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Apologia is an offered explanation or defense of one's actions. Apologia implies not admission of guilt or regret but a desire to make clear the grounds for some course, belief, or position. e.g. his speech was an apologia for his foreign policy.[1]

It is a commonly practiced rhetoric in both politics and public relations, as well as a term for analysis in genre criticism. This can entail the speaker publicly orate remorse for their actions. A non-apology apology functions in the same manner, but fails to admit wrongdoing. Results of the apology process, ideally, is the reconciliation of broken relationships.[2]

The etymology of apologia (Greek: ἀπολογία) is derived from the root word apologos (ἀπόλογος), “a story”. The Greek philosophers Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle described apologia as a genre of rhetoric, where the orator defends their actions against an accusation, to earn vindication and regain acceptance.

Additional frameworks

Other scholars of rhetoric propose alternative conceptualizations available within the scope of apologia. W. L. Benoit identifies five major strategies that intersect with Ware and Linkugel.[3]

Benoit’s Postures

1. Denial: Simple denial or shifting the blame

2. Evasion of responsibility: Provocation, accident, and good intention

3. Reduction of offensiveness: Bolstering, minimization, differentiation, transcendence, attack accuser, and compensation

4. Corrective action: Offering to repair damages caused by self-action and taking steps to prevent the event from reoccurring

5. Mortification: Admitting wrongful behavior, asking for forgiveness, and apologizing

Lawrence Rosenfield’s Mass-Media Characteristics

Lawrence Rosenfield examines apologia covered by mass media. In his analysis of speeches by ex-President Harry Truman and vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon, Rosenfield described four initial characteristics of mass-mediated apologia.[4]

1. They tend to be short and sharp clashes

2. The remarks are not solely defensive messages

3. They include an extensive amount of data in the middle of the speech

4. Previously used arguments appear to be reused and combined into one cohesive message.[4]

In “The Evolution of the Rhetorical Gene of Apologia,” Sharon Downey argues that apologia has undergone significant changes because its function has changed throughout history.[5] Downey takes on a critical generic approach to the feasibility of apologia. Halford Ryan advocates that kategoria and apologia need to be understood as a linked pair. Ryan proposes that a speech of apologia motivates a defensive response, which should be treated as a rhetorical speech set.[6]

See Also


  1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/apologia | Merriam-Webster
  2. Lazare, Aaron. On Apology. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford U P, 2005. Print.
  3. Benoit, W. L. (1995). Accounts, excuses and apologies: A theory of image restoration strategies. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "A Case Study in Speech Criticism: The Nixon-Truman Analog." Communication Monographs 35 (1968): 435-450.
  5. Downey, S. D. "The Evolution of the Rhetorical Genre of Apologia." Western Journal of Communication 57 (1993): 42-64. Print.
  6. "Kategoria and Apologia: On Their Rhetorical Criticism as a Speech Set." Quarterly Journal of Speech 68 (1982): 254-261.