A Rhetoric of Ruins contributes to an interdisciplinary conversation about the role of wrecked and abandoned places in modern life. Topics in this book stretch from retro- and post-human futures to a Jeremiadic analysis of the role of ruins in American presidential discourse. From that foundation, A Rhetoric of Ruins employs hauntology to visit a California ghost-town, psychogeography to confront Detroit ruins, heterochrony to survey Pennsylvania’s once (and future) Graffiti Highway, an expanded articulation of heterotopia to explore the pleasurable contamination of Chernobyl, and an evening in Turkmenistan’s Doorway to Hell that stretches across time from Homer’s Iliad to Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally.” Written to engage scholars and students of communication studies, cultural geography, anthropology, landscape studies, performance studies, public memory, urban studies, and tourism studies, A Rhetoric of Ruins is a conceptually rich and vividly written account of how broken and derelict places help us manage our fears in the modern era.
Andrew F. Wood is professor of communication studies at San José State University.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Yesterday’s Tomorrows
Chapter Two: Post-human Futures
Chapter Three: American Carnage
Chapter Four: Bodie’s Ghostly Gaze
Chapter Five: Detroit’s Guilty Pleasures
Chapter Six: Centralia’s Graffiti Highway
Chapter Seven: Chernobyl Exclusion Zone
Chapter Eight: The Doorway to Hell
"In A Rhetoric of Ruins: Exploring Landscapes of Abandoned Modernity, Andrew Wood assumes the role of tour guide in a deft and compelling investigation of ruin’s function and allure across literary, filmic, political, and geographic contexts. Wood is a sophisticated storyteller who writes both critically and evocatively. Not only does he offer an accessible approach to rhetorical theories, revealing a complex reading of ruin, he also writes as though you are standing in the ruins with him: immediate, terrifying, pleasurable, profound. You will never encounter a ruin in the same way again."
"In a world enamored with weathered simulacra, Wood pulls back the shroud to reveal what is truly distressed and decayed. Intrigued, we move closer to admire the picturesque beauty of inevitable ruin. As ophthalmologists alternate lenses to give us clearer views of the eyechart, so too does Wood switch between rhetorical perspectives to provide focus. From the Jeremiad through Foucault, multiple standpoints grant the reader, as do the Chernobyl guides, access to places we normally are not allowed. In our preparation for both wisdom and death, the most surprising specter on this haunting journey is the unwavering spirit of hope."
"Fully immersed in the literature devoted to ruins in all their manifestations, this text provides an alternative reading from a rhetorical perspective. It is an exceptionally erudite analysis written in crystalline prose. Whether covering comics books, films, television, politics, photography or writing about a ghost town in California (Bodie), the Motor City (Detroit), the ruins in and around Centralia PA, or the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, or Turkmenistan’s Darvaza Gas Crater, the descriptions bring images to the reader’s minds as if they were there, present in the moment with the author. Each chapter, beyond the introduction, creates a relevant critical frame (e.g., authenticity, jeremiad, psychogeographical, heterochrony, heterotopia) or explains authorial positions on key terms (e.g., neoliberalism, enclavic rhetoric, ruin porn). While the discussion of theoretical frames is worth reading on its own, the analysis of the rhetorical function of ruins, both as discursively constructed and in physical representations is where the author is at his best."
"This book is a riveting study of the attraction of ruins in both personal and public life. Vivid descriptions and evocative details transport the reader to various locales for a tour guided by the author’s informed and intimate voice. Wood's analyses of tourist consumption of “ruin porn,” the spatio-temporal dimensions of “trash," the visible traces of the “recursive gaze,” and the affective appeals of proximity to toxicity are especially incisive, making valuable contributions to rhetorical studies of space and place."
"Andrew Wood has done it again. A mind-whirling exploration into modernity’s spatial wreckage, this book productively revises his argument in Omnitopia. Here the specificity of ruins, whether represented in popular culture or serving as material and melancholic reminders in the built environment, suture us into the destructiveness of modernity. Wood is one of our most compelling thinkers about the intersections of material place, rhetoric, and everyday banality and sublimity."
"Andrew Wood’s insightful and engaging exploration of the rhetoric of ruins uses several detailed case studies of modern ruin to explicate and critique the contemporary fascination with constructing a perfect future that somehow never comes to be. Wood both uses and builds theory to show the reader that to really understand the present and the likely future one must also understand ruins of past efforts to create a modern world. Whether building theory or describing modern ruins, Wood’s lively style makes his book a pleasure to read."