The Idea of Identification

By Gary C. Woodward

Subjects: Communication
Series: SUNY series in Communication Studies
Paperback : 9780791458204, 183 pages, May 2003
Hardcover : 9780791458198, 183 pages, May 2003

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Table of contents


1. Origins of an Idea

2. Conceptualizing Identification: Extensions of a Burkean View

3. Identification, Celebrity, and the Hollywood Film

4. Serenades to the Resistant: Successful Uses of Identification

5. Misidentification and Its Sources

6. Identification and Commitment in Civic Culture



Drawing on examples from contemporary life, Woodward explores rhetorical conditions that create powerful moments of identification.


Illustrated with interesting examples drawn from politics and art, The Idea of Identification draws on classical social and rhetorical theories to establish a systematic framework for understanding the varieties and forms of identification. Woodward references a variety of contexts in contemporary life to explore the rhetorical conditions that create powerful and captivating moments. By invoking the influential ideas of Kenneth Burke, George Herbert Mead, Joshua Meyrowitz and others, he shows how the rhetorical process of identification is separate from psychological theories of identity construction. Woodward concludes with an argument that film theory has perhaps offered the most vivid descriptive categories for understanding the bonds of identification.

Gary C. Woodward is Professor of Communication Studies at The College of New Jersey. He is the author of Perspectives on American Political Media; Persuasive Encounters: Case Studies in Constructive Confrontation; and coauthor (with Robert E. Denton Jr.) of Political Communication in America; and Persuasion and Influence in American Life.


"Woodward's description of the conceptual history of identification is concise, his illustrations of identification in action are engaging, and his speculations about the role of identification in our contemporary culture are good initial points for continued discussion on this fundamental rhetorical element." — The Southern Communication Journal

"Gary C. Woodward's The Idea of Identification promises a fresh examination of identification that moves beyond Burke's work to interrogate aspects of the concept previously overlooked and underdeveloped." — Argumentation and Advocacy

"The book captures the basic idea behind the concept of identification, and then shows how it is central to multiple disciplines and indeed to the humanistic impulse itself. The concept's application and relevance to a wide range of human activities is masterfully explicated here. This book is a pleasure to read." — Vanessa B. Beasley, Southern Methodist University