MusicMan11712 Writings


The Synecdochic Fallacy Revisited (2004):

A Case Study of What Causes Men's Violence Against Women?


presented to the New York State Communication Association Annual Conference, October 2004, Kerhonkson, New York.



            Michele Harway and James M. O'Neil's What Causes Men's Violence Against Women?* (1999) is an attempt to address a major contemporary social issue: violence against women.  The project took over five years, beginning with a male-female collaborative development of a multivariate model based on an extensive literature review.  The dialogue was expanded to include perspectives from 13 additional colleagues which served as correctives for a revised multivariate model for explaining men's risk factors for violence against women.


            In this essay, I show how the book functions as an ideal problem-solution model in the drama of human relations to open an otherwise closed universe of discourse.   My review of this groundbreaking book is rooted in Kenneth Burke's array of offerings frequently termed "Dramatism."  Whereas Burke shows us how to use literary criticism in the "Rhetoric of Hitler's Battle" to reveal the use of "bad medicine" (to borrow Burke's metaphor), my use of rhetorical analysis serves to present Harway and O'Neil's work as an exemplar of scientism balanced with an implicitly dramatistic perspective--"good medicine" as a philosophical corrective on several levels.


            The book contains an abundance of material of use for teachers and researchers of communication--not just in terms of content, but in terms of methodology as well.  To demonstrate this, I address:


I.          The Significance of the Synechdoche In Burke's Dramatism

II.          The Synechdochic Fallacy: Concept and Scope

III.         Male Responses to Feminism: Terms for Understanding

IV.        Anderson and Prelli's "Pentadic Cartography**"

V.        The Role of the Critic in Assessing How Rhetorical Artifacts

                Open or Close the Universe of Discourse 

VI.        A Book Review: Description and Analysis of

                What Causes Men's Violence Against Women


            Although the book addresses a seemingly narrow (but very significant) issue, the implications of the content and methodology go far beyond understanding the causes of male violence in dyadic relationships.


*Michele Harway and James M. O'Neil, eds. What Causes Men's Violence Against Women? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1999.

**Floyd D. Anderson and Lawrence J. Prelli, “Pentadic Cartography: Mapping the Universe of Discourse.,Quarterly Journal of Speech 87 (February 2001), pp. 73-95.

Web resource on verbal abuse: Dr. Irene's Verbal Abuse Site