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Written Communication

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In the first three medical reports on AIDS which were published in 1981 in the New England Journal of Medicine, the writers' primary rhetorical agenda was to argue that a new medical discovery had been made. A secondary agenda was to offer etiological explanations for the new problem. To establish the new disease entity as deserving serious attention, the writers built a sense of mystery by confronting established medical knowledge about immunodeficiency and emphasizing the inability of modern medicine to diagnose and treat the problem. When they explained the phenomenon in etiological terms, rather than confronting the disciplinary matrix, the writers relied on established medical knowledge of infection rates in homosexual males as well as prevailing social views about the dangerous nature of male homosexual activity; consequently, they were able to imply that nothing was mysterious or surprising about immunodeficiency in homosexual males.


This is a post-print version of an article originally published in Written Communication, 1990, Volume 7, Issue 3.


The version of record is available throughSage.