Recently read two overviews of rhetoric, covering thousands of years in the field:
Herrick, J. (2004). The history and theory of rhetoric. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
And Bizzell, P., & Herzberg, B. (2001). The rhetorical tradition: Readings from classical times to the present (2nd ed.). Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press.
Each of which raised many questions that I am assuming will be handled later in the books, but a few immediate thoughts on what I read:
Wayne Booth, a prominent literary studies critic, is quoted in Herrick as saying that rhetoric holds "entire dominion over all verbal pursuits. Logic, dialectic, grammar, philosophy, history, poetry, all are rhetoric." Then, what form of expressions, exactly, aren't rhetoric? I understand a rock isn't rhetoric, but when I start expressing thoughts about the rock in some way, talking about it, photographing it, classifying it, stacking it in a particular way, etc., then that is all rhetoric, right? What about a list of random words, or numbers, is that rhetorical in some way, because I am expressing the randomness of it all, and that there is such a thing as randomness (because order is a human construction) and giving rhetorical order by such nonorder? If everything we express is rhetoric, that seems sort of limiting to talk about, so I'm looking for ideas about where the line gets drawn, at least from Booth's perspective (and that of others who similarly propose a very large tent for this field).
Herrick also argues that rhetoric is "response-inviting." This seems contrary to much of the political speech I think about, intended to either be so vague as meaningless or so coded as to mean certain specific things to certain special interest groups or meant to present a defensible position, but I just don't think of rhetoric as always promoting interaction. Propaganda, for example, would have to be rhetoric, and I don't think of it as particularly welcoming to debate. I like the idea of rhetoric and its soulmate argumentation inducing more speech, but to imply that it "is" response-inviting seems a bit broad to me. Am I wrong?
On a related subject, in Herrick's section about rhetoric as community building, I wondered if the wedge tactics employed so skillfully by both major political parties today aren't the dysfunctional side of this coin that will lead to our country's, and our community's, ruin. We keep splitting ourselves up into binary issues, focusing incessantly on how we are different more than we are alike, and that might work for politicians trying to degrade the ethos of their opponents, but I think it is clearly tearing us down as a nation. If we are always voting for the least worst option, then we are never voting for the best option, and I think the worst of rhetoric -- neo-sophists? -- is at the heart of that characterization.
Bizzell and Herzberg, by the way, offer the all-important "canons" of rhetoric as:
Which made me think there must be a better arrangement of that, at least in terms of an anagram. So here are some options, courtesy of this Internet anagram maker:
These are the MAIDS of rhetoric, keeping everything tidy.
MAD IS you who forgets the canons of rhetoric!
DAM IS the word I say when I remember the canons, like, "Dam, I can remember those canons!"
AS DIM as I might be, I can remember the canons.
And so on ...
In terms of acronyms, by the way, I noticed someone in the MOO used ELP for Aristotle's three forms of persuasive appeal: Ethos, Logos, Pathos. So if I ever need ELP remembering that, ...
One last side note. Herrick states that rhetor should be pronounced RAY-tor. This is the first time I have heard it described that way, and every time I have heard someone pronounce it, they have said rhet-OR, or RHET-or, but never RAY-tor. If rhetoric is pronounced rhet..., then why would it be RAY, or should it be RAY-tor-ic? Help! I don't want to be the one dumb guy at a conference who keeps mispronouncing a core term of the field.
- ▼ September (6)
- ► 2009 (68)