Exploring rural rhetoric beyond the landscape, farm, or site of tragedy: Space and place in rural bridge folklore

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2023-08
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Cox, Thomas Grayson
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LaWare, Maggie
Kostelnick, Charlie
Rood, Craig
Brown, Laura
Eike, Rachel
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English
Abstract
The dissertation argues that the rural is itself a complex, nuanced source of rhetoric. The key findings of the dissertation are rural space and place rhetoric engages with local, national, and global issues. Rural space and place rhetoric is complex and nuanced, rural space and place rhetoric can complicate existing rhetorical concepts, and rural space and place rhetoric offers opportunities to study the rhetorical capacities developed or degraded in the interactions of human and nature. I analyze folklore concerning a selection of rural bridges. In chapter two, a sample of rural folklore concerning bridges gathered through an Internet search uncovers themes that show that rural meaning-making address concerns including race, religion, technology, gender, and childhood within the complexities of local, national, and global culture. In chapter three, I, then, examine the complexity of place-making at a rural site named Rainbow Bridge near Carroll, Iowa. At Rainbow Bridge, where history and design, visual rhetoric, topoi in blending the human and the natural, a ghost story, river and road networks, and graffiti all contribute to making the site a place. Chapter four begins with the purpose of extending the blending of natural and synthetic and considers the rhetorical agency of blending space and place and narrative. In the process of conducting fieldwork to find the site of Terror Bridge near Barnum, Iowa, a strange inversion appeared concerning the credibility of the sources and their guidance about the location of the site. The more seemingly credible sources located the site incorrectly; thus, the chapter also reflects on credibility as seen through a concept of a narratively coherent self to complicate credibility.
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