Burke, Kenneth. Rhetoric of Motives.

Purpose of Rhetoric: For Burke, rhetoric is any communication that is addressed, whether it be written, oral, or visual. The purpose of rhetoric is to persuade, but the key feature of his work is identification, or using rhetoric to make oneself (or, I suppose, one’s subject) consubstantial (identified with instead of divided from) with another. There was some debate in class whether identification is in itself persuasive, and therefore rhetoric, or if it is actually a step in the process of persuading, making the audience more likely to be persuaded, but actual rhetoric itself. However, if Rhetoric is simply communication that is addressed, and not necessarily persuasive, then identification by itself would be considered rhetoric.

Keywords: Identification, mystification, consubstantial, division, “the kill,” hierarchy, ultimate

Quick Summary:  Rhetoric of Motives continues Burke’s earlier arguments about dramatism is that he attempts to show how rhetoric exists within literature that is not purposely intending to persuade.  Instead of simply seeing literature as poetic, it should also be seen as rhetoric, particularly in terms of identification.  By identifying real people with characters in the literature, the story can be said to be an argument about how we can/should understand that person.  Or, it can be a form of actual rhetorical action, such as killing off a character that is identified with the author could represent the author changing something about him/herself.  Identification is fueled off of the fact that as human we are essentially divided.  No one is really the same as others, and we see ourselves as distinct individuals.  However, through identification, through rhetoric, we can see ourselves as being the same as someone else or some group.  It doesn’t matter whether we really are the same as that person/group, all that matters is that we believe (are persuaded) that we are.

Rhetoric’s nature as addressed can either be directed outwards, from one person to another, or directed inwards as self persuasion.  To be continued.



Modern Rhet – Week 4

Toulmin, Stephen. “From the Uses of Argument.” The Rhetorical Tradition. 2nd ed. Ed. Bruce Herzberg and Patricia Bizzell.

In this text, Toulmin does not believe that he is writing about rhetoric, but rather about reasoning that is not based on syllogism. He sets up a system in which we can understand and make a case for lines of thought that are not derived from all or always statements, but those based on likelihoods given certain contingencies. So, he suggests a model that has six parts (which Brian has summed up nicely, so with his permission I will excerpt here):

These are the six features in Toulmin’s pattern of an argument

  1. (D)=Data
  2. (W)=Warrant
  3. (B)=Backing
  4. (Q)=Qualifier
  5. (R)=Rebuttal
  6. (C)=Claim

Data is the information on which a claim is based.

The warrant is the assumption, within the parameters of a specific field, that under-gird the claim made by a speaker-writer.

Backing is the taxonomy, set of facts, legal statutes, theoretical readings or empirical studies which move the speaker-writer to form her warrant when arguing for a claim.

A qualifier is an explicit reference to the degree of force which data confers on the claim made by a speaker-writer. They are usually some type of modal.

Rebuttal refers to a condition of exception.

The claim, or conclusion, is the thing the speaker-writer professes exists or asserts is a fact.

(For a diagram of these terms in action, please see page 1419 in The Rhetorical Tradition.)

A key feature of Toulmin’s argument is the idea that, while the criteria and meaning behind any assessment of an argument is field-dependent, there is a sort of universal “force of assessment.”
Good can mean something different in each field, but in every field it situates itself as positive or effective to some extent. Toulmin’s model attempts to find ways that an argument can be deemed effective or not effective based on the force of the argument rather than the specific criteria used to argue or reject it.

Toulmin and Jonson. “Theory and Practice.”

Toulmin and Jonson set up distinctions between theory and practice in order to examine arguments concerning ethical issues. First they look at the classical approach in which geometry was considered theory, and anything that could be derived from the real world was merely practice. Theory was: idealized, atemporal, and necessary, while practical statements were concrete, temporal, and presumptive. The reason to invoke this is to consider the distinctions, which become especially important when attempting to apply principles (theory) to cases (practice). In cases such as science, there is a universal starting point that yields a firm conclusion. In practical cases, the outcomes are more provisional, and may have to be revised more often, because the goal is not to find a universal truth, but to do what is best within the given circumstances. T&J use clinical medicine as their example because, while it relies on theoretical scientific knowledges while still being tied to the specific practicalities of their current patient. They explain how the taxonomy of illness requires doctors to reason from analogy (125). They argue that a similar procedure of establishing a taxonomy and then reasoning from analogy (rather than something firm like a syllogism) is the method often used to decide ethical issues.

Verheij, Bart. “Evaluating Arguments Based on Toulmin’s Scheme.” Argumentation (2005): 347-371.

Verheij puts Toulmin’s method through the rigors of “formal logic” in order to provide a way to evaluate arguments. I’m not sure exactly what this article adds to Toulmin’s scheme, other than to break each of his parts into smaller bits (which he states that he leaves out in order to avoid a clunky style and to sound more like conversational argument).

I will post more on this essay after class, when I understand better the purpose.

Perelman, Chaim. “The New Rhetoric: A Theory of Practical Reasoning.”

Perelman wants to introduce a “New Rhetoric,” which, in many ways, is more a revival of classical rhetoric than something totally new. However, he argues for a coalescence of the philosophical dialectic and the rhetorical stance of persuasion. We can understand this “new” rhetoric by comparing it to the idea of demonstration, which “is a calculation made in accordance with rules that have made beforehand” (65). Thus, our actions/speech is judged either correct or incorrect in accordance with these rules, and presupposes our acceptance of the rules or axioms to which they are being judged. Argumentation, on the other hand, is always about an orator (where spoken or written) and an audience, and thus the “new” rhetoric is a type of informal logic where the speaker is concerned with “obtaining or maintaining the adherence of an audience” (67).

Perelman stresses ethos when he states that good men must be listed to and others prevented [from speaking or being heard], and thus hearkens back to a very hegemonic definition of rhetoric (66). He appeals to ethos again when warding off Plato’s warning that rhetoric is about winning rather than truth – this time by appeal to the audience’s ethos – by claiming that untruthful arguments would not win if presented to a better and better educated audience (69).

Through all this, Perelman seeks to demonstrate how philosophers should be interested in the study of rhetoric, both because the ancient rhetoricians have an impact on philosophy, but also because the study of rhetoric will demonstrate how to reach justifiable conclusions without formal logic or syllogism (similar to Toulmin in this way).

Modern Rhet – Week 3

Richards, I.A. Philosophy of Rhetoric.

Purpose of Rhetoric: “Rhetoric should be a study of misunderstanding and its remedies” (3).

Keywords: meaning, context, (mis)understanding,

Quick Summary: Richards contends that “meanings,” or I suppose one could say “signified,” only exist as a way for us to obscure the complete relativity of words, whose “meanings” are ALWAYS contingent on what surrounds them (including the other words, but also the cultural context, the speaker’s ethos, etc.). (10). Rhetoric should study Losses in communication instead of simply successes in communication (3).

“The proper meaning superstition” (11) key term. Idea that a word has a meaning of its own. A superstition when it forgets that meaning comes from context. Meaning not something to be used, but something to be explained (which diverges from Derrida, b/c he goes further and says that conversation cannot be made clear b/c every return to the conversation is going to change the meaning… etc.)

Taking on two schools of meaning. Associationists – word refers to a symbol, done by association between morpheme “Cat” and the animal you see. Two way operation.

Richards finds fault with that definition, by making it about three things – word, referent, and context. Three way operation.

(13) language and thought are not the same (challenges behaviorists and associationists, who are both positivists)

He feels that art for art’s sake, the image alone, is not worthwhile criticism.

Large potential for social unrest, so focus on misunderstandings, building community,

What are the problems of traditional rhetoric? Too focused on macro level. Why? Views any type of misunderstanding as a weakness or teaches ways to get around it instead of how to work with and get around, and functions only to uphold the status quo. Doesn’t let people outside club have access.

Look at macro level, as welll as micro (which is his addition whereas trad. Rhet was only macro)

Suggests that persuasion is but one mode of discourse and that the old rhetoric has unfortunately been too preoccupied with it. There are other modes, such as “exposition” that attempt to state a position rather than persuade others to it. (24)
“All thinking from the lowest to the highest … is sorting” (30). This is connected to the idea that there are no sensations, only perceptions because everything we feel is filtered through what we have felt in the past, we don’t just feel pain, we construct a category of pain and place the feeling into that category by likening it to other sensations and sorting them among all our other feelings.

Our understanding based on context is still hinging on what we pay attention to (ie – the coroner who says the man died b/c of the murderer’s acts, rather than his lack of wearing a bulletproof vest or his meeting the murderer, etc) (34)

Ambiguity is no longer a fault, but an indication of the power of language (40).

Lecture III – an emphasis on movement, from and between meanings, rather than a fixed or stabilized meaning
Reponse: What is most striking to me about Richard’s text is the year in which it is written. Though I hear constantly that the ideas of social construction, or deconstruction, or whatever other “current” ideas we have stemmed from somewhere, I so often only see contrasts between then and now. Richards provides a nice link between the Blair and Campbell age and the Derridean age. At one point, Richards states that the inquiry of rhetoric must be philosophic, and here I think he basically means critical, that “rhetoric” must always be in play and not taken to mean what we ‘currently’ seem to think it means. It must be a larger philosophic (critical) inquiry into how language works, rather than simply a focus on style. However, he does not quite go so far as Derrida when he suggests that we can “fix” misunderstandings (see above). His stress on the power of language (40) suggests that he is coming closer to that social constructivist (or perhaps Berlin would call Social-epistemic) stance.

Berlin, James. “Rhetoric, Poetics, and Ideology – Chpt. 5”

Purpose of Rhetoric: A study of language that goes beyond signs and signifiers to study the context of language use and its implications in power.

Keywords: Social constructionist, social epistemic, ideology,

Quick Summary: Taking previous argument about rhetoric/poetic split to next level. Discusses the nature of ideology using Therborn – “ideology interpellates subjects… through discourse and offers directives about three important domains of experience: what exists, what is good, and what is possible” (84).  He then goes on to explain how Social Constructionist rhetoric tried to take up these ideas, but didn’t take economic issues into enough account, rather focusing on the political.  The key difference was that Social Constructionism “never abandons the notion of the individual as finally a sovereign free agent, capable of transccending materials and social conditions” (86).  In Social Epistemic, it’s “political agency, not individual autonomy” that is the guiding feature.  He wraps up that section by stating that “The work of social-epistemic rhetoric, then, is to study the producion and reception of these historically significant signifying practices” (90).  The point Berlin is driving towards is that rhetoric and poetics are not about Composition and Literature, but rather are a symbiotic pair in the study of language and its relation to our preceived worlds.  Thus, there should not be a prizing of Literature over Rhetoric.

Response: I see where Berlin is going with this, because that’s where he’s always going, but I think he goes around the bush a few too many times and I get a little lost about what the point is to some of it.  I also worry that the only people this type of chapter convinces are those who are already convinced.  One of the most persuasive parts, though, was when he discussed the need to understand both aesthetics and function (poetics and rhetorics) when looking at a complex social text like Hitler’s speeches in order to find out how they managed to persuade so many people to do such monstrous things.  Overall, it feels like an unsatisfactory conclusion for all the postmodern, ideological, social arguments that he makes.

I found the separation between social constructionist and social epistemic an interesting one (as I could never figure it out before), though I do wonder strongly at his classification of “writing as a process” as part of the elite social-epistemic rather than simply the social constructionist.  It seems to me this idea falls more squarely into the first category, unless one is talking about the materialist arguments such as Bruce Horner makes in his Terms of Work in Composition.  Or, I suppose, he does talk about Janice Laur who did a lot with feminist material conditions.  I just don’t really understand how open-ended questions and discovery and invention work classify something as being about political agency without individual autonomy.

Modern Rhet – Week 2

Foss, Sonja and Cindy Griffen. “Beyond Persuasion: A Proposal for an Invitational Rhetoric.” Nov. 1993, Miami FL. (need rest of the citation info)

Purpose of Rhetoric: Has always before been seen as method to persuade, but Foss and Griffen argue that there may be an “invitational rhetoric” that does not seek to persuade but merely open a space in which new ideas are possible.

Key Terms: Types of Rhetoric – Conquest, Conversion, Advisory, and Invitation (3 of which deal with persuasion to a different degree, and invitational);re-sourcement; conditions for change

Quick Summary: Foss and Griffen lay out four different types of rhetoric, but suggest that the first three are all concerned with the act of persuasion. They want to consider how rhetoric might be used without the intent to persuade (key word is “intent”). This is influenced heavily by Sally Miller Gearheart’s assertions that any intentional attempt to persuade another person is inherently an act of violence upon that person (which she argues through a persuasive essay). Foss and Griffen describe several scenarios which might count as invitational rhetoric, such as a large group all wearing the same color on a particular day to represent their beliefs, or introducing re-sourcement (suggesting an alternate way of thinking about an issue). The key here is that invitational rhetoric is only attempting to open a space where people may adopt new ideas, but not actually intending to persuade your audience.

Response: I find this article problematic, as I found the Gearheart article that this is based upon. To label any intent to persuade an act of violence seems unproductive to me, as it immediately disregards any argument that includes that intent. Not to mention the fact that it could easily be argued that all Foss and Griffen’s examples are inherently include an intent to persuade.
By wearing a purple shirt to show my support for feminism, I am immediately creating a sense of insiders and outsiders (those wearing purple and those not) – a tactic to encourage others to become insiders with me whether through guilt or sheer number. Furthermore, it is especially problematic to base a theory of rhetoric on the author’s intent, rather than the actual function of the rhetoric. Many a horrible argument had an honorable intent behind them.

Shome, Raka. “Postcolonial Interventions in the Cannon: An ‘Other’ View.”

Purpose of Rhetoric: To deconstruct and/or reexamine the ways that we use language to colonize other voices (including via our own rhetorical disciplinary assumptions).

Key Terms: neocolonialsim; postcolonialism; cultural hybridity; strategic essentialism; diaspora; transnational moment

Quick Summary: Shome argues that there colonialism must not only be examined in terms of technological or cultural power, but also linguistic power. Shome asks us to consider the ways that rhetoric can be used to uncover these discursive colonizations, from a proliferation of English as “the global language” to a continual exclusion of certain types of voices and discourse. Rhetoric’s focus on public address keep us from examining colonized voices, because they have rarely been allowed to speak publicly – the public forum is controlled by those in power. Likewise, the use of essentialized labels limits our ability to hear and understand mestiza or diasporic voices that cross over and between various identities. However, Shome does recognize the need for strategic essentialism in order to make some arguments (if everything is individualized, how do you argue anything). This can only be done, though, if we recognize the ways that this essentialism is being used strategically rather than assuming that it is a definite or “real” understanding of that group of people. Shome wraps up by asking rhetoricians to gather resources from postcolonial theory, critical rhetoric, feminist rhetoric, and others in order to shift our understandings of rhetoric in order to listen more effectively to those voices traditionally classified as “Other.”

Response: This article lays out the ideas of Postcolonial rhetoric in a solid and understandable way, bringing together the arguments of the various “othered” rhetorics under a kind of generic heading. It provides a theoretical lens through which to view any rhetorical project examining voices that have been left out and the structures that are in place to exclude those voices. This will be particularly helpful to my own projects in queer rhetorics. Specifically important in this article, for me, is the idea of strategic essentialism, as I have struggled with how to build something after I have deconstructed the system set in place to exclude. We can call for an examination of queer rhetoric, but how do we actually do that examination if there are no defining boundaries for “queer”? While no boundaries that we set will be true or representative boundaries, there has to be a place to start. However, we must also keep in mind that this strategic essentialism may be taken up as reality by our readers and take care to avoid that if possible, and to continue to combat those issues.

Derrida, Jacques. “Structure Sign and Play.” Writing and Difference.

Purpose of Rhetoric: To put all concepts into “play,” able to be critiqued, even if they have before been seen as essential Truths or the centers of our understanding.

Keywords: Play, center, bricoleur, (post)structuralism, Levi-Strauss, differance

Quick Summary: Derrida is trying to explain the paradox of a center (which stems from structuralism – ie Saussure). He demonstrates examples in which an unquestionable center (absolute sign, absolute signifier) is then outside the realm of what the center designates – therefore the center would be outside the structure, creating a paradox (if you can’t touch it, it doesn’t exist). He suggests examples like Levi-Stauss’ incest example that breaks from the binary by being both nature and culture simultaneously. Would have to change how we do ethnography because the driving framework is now questionable; however, he recognizes that a center must be used in order to question that center, and/or come to the best interpretation (utility). But it should be recognized or strategic when doing so. Levi-Strauss, the running example in this text attempts to reconcile some of these issues (though Derrida would probably say that reconciliation of these issues is impossible, unless it is simply an admittance that everything is play…(?)) by using “old concepts [European epistemology and culture] within the domain of empirical discovery while here and there denouncing their limits, treating them as tools which can still be used. No longer is any truth value attributed to them; there is, a readiness to abandon them, if necessary, should other instruments appear more useful. In the meantime, their relative efficacy is exploited, and they are employed to destroy the old machinery to which they belong and of which they themselves are pieces. This is how the language of the social sciences criticizes itself. Levi-Strauss thinks that in this way he can separate method from truth. the instruments of the method and the objective significations envisaged by it” (284).

Postcolonialism and deconstruction happened at the same time (which is not an accident) “This moment is not first and foremost a moment of philosophical or scientific discourse. It is also a moment which is political, economic, technical, and so forth” pg 282.

Breaking binaries – “something which is simultaneously seems to require the predicates of nature and of culture” (283).

“whether the real center is to be found – and the answer is that it is impossible” (287)
Response: The idea of play and a post-structuralism is essential to current postcolonial and transnational rhetorics. I found it interesting to read this piece alongside the Shome piece, because I became more aware of these connections than I perhaps would have originally – his link to a simultaneous political, economic, technical moment, his assertions about Levi-Strauss’ attempts at separating method from truth – I see as being inextricably linked to the ideas of postcolonialism, and of course to my own projects. By breaking down the idea of a solid discursive structure, one that we can center somewhere (any “where”), Derrida allows for marginal groups to momentarily move to a centered position (though not “The Center”), while at the same time recognizing that their centrality is effectively marginalizing others. I guess that this sounds a bit hopeless when stated like this, suggesting that any gain by any group will necessarily be harmful to other groups, but I guess at least it offers the possibility for more egalitarianism. If every group, individual, idea, etc. where constantly shifting from margin to center and back, this perhaps wouldn’t create the same inescapable hierarchies that we have now. However, it is important to remember that there is a distinction between postcolonialism (political) and postmodernism (apolitical??) (engaging in a deconstructive practice does not necessarily involve decentering power structures and can, in fact, be Eurocentric)

Berlin, James. “Rhetoric and Poetics in the English Department: Our Nineteenth Century Inheritance.”

Purpose of Rhetoric: To compliment poetics in order to form a more complete understanding of language use.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Poetics, English Studies

Quick Summary: Harvard under Eliot –
Until that moment, every Rhet moment had poetic moment, and vice versa
These two ideas have always been defined in relation
Not with Hugh and Blair

“Masks of conquest” English Lit was first tested on Indian subjects and Africa and imported back to England. Tame the foreigners, or working class, or women, etc. to create desirable citizens. Good Lit would produce good colonials and good citizens.

Get lost in the book so you don’t have to look or do anything else. Formalism doesn’t make one consider the socio-political implications of the text.

These issues facilitated the rise of poetics over rhetorics

Rhetoric and epistemology often seen as separate realms (rhet is language, epist is substance or truth). Thus, if you know what you need to know, then all you need is a little style to be a good writer or speaker. Rhetoric has nothing to do with truth (because truth is the realm of philosophy, or science, or classical literature, etc)

Modern Rhet – Week 1

Booth, Wayne. The Rhetoric of Rhetoric.

Booth had to explain his field, but “eighteenth cent. Lit” needs no explanation

Who does it, how is it done, and in what language? (spec. in terms of Comp/Rhet PR, but major Q’s for any rhetorical study [I think])

Rhetoric’s ups and downs – rhet flourished in ancient Greece, but also denounced by “philosophers”

Three appeals – ethos – speaker’s credibility, logos – evidence of the content, pathos – emotions of the audience

Three kinds of rhetoric – deliberative – political, achieve certain goal, about future, epideitic – ceremonial, public occasion, celebrate past but done in present, forensic – legal rhetoric

5 cannons – invention, arrangement/organization, style, memory, delivery

translation in terms of context – what counts as “epideictic” in a modern context? In terms of our new understandings of politics and society
If we’re talking about the rhetoric of Rhetoric, how does Rhetoric fit within the modern society and how do we explain that fit? Rhetoric has bad name, so do we go with rhetorology as Booth suggests? Or go with something like discourse studies or semiotics?

Rhet provides vocabulary or terms to use when talking about writing, joining the conversation, rhet is a long conversation, don’t forget that we are constructing rhetoric from a disciplinary POV.

Booth definition of Rhetoric on p xi – “entire range of resources that human beings share for producing effects on one another” … “primary resource for avoiding violence and building community”

language and reality are separate, traditionalist view
language is used to create reality – structuralist/Sasseure, booth is following in this, community is built (created) by the language, signs, gestures, etc., BUT Booth walks away from this a little by stating that there are some (basically ethical) non-contingent truths.

Rhetoric and ethics have been at contention as long as we know (Sophists just want to make a lie seem true)

Discusses ups and downs, seen as high during Aristotle’s times, then seen as more trivial (trivium), but still taught, then high again during Renaissance, then down again during the enlightenment b/c of positivism or scientism (Francis Bacon), tended to create a strict divide between science (testable or provable) and rhetoric (unsubstantiated), Locke and Rousseau also anti-rhetoric. Need to find true self instead of being corrupted by societal rhetoric. 20th cent. We have structuralist, semiotics, social construction of reality, produces a new kind of rhetoric. Civil rights and women’s rights movements, decolonialization, all grew up in this new era of thought, no room for single truth

Booth concerned about power to rhetoric to bring people together, Aristotle saw this as function of epideictic rhetoric.

Different discourse communities have different truths/realities.  Booth talks about domains of rhetoric. In order to be effective, (Stanley Fish – interpretive community), you have to share the tacit assumptions of the discourse community. (“if you don’t know the answer, you smile – you have nothing to hide”)

How do we create the “unquestionable” truths? How do we change or affect those tacit assumptions?

International Rhetoric Culture project – rhet and cult. Anthropology scholars working together.

Listening Rhetoric – Booths major “addition” with this book (I think thus far). It’s the rhetoric that he is proponenting. Way to reduce understanding and avoid violence.

Chpt 3 – kinds of rhetoric (acc. To booth) and how to “judge” it as good or bad 43-end of chapter
1. win-rhetoric
2. bargain rhetoric
3. listening rhetoric


Going back and reading over my manifesto, I’m surprised at how much I still feel this way. Normally any writing that I have done a semester back is dead to me. I hate it and struggle to find use. This manifesto, on the other hand, plays very nicely into the project that I am working on for this class. Therefore, I am going to reprint my manifesto here, unchanged, though extending it to include the work that I have done with On Our Backs.


History is often celebrated as a way of bringing the past into the present, as a guiding beacon for future practices, as a way of avoiding old mistakes. It’s also a way to celebrate national identity — we all have a shared history that connects us. It’s a way of spreading national values by teaching the same patriotic mythologies to every school-aged child. Those values inherently become the judge of each newly occurring myth, deciding whether it should take root in our collective social consciousness or fall by the wayside. Only what is selected as “History” becomes a part of our social consciousness. The rest is simply actions, events, ideas. Not really worth paying attention to. Not a part of “Us.” It might have happened in our society, but it’s not what makes our society. It is not Our identity. Not our “History.”

And yet.

The mythologies that are handed down do not suffice for some. Many feel lost even within the “Us” of our cultural history. For these people, the histories that would have made an impact have been cast aside, ignored, invisible. There is no connection to the past and no way of avoiding past mistakes. How do we learn from a history that has been forgotten? And perhaps even more importantly, how do we connect to society knowing that our actions, our ideas, our lives will be systematically excluded because they seem alien rather than familiar? How do we connect to each other if our realities are so erased that there isn’t even a vocabulary with which to articulate it or to write it down? With the death of the individual goes the death of their history, and each new wave of unconnected people are left to relive these silent(ced) cycles.

When the written evidence of sexual slavery forced onto the Japanese Comfort Women was destroyed, all that remained of that history were the individual testimonies of the victims themselves. These testimonies were not believed by friends, family members, and government officials because they seemed to be outlandish, unsupported, and spoken only by “dishonorable” women. To speak about the experience brought further shame and mistreatment upon the women. They were not allowed to write about the experience because it would be slander against the Japanese government. The women could not organize because they did not have a way to connect to each other. Their stories went against the national mythologies. They were cast away and forgotten. It took over fifty years for these women to find a voice and a vocabulary that would allow them to speak of their experience. Now that they have it, they ask that their experience be recorded in text books, in official government documents, in the social consciousness. They ask that others who feel outside the realm of the traditional History can connect to the Comfort Women’s struggles as an aid to their own.

H/histor(ies) are always selective. No single history can ever emcompass the whole of experience. We will always orient ourselves to certain texts over others, and we will always gleam our understandings of those texts based on how we orient ourselves to their contents/contexts. But the writing of social histories gives us the chance to Re-orient. Rather than orienting ourselves to the same traditional texts and/or from the same traditional positions, a Re-orientation allows us to bring to light what might otherwise have been cast aside, to forge connections between people, cultures, and lives that might normally be rejected from the traditional History, to aid those struggling to find a voice and a vocabulary for their own experiences.

In working with the On Our Backs project, I have discovered a whole new world of information about lesbian history. A history that, for me at least, was not passed down as part of a cultural mythology. But I believe that it should be passed down. It’s a hero story in a culture that is definitely in need of heroes. On Our Backs is as important for Lesbian history as the Boston Tea Party is important for American history. On Our Backs has instilled values in the lesbian culture that, whether we admit that as an originating point or not, carry over into the next generation. But it’s more than that at the same time because it’s a story that encourages others to do something about their situation, encourages social action. If you don’t like the way that culture defines you, then define yourself. And by doing this project on social history, I now have this story to share with others in my generation and the generations to come. If I ever teach a course on LGBT history, I now have another aspect of that history to share – one that is not simply about victimization. The Stonewall riots have been etched into the cultural memory. Though the publication of On Our Backs is not as sensational as a riot, they too were struggling to find a voice for their own experience. That voice should not be forgotten just because it was delivered via a pornographic magazine rather than a public speech.  As social historians of rhetoric, we must look for the voices that are not privileged in the academy, whether it is due to the speaker’s identity, their content, or their mode of delivery.  We must find that texts that speak to us regardless.  And we must be brave enough to share those voices with others who wish to hear them.

Project Blog #1

In terms of progress I can officially claim that I’m almost through with my “shitty first draft.” Rather than finishing it out, though, I think I need to just jump into my better second draft and try to get that evened out with a real organization and all. Reading all of your comments about the various cannons of rhetoric has helped, and I think I’m going to focus one section on the idea of delivery. Why a pornographic magazine? How is this more effective/affective than speeches or newsletters? What gets achieved through this delivery method that would not have been through a more traditional kind? How does this delivery method choice signify the social identity that On Our Backs is speaking to? I also need to do some reading on Burke because I think that rhetoric of identification is going to be important in how I make my arguments.

I am having trouble, as my topic continues to evolve and grow, getting any of the scholarship that I’ve already read to fit into what I’m trying to do now. I did read a great article on the importance of bodies in social protest rhetoric that looked specifically at Earth First, ACT UP, and Queer Nation (“Unruly Arguments” Argument and Advocacy Summer 99). The groups had no control over how or whether their words would be heard, but they could control how their bodies would be seen (though this is thinking in terms of modern televised news coverage). There was also a really interesting statement from one of the ACT UP leaders that I feel fits into my project nicely where he says: “To analyze its impact, don’t look at how many people show up at ACT UP’s meetings. Look at how many people took ACT UP’s values into their lives.”

Another idea might be to look at style in terms of the articles, specifically in terms of the importance of irony within the queer community. I’m not sure how far I want to go with that, or even if I do want to go there, but it’s a possibility I’m tossing around.

So at this time I’m just trying to get some of my ideas really fleshed out and see what’s working and what’s missing, etc.  I think I’m going to structure the next draft as:

contextualize artifact with feminist movement and the scholarly emphasis of pornography debates, show how the magazine rhetorically constructed it’s audience, discuss what the magazines major goals were and how those were accomplished,  how those goals were intended to compliment feminist agenda, and then ultimately how all of these elements functioned together to create a new sense of lesbian-feminist community.