I’m Dr. Ryan Skinnell, an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at San José State University. I earned my PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and Linguistics at Arizona State University in 2011. I’ve taught rhetoric and writing for nearly two decades at four universities to students ranging from pre-baccalaureate freshpeople to doctoral candidates.
My current research focuses on political rhetoric, especially as it relates to authoritarianism, demagoguery, and democracy. I’ve published six books and more than 100 essays, articles, and reviews about rhetoric, politics, and higher education. I am currently writing a book about Adolf Hitler’s rhetoric.
BOOKS / SPECIAL ISSUES
Journalists, eye-witnesses, and scholars have long regarded Adolf Hitler as one of the most powerful orators and propagandists in history. He is the archetype of an evil demagogue. Hitler’s persuasive skills undoubtedly helped lever him into power, resulting in a worldwide catastrophe unparalleled in recorded history. However, for more than a century, even his most perceptive critics have either distilled his persuasive powers into a simple list of nasty tricks or chalked it up to magical powers—in many cases relying on Nazi talking points to explain the Führer’s unique persuasive abilities. But Hitler’s persuasive talents were neither simplistic nor magical. They were rhetorical. Hitler’s Rhetoric examines how Hitler actually used rhetoric to persuade millions of people to support, or at least acquiesce to, Nazism.
Rhetorical Monsters is a podcast series that discusses people in history who have used good rhetoric to terrible, damaging, sometimes deadly ends. Planned episodes include 20th century arch-villain, Adolf Hitler; patron saint of yellow journalism, William Randolph Hearst; arms-dealer and “Angel of Death,” Basil Zaharoff; and propaganda virtuoso, Edward Bernays.