What can we learn from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign memoirs?

presidential campaign memoirs

In a recent study, researchers examine the rhetorical identities of Hillary Clinton’s two political memoirs—Living History and Hard Choices. The finding is published in Quarterly Journal of Speech.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland conducted the study.

The first book spanned Hillary’s childhood through her years as the first lady, and the second book recounted her tenure as Secretary of State. Though both memoirs were written with a past orientation, they also sought to keep alive a future run for the presidency.

In the study, researchers used corpus rhetorical methods from the digital humanities to show that Hard Choices featured a policy wonk identity compared to Living History’s more personal storyteller identity.

They found that Living History, which spans Clinton’s childhood through her years as the first lady, was written in the Boswellian approach, meaning it delved into her most intimate thoughts.

Hard Choices, on the other hand, was written to recount her tenure as Secretary of State, used the Plutarchian style of focusing on the leader’s public service performance.

Researchers suggest that Hillary Clinton came off in her memoirs and in public as more personally guarded. It is not surprising that she could not fulfill reader expectations for personal disclosures in Living History.

Researchers suggest that gender may play a role in these style options and decisions.

With her identity as a political leader under scrutiny for over twenty-five years, and after being told repeatedly that she was either not likable or was merely “likeable enough,” Hillary expectedly expressed a personality perceived as more stilted than authentic.

This finding shed light on her strategies for a presidential run and revealed the identity problems she faced as a woman vying for the presidency.

Citation: Kaufer DS, Parry-Giles SJ. (2016). Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign memoirs: A study in contrasting identities. Quarterly Journal of Speech, published online. DOI: 10.1080/00335630.2016.1221529.
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