How can one build in his/her discourse a trustworthy and authoritative image of self – what rhetoric traditionally calls “ethos”? The seminar will explore the issue of “presentation of self” in the public sphere through an analysis of well-known figures of public life (political leaders, celebrities, writers, businessmen,…). At the crossroad of sociology – Erving Goffman’s famous “presentation of self” – and of rhetoric - the notion of ethos inherited from Aristotle -, we will work out a conceptual framework to answer central questions: By what means and strategies do people build an image of their private and public self in verbal interaction? How is this discursive image related to identity? To authority? And how does every speaker try to ensure his/her credibility and efficiency?
Although some rules of ethos building have a global validity, its actual construction has to be examined in the particular field where the speaker endeavors to position himself (Bourdieu). We will look for the specificity of presentation of self in the political, juridical, cultural and literary fields, but also in peculiar socio-historical circumstances (from the 19th to the 21th century,) and in different cultural traditions (Israel, France, the US). Students will choose a public figure and analyze his/her presentation of self in public speeches, essays, autobiographical writings, interviews, interactions on the Net, etc.
In addition to the reading and presentation in class of relevant articles and chapters in books, all participants will choose a subject and present it during the last sessions of the seminar. The preparation will take place during the semester in individual meetings with the teacher, so that each student can learn on the ground the research process leading to the final paper.