Paul Turpin, Ph.D.
I am a rhetorical scholar and focus on political communication in the Communication Department and for the Jacoby Center. I teach the first-year Pacific Seminar regularly.
My areas of scholarly interest include: rhetorical theory and criticism, especially narrative theory; ethics, rhetoric of economics, ideology, and public deliberation; and recuperating classical rhetorical ideas to contemporary theories of rhetoric.
In the history of rhetoric, my interests include: Classical rhetoric, especially Aristotle; Renaissance and Enlightenment theories of rhetoric; and twentieth century rhetorics, including postmodernism.
I studied Rhetorical and Cultural Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California (Ph.D. 2005) and started teaching at the University of the Pacific in Fall 2007. Below are some highlights from my curriculum vita. You can also download my CV for more details.
The Moral Rhetoric of Political Economy: Justice and Modern Economic Thought. London: Routledge, Frontiers in Political Economy v. 136, 2011. Read Abstract
Frey, Donald. "Review of The Moral Rhetoric of Political Economy: Justice and Modern Economic Thought." EH.net (Economic History Association) 2011. http://eh.net/book_reviews/moral-rhetoric-political-economy-justice-and-modern-economic-thought
Duncanson, Thomas. "Review: The Rhetoric of Capitalism and Morally Serious Answers to the Problem of Distributive Justice." Ethica: The
Newsletter of the National Communication Association's Communication Ethics Division. 25.1 (Spring 2012): 7-10.
Hanan, Josh. "The Moral Rhetoric of Political Economy: Justice and Modern Economic Thought (Review)" Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15.3 (2012):
Bãlan, Sergiu. "Review of The Moral Rhetoric of Political Economy: Justice and Modern Economic Thought." The Journal of Philosophical
Economics 6:1 (2012): 2-5.
"The Local Political Economy of Elections: Information Delivery, Voter Education, and the Rationality of Voting Behavior." More Votes that Count: A Case Study in Voter Mobilization. Ed. Robert Benedetti. Berkeley: Berkeley Public Policy Press, 2012.
The fairness and legitimacy of elections is a recurring theme of the American political landscape. Reforms to make the processes of voting clearer and easier, while legitimately cast in terms of strengthening democratic ideals of participation, nevertheless face considerable friction from the nature of locally administered elections. This essay extends Anthony Downs’ concept of information costliness in voters’ decision-making by theorizing rhetoric as an economics of attention. A focus on the dynamics of attention expands the scope of information costs from Downs’s issue-oriented, consumer-choice transactional model to a rhetorical model of communicative interaction that includes the costs of information processing in the electoral process itself. The communicative interaction of voters, election officials, and their commercial vendors comprise a local political economy of the electoral process, one in which costs borne by different parties come into competition with each other.
To illustrate how information costs compete with financial and organizational costs, the essay examines official election communication in the 2008 election cycle in San Joaquin County (SJC), California. The conclusions drawn by the study indicate that easing the information-processing costs to voters is possible by using appropriate graphics design principles, but changing practices to effect such principles faces obstacles of financial costs and institutional and organizational dispositions. The use of Vote by Mail (VBM), however, promises reduced financial costs that could help offset costs of better design. Understanding the competition of all the relevant costs and parties in the local political economy of elections is essential for creating comprehensive reform. Hide
"Performing a Rhetoric of Science: Dr. Laura's Portrayal of Homosexuality." Sexual Identities and Communication in Everyday Life: A Reader. Ed. Karen E. Lovaas, and Mercilee M. Jenkins. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2007. 181-93.
This book chapter undertakes a rhetorical analysis of radio talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger in a controversy over her characterization of homosexuality as a “deviation.” The central claim is that Schlessinger attempts to construct her character in a way that fuses her beliefs about the nature of science with her religious beliefs, using science to underpin her moralizing with the certainty of science. Her accounts of homosexuality and subsequent defenses of those accounts illustrates how the rhetorical concept of ethos can be understood as a performance of character, in which Schlessinger attempts to embody an all-encompassing understanding of the material and spiritual worlds, relying on her sincerity as a form of persuasive proof. In the end, I find her efforts unpersuasive and distorted because her analysis leads her to a black-and-white view of sexuality and adolescence that ultimately defends sacrificing gays for the sake of not confusing heterosexual children. Hide
"Preface." How Language Is Used to Do Business: Essays on the Rhetoric of Economics. Ed. Edward M. Clift. New York City: Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. i-ii.
This volume was a collection of papers from a conference on rhetoric and economics for which I was chief organizer and director. In this short Preface, I noted the division of interests between the economists and the rhetoricians who attended the conference: the economists were interested in questions of economic theory, and the rhetoricians were interested in question of economic policy. The implicit issue the contributions left unaddressed was the connection between theory and policy. That gulf, between ‘how is economic analysis rhetorical?’ and ‘what is the best economic policy to pursue?’, is the pressing question in the rhetoric of economics. Hide
"Reconsidering the Narrative Paradigm: The Implications of Ethos." Argument in a Time of Change: Definitions, Frameworks, and Critiques. Proceedings of the Tenth NCA/AFA Conference on Argumentation. Alta, Utah, 1997. James F. Klumpp, ed. 75-79.
This essay examined criticisms of Walter Fisher’s ‘narrative paradigm’ argument that storytelling comprises a form of argument-making about values. The criticisms focused on the problem of relying on an actual audience’s critical judgment about truth, using the example of the German people as an audience to Hitler’s storytelling in the 1930s. I propose that a better interpretation of Fisher’s theory of narrative reasoning is to understand stories as ways of modeling character in action, the persuasive dynamics of which can be explained by the classical rhetorical principle of ethos. Plato’s Phaedrus can thus be read narratively as Socrates’s performance (of his good character) ‘saving’ Phaedrus from the seduction of the sophists. Turning to Hitler, I note that his own persuasive strategy was largely an appeal to ethos, particularly in his ‘leader-principle’ (Fuhrerprinzip) that indicated a potential weakness in German culture – uncritical loyalty – that Hitler was able to exploit. Narrative theory can help illuminate how an audience’s virtue (loyalty) can be undermined by other values (unquestioning obedience to authority).
The essay appeared in the “Argumentation Theory Spotlight: The Best Four Papers” panel at the conference. Hide
Review of Adam Smith: The Rhetoric of Propriety, by Stephen J. McKenna. Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 10.3 (2007): 554-56. Abstract
Awards and Honors
- 2011 Book of the Year award for The Moral Rhetoric of Political Economy from the Communication Ethics Division of the National Communication Association.
- 2006 Gerald R. Miller Outstanding Dissertation Award, the National Communication Association.
- 2006 American Society for the History of Rhetoric Dissertation Award.
- 2005 Professor of the Semester, Pi Beta Phi sorority, Willamette University.
Organizer and Director, Rhetoric and Economics: An Interdisciplinary Conference, 2005. The conference drew 30 scholars from Communication, English, Economics, and Management from the U.S., Europe, and South America, and led to the publication of the collection How Language Is Used to Do Business: Essays on the Rhetoric of Economics, ed. Edward M. Clift (New York: Mellen Press, 2008).
- National Communication Association (NCA)
- Western States Communication Association (WSCA)
- Rhetoric Society of America (RSA)
- International Adam Smith Society (IASS)
- American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR)
Paul Turpin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (effective Sept. 1, 2011)
Department of Communication
Pacific Email or Alternate Email (email is usually the best way to reach me)
Office: Psy/Comm Bldg Rm. 2B
University of the Pacific
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211