Tag Archives: feminism

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)