Apologia is a form of practiced rhetoric that is used in self-defense or as a vindication of a person. It is common in both politics and public relations, as well as a term for analysis in genre criticism. It most frequently entails the speaker publicly expressing remorse for his or her actions. Non-apology apology functions in the same situation, but fails to admit wrongdoing. The result of the apology process, ideally, is the reconciliation of broken relationships. The ancient origin of apologia traces back to the ancient Greek root word apologos, meaning “a story.” Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle all describe apologia as a specific genre, in which an orator defends himself or his actions against an accusation.
Ware and Linkugel's Framework
In 1973, B.L. Ware and Wil Linkugel described the genre of apologia as a “public speech of self-defense,” issued in response to an attack on one’s character or worth. Ware and Linkugel broke the ground for the contemporary study of apologetic discourse, as they divide the genre into two elements, postures and tactics.
3. Attempt an explanation: Acknowledge the charge and offer an account of what took place.
4. Seek Vindication: An indirect response to the charge. Attack the source of the charge, without addressing them directly.
5. Justification: Change the act (or acts) in question into something justifiable.
3. Differentiation: Creates necessary distinctions that redefine the questionable act. (Example: While I didn’t follow the letter of the law, I did follow its spirit.")
4. Transcendence: Effects a significant redefinition or reinterpretation of the questionable act. (Example: “I am a celebrity and what I did was wrong, but our privacy should be protected universally.”)
1. Denial: Simple denial or shifting the blame
2. Evasion of responsibility: Provocation, accident, and good intention
3. Reduction of offensiveness: Bolstering, minimization, differentiation, transcendence, attack accuser, and compensation
4. Corrective action: Offering to repair damages caused by self-action and taking steps to prevent the event from reoccurring
5. Mortification: Admitting wrongful behavior, asking for forgiveness, and apologizing
Lawrence Rosenfield’s Mass-Media Characteristics
Lawrence Rosenfield examines apologia covered by mass media. In his analysis of speeches by ex-President Harry Truman and vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon, Rosenfield described four initial characteristics of mass-mediated apologia.
1. They tend to be short and sharp clashes
2. The remarks are not solely defensive messages
3. They include an extensive amount of data in the middle of the speech
4. Previously used arguments appear to be reused and combined into one cohesive message.
In “The Evolution of the Rhetorical Gene of Apologia,” Sharon Downey argues that apologia has undergone significant changes because its function has changed throughout history. Downey takes on a critical generic approach to the feasibility of apologia. Halford Ryan advocates that kategoria and apologia need to be understood as a linked pair. Ryan proposes that a speech of apologia motivates a defensive response, which should be treated as a rhetorical speech set.
- Lazare, Aaron. On Apology. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford U P, 2005. Print.
- Ware, B.L. and Linkugel, W.A. (1973).
- "A Case Study in Speech Criticism: The Nixon-Truman Analog." Communication Monographs 35 (1968): 435-450.
- Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies. Albany: State University of New York Press.
- Downey, S. D. "The Evolution of the Rhetorical Genre of Apologia." Western Journal of Communication 57 (1993): 42-64. Print.
- "Kategoria and Apologia: On Their Rhetorical Criticism as a Speech Set." Quarterly Journal of Speech 68 (1982): 254-261.