race for a theory of “two original and distinct lines of
men from the beginning.”5 Nott’s position on interracial breeding is that “Mulattos” were “hybrids”
and would not be able to breed. He also advocated the idea that black people were created
specifically for African climates and that they could not survive out of the warmth of Africa.
Conversely, Caucasians were incapable of thriving in those environments which were suited
explicitly to “Negroes.” After the article on Dr. Nott’s lectures, the issue ends with a series of
The Christian Observer was a weekly denominational newspaper printed in Philadelphia
“for the diffusion of truth and the support of the principles of the Presbyterian Church.” 6 As noted
in the very first section, an 1850 subscription was $3 annually, unless paid in full in advance when
it was $2.50. The paper was a large, four-page foldout with numerous articles and stories filling
each page. The June 15, 1850 issue contained articles on a variety of topics including a man’s
extensive recollections of negative interactions with the current Pope, a letter to the editor on the
theological meaning of light and dark, a critique of the current state of the Missouri Synod, and
Ibid.: 244.
Ibid.: 245.
"Startling Avowal—Unity of the Races, " Christian Observer 29, no. 24 (June 1850).
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multiple articles on mission work and Bible distribution. The front page also contained an article on
the “Characteristics of Authors” by E.P. Whipple that briefly examines authors from John Dryden
to Francis Bacon, John Milton, and Seneca.
On the far right-hand column of the front page from top to bottom and extending beyond the
entirety of the first column of the second page was an article entitled “Startling Avowal—Unity of
the Races.” Far and away the most extended section of the issue, the author takes aim at an article
circulating at the time by a Professor Agassiz. In the disputed article, Professor Agassiz argued for
the multiple origins of men, specifically for the Adamic descent of the white man and some
unknown yet foreign origin of the black man. The article deals explicitly with the theological
question of where did the wives of Adam’s children come from, the universality of the Noahic
flood, and, following Presbyterian federalism, the necessity of a separate fall from grace for a nonAdamic race, as well as the need for a different Savior for a distinct and unconnected race. In doing
so, the author is explicit in the rejection of Agassiz’s increasingly popular position of various
creations for multiple races of humans.
The African Repository was a monthly publication of the American Colonization Society. In
its May 1851 issue, the editors published an article filling over half the issue entitled “The Black
Race.”7 In addition to the article, the editors also included a brief apology for why they felt the
address should appear in the journal without annotation or any significant editorial comment8 and
why Breckenridge’s advocation of colonization should occupy such an inordinately great amount of
“The Black Race: Some Reflections on Its Position and Destiny, As Connected with our American
Dispensation. A discourse Delivered Before the Kentucky Colonization Society, at Frankfort, on the
6th of February, 1851,” The African Repository, 27, no. 5 (May 1851).
Other than the comment that Breckenridge’s speech contained an “elegance of style, profoundness
of thought, and originality and clearness of expression” that was especially “worthy of the patient
perusal of every lover of literary excellence and unsophisticated reasoning.”
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space in that month’s issue. After Breckenridge’s speech on the first eighteen pages, the remaining
twelve are filled with a few notes and then extensive summary tables of Liberian colonization to
date as well as a census of specific immigrants. In arguing for the necessity and viability of Liberian
colonization, Breckenridge undercuts the view of multiple creations of the various races. He argues
for the “absolute unity of the human race.”9 However, he also claims that what is “even more
obvious than its unity” is the “reality of immense diversities in the condition, development,
character, and destiny of our race.”10 That destiny for the negro race, in Breckenridge’s estimation,
was colonization in Liberia because slavery was not conducive to continued American prosperity,
but that did not mean that the negro race would not forever be subservient to the white. For procolonization proponents like Breckenridge, while the races were inherently united, separation of the
races was the only viable option for the betterment of all races.
A common argument against polygenesis but in support of viewing different races as
different species was put forward in the August 1853 issue of the American Phrenological
Journal.11 In it, William Rogers argued that the “four distinct blessings, promises, and curses
pronounced upon the patriarchs of the human family” should be expected to be “typical of their
descendants.” Furthermore, in order to ensure an appropriate separation, “nothing less than a
physical change—a change of color—of features—of manners, habits, and mental qualities” was
necessary. Demonstrating the four species with sketched images and a detailed chart, Rogers’s
position is that of a single creation but multiple species. In the Shemite species (Israelites, Greeks,
Celts, most white Europeans), “all the (physical and spiritual) attributes are harmoniously
Ibid.: 131.
William Rogers. “The Natural History of Man: The Typical Races of Men Concluded.” American
Phrenological Journal 18, no.2 (Aug. 1853).
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developed.” The Japhetic species (Chinese, Japanese, Mongolians, and probably Aztecs and
Toltecs) are “moderately mental” and while “not warlike” are still “destructive.” The Ishmaelite
species (Most Arabs and “American Indians” not listed with the Japhetic people) are “roving,
predatory, revengeful, sensual, warlike, and highly destructive.” And the Canaanite species (all
variations of “Negroes”) almost completely mirror the Japhetic, but the Canaanite species is “highly
sensual” rather than just regular sensual. Rogers’s article takes a scientific, categorizing approach to
curse theory in a journal filled with natural science articles. The issue begins with a table of
contents that separates the articles by branches of science rather than by author or article title with
Rogers’s article falling under the natural history of man.
From just a few examples, it is rather clear that during the during the 1840s and 1850s,
thinkers and leaders from various disciplines were seeking ways to understand American racial
dynamics. More precisely, white theologians, biologists, medical doctors, and government leaders
were actively fixated on finding ways to justify racist ideologies and biased social structures. Some
settled on the idea that “negroes” were divinely cursed; some decided that they were a separate
species altogether. Regardless of the disparity of thought that primary documents display, solidarity
was found in the desire to subjugate continually people of color while ceaselessly elevating white
“The Black Race: Some Reflections on Its Position and Destiny, As Connected with our American
Dispensation. A discourse Delivered Before the Kentucky Colonization Society, at
Frankfort, on the 6th of February, 1851.” The African Repository 27, no. 5 (May 1851):
“Caucasian and Negro Races.” Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 30, no.12 (April 1844):
Rogers, William. “The Natural History of Man: The Typical Races of Men Concluded.” American
Phrenological Journal 18, no.2 (Aug. 1853):
"Startling Avowal—Unity of the Races." Christian Observer 29, no. 24 (June 1850).
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Writing Sample #2
The Rhetorical Transformation and Cultural Impact of Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo
In Still Life with Rhetoric: A New Materialist Approach for Visual Rhetorics, Laurie Gries
introduces the reader to her innovative concept of the rhetorical power of images. Drawing from the
work of numerous scholars of rhetoric, philosophy, sociology, etc., Gries uses Shephard Fairey’s
Obama Hope poster as a case study in how images undergo rhetorical transformation and gain
resonating rhetorical power and cultural influence through an image’s composition, production,
distribution, circulation, transformation, collectivity, and consequentiality (Gries 13). The Obama
Hope image has become virtually ubiquitous, and its influence is difficult to overestimate. Plenty of
other images have worked their way into the cultural milieu, but few have had the same sort of
impact as Obama Hope (as demonstrated especially by parodies, reproductions, etc.) However,
looking back into the 20th century offers some images that had similar, if not greater, influence on
its time and place as Obama Hope has had in the beginning years of the 21st century. Joe
Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima (see fig. 1) is a perfect example of, through its initial
distribution and subsequent recompositions, an image that was itself transformed, and one that itself
transformed many. “Rhetoric,” Gries argues, “prevails beyond its initial moment of production” and
“once unleashed” it “transforms and transcends across genres, media, and forms as it circulates and
intra-acts with other human and nonhuman entities” (7). She made her case with the Obama Hope
image, but she could have easily made the same, forceful case for the rhetorical power of images
with Rosenthal’s masterpiece.
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Fig. 1 Rosenthal, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
Taken in February of 1945, Joe Rosenthal’s depiction of six United States Marines planting
a flag atop Mount Suribachi during the World War II (WWII) battle of Iwo Jima resonated
throughout the Western world from the time it was first published. The capturing of Marines raising
the second U.S. flag on the small, Japanese island united and encouraged citizens and soldiers alike
during a crucial part of the Pacific campaign of WWII. The Associated Press disseminated the
image throughout the United States and, apart from a period where the photograph was mistakenly
reported as staged, Rosenthal’s image has enjoyed a virtually universally positive reception,
including a Pulitzer Prize in photography (Patterson).
If all Rosenthal’s photo did was merely capture a moment of profound historical importance,
that alone would have been a worthwhile endeavor. However, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is a
resounding example of an image that has undergone a “rhetorical transformation” (Gries 27).
Rhetorical transformation is the process by which an object, in this case an image, acquires its
“thing power” and becomes “rhetorical in divergent, unpredictable ways as they circulate,
transform, and catalyze change” (27). Gries lists seven processes (composition, production,
distribution, circulation, transformation, collectivity, and consequentiality) that, though “not taken
up in a linear, chronological fashion,” must be considered “to generate complex, ontological
accounts of an image’s distributed rhetorical becomings” (14).
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Most of these processes are rather straightforward. Composition refers to an image’s
“rhetorical design,” while production refers to the “techno-human labor involved in bringing a
design into material construction” (114). Distribution and circulation are greatly interdependent and
depend themselves on the metacultural forces that encourage a wide or narrow dissemination of the
image. Circulation “refers to spatiotemporal flows, which unfold and fluctuate as things enter into
diverse associations and materialize in abstract and concrete forms” (19) while distribution is the
aspect of individuals being given the opportunity to encounter and be encountered by the image. As
the image unfolds and fluctuates while it enters into diverse associations, it is bound to undergo a
change. Transformation is the manner in which an “image changes in terms of design, form,
medium, materiality, genre, and function as it enters into new associations” (p. 117). These
processes culminate in the rhetorical end of an image: collectivity and consequentiality. These two
processes are concerned with how an image “bends space” (122) for life as a whole. In other words,
collectivity and consequentiality are the processes by which an image has become a realityaffecting, space-altering thing with the power to impact everyone and everything in some shape,
form, or fashion. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is an image that has undergone this rhetorical
transformation, as can be seen by its distribution and circulation, as well as the rhetorical impact it
has had on people and society.
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima has to be regarded as one of, if not the iconic image of the first
half of the 20th century. The representations of the image in popular culture is nothing short of
prolific. A news site associated with the U.S. Naval Institute compiled a collection of appearances
of Rosenthal’s image in various still forms. The forms include Legos; ice, sand, and butter
sculptures; a corn maze, a birthday cake, and tattoos as well as many other forms. The image has
enjoyed countless references in pop culture, including six appearances on The Simpsons. It has
featured prominently on United States currency and postage stamps. While that is not too
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surprising, international variations of the image are diverse, frequent, and far-reaching. From
Australian tourism advertisements to Funkadelic album covers, Rosenthal’s image has been used as
a representation of an overcoming spirit and success in the face of overwhelming odds. Although
the image has found its way to beer cans, Shri Lankan currency, Jersey Shore advertisements, and a
Time magazine cover addressing global warming where a tree replaced the flag, nothing has raised
the sort of furor that Ed Freeman’s rendition of the image in support of gay rights did (Lamothe).
Gries argues that images “become rhetorical” at the point that they “reassemble collective life as
they draw people and other things into relations to achieve a variety of nuanced purposes” (28).
This process “intensifies with each new actualization and with each new encounter” (28), leading to
a rhetorical life for the image that is far-reaching and virtually boundless. The seeming lack of
cultural boundaries in regards to identification with the image, as well as the profound impact it
consistently has had, should certainly lead anyone to conclude that this image has undergone a
rhetorical transformation, reached an iconic status, and certainly has demonstrated substantial thing
Whoever is responsible for the title of Gries work, Still Life with Rhetoric, deserves a
significant amount of credit. Pith and nuance are not always amicable partners, but this particular
title says exceedingly much with four words. Gries position that within, and through, an image is
life and the vibrant power to impact and influence life is rather profound. In still images is the
power of life—the power to influence, the power to change, and the power to create. Gries adeptly
demonstrated this vibrancy with her examination of Obama Hope, but her position is not
exclusively tied to that image. Joe Rosenthal’s iconic depiction of wartime triumph became etched
into the ethos of 20th century America. Whether it will have the staying power to endure the
constant flux and increasing cultural furor of 21st century America is to be seen, but for multiple
generations, this was an image that said, and did, significantly more than its thousand words.
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Works Cited
Gries, Laurie. Still Life with Rhetoric: A New Materialist Approach for Visual Rhetorics. Utah State
University Press. 2015.
Lamothe, Dan. “Iwo Jima Marines, Gay Pride and a Photo Adaptation That Spawns Fury.”
Washington Post, 1 July 2015,
www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/07/01/iwo-jima-marines-gay-prideand-a-photo-adaptation-that-spawns-fury/. Accessed 14 October 2016.
Patterson, Thome. “The Inside Story of the Famous Iwo Jima Photo.” CNN, 23 February 2016,
http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/22/world/cnnphotos-iwo-jima. Accessed 14 October 2016.
Rosenthal, Joe. Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, 1945, photograph, retrieved from
US Naval Institute Staff. “Iwo Jima at 70: The Most Reproduced and Parodied Photo in History?
Iwo Jima at 70: The Most Reproduced and Parodied Photo in History?” USNI News, 23
February 2015, news.usni.org/2015/02/23/iwo-jima-at-70-the-most-reproduced-andparodied-photo-in-history. Accessed 14 October 2016.