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Behind the Headlines: History, Hope and the Political Speech
What makes a political speech? From Aristotle to Hannah Arendt, philosophers have seen the arts of rhetoric and oratory as essential to the proper functioning of the public sphere. Some speeches, like Martin Luther King’s 1963 dream vision or Greta Thunberg’s 2019 ‘How dare you?’ address have defined a generation. Others have embedded lasting images, metaphors and poetic borrowings – ‘the iron curtain’, ‘rivers of blood’, ‘when hope and history rhyme’ – in the public imagination.

In Ireland, powerful speeches have patterned our history, from Robert Emmet’s 1803 declamation from the dock to Mary Robinson’s 1990 presidential acceptance speech, that heralded the women of Ireland for rocking the system instead of rocking the cradle. How is language shaped to such effect, and how does political oratory play with truth, emotion, and imagination? Can the tradition of the political speech endure in an age of social media sound-bites? In this Behind the Headlines, which takes place in the dark shadow of the January 6th riots in Washington, we will also ask about the political speech in the context of dictatorship, demagoguery and the weaponising of words, and ask at what point the art of public persuasion tips over into incitement.


Senator Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Trinity College Dublin

Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States

Alan Finlayson, Professor of Political & Social Theory, The University of East Anglia

Darryl Jones, Professor of Literature, Trinity College Dublin.

Martine Cuypers, Professor in Greek, Trinity College Dublin

The Trinity Long Room Hub Behind the Headlines series is supported by the John Pollard Foundation.

Please indicate if you have any access requirements, such as ISL/English
interpreting, so that we can facilitate you in attending this event. Contact: foraffer@tcd.ie.

Mar 1, 2021 07:00 PM in Dublin

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