Prairie Lights, Haven of the Written Word

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00:11:22 minutes

Document Type

Oral History

Publication Date

Fall 10-1-2013


Rhetoric 0021


Anna Williams


The ownership of Prairie Lights transferred from Jim Harris to Jan Weissmiller, and Jan has since expanded the business as a whole and in the community.

Our project features the story of the change of ownership of the bookstore Prairie Lights in downtown Iowa City. This narrative briefs on the beginnings of the store under the ownership of Jim Harris, but focuses on the evolution of the store and its expansion as a member of the community under the current owner Jan Weismiller. This store is a necessity in Iowa City. Prairie Lights is integral in the literary community of this area known primarily for its literary culture. The transfer of ownership deserves more knowledge because without Jan, Prairie Lights would not have so expanded its role in the community, but without Jim, Jan could not have gotten the store going. This passing of succession is a story meriting the attention of the citizens of Iowa City.

We use a variety or rhetorical techniques in our Iowa Narratives Project. We mainly draw on the rhetorical appeals of pathos and logos. We make the argument that without the support of the listener this well respected store employed by people that care for the community will go under. This is a pathetic appeal because we want the listener to be compelled emotionally to go and support the store. Also, the entire broadcast tells the story of this small bookshop that grows to be one of the most famous independent bookstores in the country. This makes the viewer feel connected to what happens to the store and also illustrates how important Prairie Lights is. The final pathetic appeal that we make in our broadcast is the final piece of audio that we use from Jan's interview. The listener can actually hear Jan get a little emotional over how much she cares for the store. This makes Jan seem more likeable and compassionate. We also use a variety of logical appeals in the broadcast. The main one that we use is how important that the store is to the literary culture of Iowa City. It is well established that Iowa City is one of the foremost literary cities of the world and we make the argument that Prairie Lights is largely responsible for the city’s reputation. We hear from Jim about all the famous writers that have come to the store, as well as all the newcomers that they helped launch.


15 S Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA, 52240


Copyright © 2013 Katie Boyle, Kelley Garrow, Nate Gudvangen and Jon Pyne


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