Spiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and Performance by William FitzgeraldSpiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and Performance by William Fitzgerald

Spiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and Performance

byWilliam Fitzgerald

Paperback | October 23, 2012

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A bold recasting of prayer as a rhetorical art, Spiritual Modalities investigates situations, strategies, and performative modes of discourse directed to divine audiences. Examining how prayer “works,” Spiritual Modalities reads prayer’s situations and strategies, its characteristic acts and attitudes, to advance an understanding of prayer as a basic expression of our rhetorical capacities for communication and communion. This groundbreaking analysis demonstrates how prayer draws on fundamental capacities to engage other beings rhetorically to argue that we are never more human than when we address the nonhuman.

Spiritual Modalities is notable in its aim to articulate a critical rhetoric of prayer in a secular idiom. It draws on contributions to rhetorical theory from Kenneth Burke along with a broad range of classical and contemporary perspectives on audience, address, speech acts, and modes of performance. The book also takes a multicultural and multimodal approach to prayer as rhetorical performance. The texts and practices of prayer represented range across religious traditions and historical eras and include both verbal and physical modes of divine address. The book will be of interest to scholars researching religious language, Burkean approaches to discourse, practices of memory, and media studies.

William FitzGerald is Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University.William FitzGerald is Assistant Professor of English at Rutgers University.
Title:Spiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and PerformanceFormat:PaperbackDimensions:168 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.47 inPublished:October 23, 2012Publisher:Penn State University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0271056231

ISBN - 13:9780271056234


Table of Contents



List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Prayer: The Rediscovered Country

1 Prayer and Its Situations: Meditation on Kairos and Krisis

2 “Hear Us, O Lord”: Audience and Address in Communicating with the Divine

3 Invocations of Spirit: Prayer as Speech Act

4 The Dance of Attitude: Prayer as the Performance of Reverence

5 Performing the Memorare: Prayer as a Rhetorical Art of Memory

6 Bodies and Spirits in Virtual Motion: Prayer and Delivery in Cyberspace

Conclusion: Does Rhetoric Have a Prayer?


Works Cited


Editorial Reviews

“William FitzGerald’s Spiritual Modalities: Prayer as Rhetoric and Performance is a clarion call: a call for scholars of communication to re-engage research on prayer.  In an age made more anxious by its own technologies, Spiritual Modalities asks why humans across cultures and times have enacted this enigmatic but fundamentally human behavior.  What motivates us to address the sacred, and what do we expect from it? Relentlessly intellectual, Spiritual Modalities is one of the most important, sustained, and theoretically sophisticated engagements of religious rhetoric since Kenneth Burke’s Rhetoric of Religion.”—Robert Glenn Howard, author of Digital Jesus: The Making of a New Christian Fundamentalist Community on the Internet