On this episode of New Books in Communications, Lee Pierce (she/they) interviews Dr. Bradford Vivian
(he/his) of Penn State University on his fabulous new book Commonplace Witnessing: Rhetorical Invention, Historical Remembrance, and Public Culture
(Oxford University Press, 2017). In this book, Dr. Vivian asks readers to reconsider our almost sacred regard for the act of witnessing in public culture and consider witnessing as a rhetorical act that we recognize not only because of the transparent truth of the witness testimony but because that testimony conforms to particular expectations of witnessing, which Dr. Vivian calls the “topoi” or commonplaces of witnessing including authenticity, impossibility, and regret. Investigating a variety of public culture texts—from 19th-century speeches to the 9/11 Memorial—Dr. Vivian explores the ambiguity of witnessing as an act of memory and culture and how that act normalizes who has the right to speak truth and how.