A festschrift is a book published in honor of a renowned academician by his/her former students and close colleagues, meaning something like celebratory publication in German. Several Mormons have been so honored: Hugh Nibley, Eugene England, Richard L. Anderson and Leonard Arrington come to mind. However, I’ve never seen one for Wayne Booth, the deceased author of The Rhetoric of Fiction, among his other universally acclaimed works. Booth was also a frequent observer of Mormonism, the faith that reared him, set him on his way and then allowed him to come back and sack out in the basement of Sunstone every now and then. How important was this guy? He was arguably the most important U.S. figure in literary theory in the 20th Century. If I were ever asked to contribute to an Essays in Honor of Wayne Booth collection, it would be the essay I’ve posted below called “The Rhetoric of Cheerleading.” In fact, consider this a Wayne Booth Festblog. I invite each of you to make your own contribution in his honor.
“The Rhetoric of Cheerleading,” by Ed Snow:
Wayne Booth taught me a lot about narrative theory and rhetoric. In his memory, I’m going to talk now about the rhetoric of cheerleading. We may not think about it very much, but cheers are literary creations, and, as such, demand interpretation. Of course, they haven’t been privileged in the past, like, say, Moby Dick, but they deserve to be understood on their own terms and what they have to say about society. They are voices deserving to be heard.
Few people realize that the origin of cheerleading reaches way back into history, back to the pre-existence even, thereby legitimizing it as its own literary genre, possibly as proto-literature or as those Germans would say, Urliteratur, or whatever.
Consider Job 38:7: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” To any but the prejudiced observer, that sounds a lot like cheerleading.
And, even to the casual reader flipping through the bible as s/he comes across, say, Joshua and Jericho–is this not cheerleading? “You shall march around the city … then all the people shall shout with a great shout.” (See Joshua 6: 3-5)
Now we have to ask, what do narrative critics do? They attempt to isolate the narrative of a text from the real author of the text in an effort to let a text speak for itself as much as possible. Rather than referring to the real author of the text, narrative critics refer to and study the implied author, meaning the person who wrote the text as that person is presented in the text itself. According to narrative interpretive theory, the narrative itself provides clues that indicate who the implied author is and which views the implied author holds. Likewise, the real reader of the text is ignored and an implied reader is referred to and studied by narrative critics, as is the anticipated response of such a reader to the views of an implied author.
My time is short, but let’s look at a couple of cheers and their implied authors and implied readers. (A more expanded version of this essay is to be published in the upcoming Association for Mormon Letters Annual).
“Rah rah ree, kick ‘em in the knee, rah rah rass, kick ‘em in the … other knee.”
The implied author here appears to be a sports fan, perhaps with violent tendencies. But, as evidenced by the implied author’s circumlocution of the word ass, the implied author also appears to have qualms about using profanity, at least in public. Here we have a person at odds with him/her self, an implied author with a tortured soul. And, since I transcribed this cheer while sitting in the stadium at a BYU home football game, I think the contextual evidence suggests that the implied author is a Mormon sports fan in need of LDS Social Services.
“D-Fence (clap clap) D-Fence (clap clap).”
The implied reader of this cheer is elusive due to the cryptic text, therefore offering an intriguing opportunity for the narrative critic. Interestingly enough, this is one of the few cheers accompanied by a written text. The text consists of a letter “D” followed by a picture of a white picket fence. One is tempted to apply the rebus principle to see how that might assist in determining the identity of the implied reader. Of course, rebus comes from the Latin, meaning by things, and is a text which uses pictures to represent words or parts of words, as in “I [heart-picture] BCC.” I read this cheer while attending a BYU home basketball game sitting in the FARMS section. Based upon this contextual evidence, I suggest the implied reader of this text is a Mormon apologist.
I trust this brief exercise demonstrates the universal utility of Wayne Booth’s enduring literary theories and tools. “Wayne Booth, Wayne Booth, he’s our man. If he can’t do it …. no one can!”
 For some of the contributions of Wayne Booth to things Mormon, see: (i) Letters to Smoother, etc.: Proceedings of the Fifth Annual BYU Symposium on the Humanities, edited by Joy C. Ross, Steven C. Walker (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1981); (ii) “Pride Cometh before the Fall: Mormonism and the Seven Deadly Sins,” Sunstone # 99 (August-September 1995); (iii) “Confessions of an Aging, Hypocritical Ex-Missionary,” Sunstone # 109 (March-April 1998); and (iv) “Do What Is Right, Let the Consequence Follow: Contrasting Messages in Mormon Hymns,” Sunstone # 113 (March-April 1999).
 At least I blame Booth for my more serious work: “Narrative Criticism and the Book of Mormon,” JBMS 4:2. p. 93-107