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On the Frontier of Science
An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation
“The frontier of science” is a metaphor that has become ubiquitous in American rhetoric, from its first appearance in the public address of early twentieth-century American intellectuals and politicians who aligned a mythic national identity with scientific research, to its more recent use in scientists’ arguments in favor of increased research funding. Here, Leah Ceccarelli explores what is selected and what is deflected when this metaphor is deployed, its effects on those who use it, and what rhetorical moves are made by those who try to counter its appeal. In her research, Ceccarelli discovers that “the frontier of science” evokes a scientist who is typically male, a risk taker, an adventurous loner—someone separated from a public that both envies and distrusts him, with a manifest destiny to penetrate the unknown. It conjures a competitive desire to claim the riches of a new territory before others can do the same. Closely reading the public address of scientists and politicians and the reception of their audiences, this book shows how the frontier of science metaphor constrains American speakers, helping to guide the ends of scientific research in particular ways and sometimes blocking scientists from attaining the very goals they set out to achieve.
Publication Date: November 1st, 2013
250 pages| 6 in x 9 in

Leah Ceccarelli is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington.

Early Praise

Early Praise for On the Frontier of Science:
On the Frontier of Science is an outstanding model of what the next generation of rhetorical criticism can contribute to society. In exploring the crucial roles that the frontier metaphor has played in advancing and delimiting science, Ceccarelli creates a broad and deep understanding of the variegated potentials of this metaphor and uses that understanding to offer alternatives for the rhetorical construction of the futures of science in the context of globalization.”
—Celeste M. Condit, Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Communication Studies, University of Georgia
“Ceccarelli’s analyses are full of insight about the ways the metaphor and myth of the frontier are used to persuade the public of the value of particular science projects. At the same time, she remains aware of the ambiguities of the entailments of this metaphor and myth, employed at times to encourage counterproductive competition between American science and that of other countries, and at other times to override the legitimate interests of indigenous peoples.”
—Alan Gross, Professor, Communication Studies, University of Minnesota
“In this study of the frontier metaphor in scientific discourse addressed to the American public, Ceccarelli shows us why the rhetorical nature of science matters, and how it works. Her study is characteristically purposeful, meticulous, and lucid, with careful attention to the burden of proof she bears for a multidisciplinary readership in public address, rhetoric of science, and science studies.”
—Carolyn R. Miller, SAS Institute Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Technical Communication, North Carolina State University
“Leah Ceccarelli has written a terrific book on the metaphor of the frontier of science, the political myths that underpin the metaphor, and the entailments that accompany it. Her analysis is insightful, her writing is both lucid and accessible, and her ability to engage closely with her texts while never losing sight of the overall picture produces a well-crafted and convincing argument.”
—Mary E. Stuckey, Professor of Communication and Political Science, Georgia State University

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