15 January 2016

The Irony of Don Henley's "Praying for Rain"

We already know Don Henley as a great singer, musician, and entertainer, but as it turns out, he's also a pretty good rhetorician.

For his latest album, Henley effectively uses a rhetorical-narrative device to draw attention to the issue of global warming. The song, "Praying for Rain," employs irony to question our lack of action in responding to the signals of a warming planet. Check out the song here:

Ironic narratives feature main characters overcome by and unable to affect their situations. In "Praying for Rain," the irony becomes apparent when the first-person narrator, a farmer besieged by drought, says, "We hardly had a winter, had about a week of spring. Crops are burned up in the fields. There's a blanket of dust on everything. The weatherman is saying that there ain't no change in sight. Lord, I've never been a praying man, but I'm saying one tonight." Laying out the drought conditions paints the picture of an overwhelming situation for the farmer. He's never seen anything like it--a common reaction to the extreme weather events generated by global warming; and we know he feels powerless because of his admission that the predicament appears endless. Together, these narrative elements suggest we're listening to an irony, a suspicion confirmed when the man who's never prayed is driven to prayer--ironic indeed.

Action, not prayer, however, is the objective of Henley's irony. The farmer might turn to prayer, but that doesn't end the ironic narrative. In desperate circumstances, all he has is prayer, and the desperation only grows as he repeats that prayer over and over again without receiving any response. That's what we're left with: a powerless man and an unheard echo that remain completely at the mercy of their circumstances. In this way, Henley uses the ironic narrative theme of powerlessness as a call for action. The repeated chorus holds us in the frustration of failing to take action, calling into question all those times when people have actually tried to pray drought away.

We can't choose not to act while action is still possible and then expect that we'll be able to act in desperate circumstances, and Henley has given us the right rhetorical device to hit that realization home.

10 January 2016

Publication Celebration

The new year began in a big way for me last week.

A year and a half ago, I blogged about submitting a paper for publication. Following a long process of peer review, I received news on January 4 that the paper has been accepted for publication in the journal, Environmental Communication.

This was huge news. First, the paper will become my first publication. That fact, combined with the hard work that went into it, gave the acceptance letter special meaning. Second, as I blogged about in announcing the submission, the paper makes a contribution to communication theory by providing a way of discovering important discourses about the environment in media.

I am very proud and excited to be published, and I am glad to have the opportunity to help advance our understanding of the environment.

Happy new year, everyone!