Melodrama, William Barr, and the imperial presidency

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay argues that study of William Barr’s melodramatic imagination best illuminates his rhetorical effort to craft an imperial presidency for the conservative movement. In three speeches given between October 2019 and February 2020, the then-Attorney General blended traditional conservative ideas and strategies with Trumpian hyperbole and conspiracy. By exploiting the discursive resources of the melodramatic mode, Barr sacralized the founding, polarized good and evil, and engorged the executive. The social order and imperial presidency Barr’s discourse created undermined the liberal democratic norms he claimed to defend.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-101
Number of pages27
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Donald Trump
  • conservatism conspiracy
  • hyperbole
  • natural law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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