Martin Luther King, Jr.'s reformation of sources: a close rhetorical reading of his compositional strategies and arrangement
AbstractThesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1995
Recent charges that Martin Luther King, Jr. was guilty of plagiarism in his doctoral dissertation and that this activity was a career characteristic set up the central issues of this study. I examine a number of King's discourses including his sermons, civil rights addresses, debates, interviews, and published materials. I find in King's use of sources like Harry Emerson Fosdick, George Buttrick, and Howard Thurman, a high number of textual adjustments, and in these changes, evidence of his molding of a text so that it becomes laden with values, is compact, and portable for insertion in multiple locations. Through what King labels the "transformation" of opposite terms and what Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca have defined as "dissociation" and "reversal," King can defend himself against a negative public perception while calling his audience to conviction, or redefine the boundaries of a discussion while retaining the potent phrasing of his adversaries. King's rhetorical move is often delicate, requiring methodical development and an affirming audience. Ironically, by considering King's apparent plagiarism in selected discourse, I find instead remarkable editing and reformation that highlight his rhetorical skills.