Rhetoric and Audience Reception:An Analysis of Theresa May’s Vision of Britain and Britishness after Brexit


This article demonstrates the value of rhetorical audience studies for analysing constructions of ‘the nation’ and national identity. A key strength of this approach is its recognition of the interplay between the rhetorical situation, the text of the speech, and the audience’s responses to that rhetoric. Using the historical method for investigating rhetoric and its reception, the article examines Theresa May’s efforts to bring the nation together after the 2016 referendum and to offer an inspiring vision of post-Brexit Britain. A textual analysis shows that her rhetoric of Britishness was constructed around an imagined audience of Leave voters, and thus excluded Remainers from her conceptions of Britain and ‘the British people’. The audience reception study supports this finding, as it reveals two competing myths of ‘the nation’ which in turn constituted rival subject positions. In short, May’s epideictic failed to unite the country behind her conception of a strong, cohesive Global Britain.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395721991411
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Politics, History and International Relations
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Aston Centre for Europe
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Uncontrolled Keywords: rhetoric; reception studies; national identity; Brexit; Global Britain
Publication ISSN: 1467-9256
Last Modified: 14 May 2024 07:20
Date Deposited: 12 Mar 2021 14:26
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Related URLs: https://journal ... 263395721991411 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-03-12
Published Online Date: 2021-03-12
Accepted Date: 2021-01-19
Authors: Atkins, Judi (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-7391-4685)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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