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Battle Exhortation

The Rhetoric of Combat Leadership

Keith Yellin

Published: Dec 2 2011




Published: Oct 1 2013

OA Ebook
Published: Oct 1 2013


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

A commanding study of the motivational speech of military leaders across the centuries

In this groundbreaking examination of the symbolic strategies used to prepare troops for imminent combat, Keith Yellin offers an interdisciplinary look into the rhetorical discourse that has played a prominent role in warfare, history, and popular culture from antiquity to the present day. Battle Exhortation focuses on one of the most time-honored forms of motivational communication, the encouraging speech of military commanders, to offer a pragmatic and scholarly evaluation of how persuasion contributes to combat leadership and military morale.

In illustrating his subject's conventions, Yellin draws from the Bible, classical Greece and Rome, Spanish conquistadors, and American military forces. Yellin is also interested in how audiences are socialized to recognize and anticipate this type of communication that precedes difficult team efforts. To account for this dimension he probes examples as diverse as Shakespeare's Henry V, George C. Scott's portrayal of General George S. Patton, and team sports.

Keith Yellin is a former U.S. Marine Corps captain, an independent scholar, and a corporate communicator in North Texas.

"Yellin has produced the most comprehensive study of battle exhortations that I've ever read. . . . Leaders at any level, in uniform or mufti, will benefit from this enjoyable work. It is a treasure that should grace the libraries of those who lead or aspire to lead."—Brigadier General Thomas Draude, USMC (Ret.)

"Battle Exhortation is a fascinating and wide-ranging book on a neglected, but important, topic: the rhetoric at work in the speeches of military commanders bracing their men for imminent combat. With its well-chosen examples spanning three millennia, its insightful readings, and interdisciplinary approach this lively study will be of great interest to students and scholars of military history, the literature of war, sociology, and rhetoric."—Peter Hunt, author of War, Peace, and Alliance in Demosthenes' Athens

"In Battle Exhortation Keith Yellin develops an area that has been but a sidebar in the study of military leadership and raises it to the same level of importance as the execution of military plans. Success on the battlefield is much more than understanding the enemy and appreciating the weather and terrain. Words are important. Yellin provides the 'soul dimension' to the study of military history and leadership. This work is a must-read for practitioners and students of military leadership."—Colonel Benjamin L. Abramowitz, USA (Ret.)

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