Category Archives: PAB Posts

PAB #4: The Boring Title Edition

deWinter, Jennifer. “A Bibliographic Synthesis of Rhetorical Criticism.” Rhetoric Review, Vol. 25, No. 4 (2006), pp. 388-407. Jstor. <>

For my two PAB entries today, I chose two very different texts, both touching on the topic of theory/method. The first of these is deWinter’s “Bibliographic Synthesis of Rhetorical Criticism.” I really like articles like this, especially for this class, because it gives a very good general overview of the topic, and that is really what I need right now. There are several methods/theories that conflict in deWinter’s piece, as it is meant to be comprehensive, but the one I want to focus on is the difference between two very diverse methods: etic vs emic (392). Primarily, this is a question of rhetorical analysis scale. Does the scholar choose to focus on the broader implications of a rhetorical text, thus leading to sweeping theories (etic), or does the scholar drill down to “one rhetorical situation as it is contextualized in culture and history,” and make statements only about that event, rather than about rhetorical theory as a whole? I would argue that the former is currently being prioritized in the academy, but that the latter is gaining traction.

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The OoS is on Fire

Welch, Kathleen E. “A Critique of Classical Rhetoric: The Contemporary Appropriation of Ancient Discourse.” Rhetoric Review, Vol. 6, No. 1 (Autumn, 1987), pp. 79-86. Jstor. 10/8/14. <>

One of the challenges with studying rhetoric is figuring out how to read ancient literature itself.  What translations are best? What lenses should ancient literature be read through?  In “A Critique of Classical Rhetoric,” Welch gives us her opinion.  Towards the beginning of the article, she laments that the rhetoricians of the ancient past have been reduced to “automatons” (79). She cites a form of “reductivism” (cf 80) that reduces (a job that reductivism seems well suited for!) the rhetoricians to simple logical formulas.  Interestingly enough, one of the formulas she disdains is the separation of rhetoric into epideictic, judicial, and legislative types (79). She cautions against this simple reading of ancient rhetoric, instead enjoining her readers to make themselves aware of the nuances each rhetorician attempts to portray.

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Towards an Epideictic Debate

Sullivan, Dale L. “The Ethos of Epideictic Encounter.” Philosophy & Rhetoric, Vol. 26, No. 2 (1993), pp. 113-133. Jstor. Web. 9/23/2014. <>

Both of my resources today center around the idea of a lesser-known (and, until recently, respected) form of rhetoric: epideictic.  Discarded in former times as a mere ornamental style, epideictic has recently been receiving an increased amount of scrutiny, as people begin to look at how values are constructed in a society that doesn’t seem to particularly value oratory.  Whereas previously, lore contended that epideictic is simple ceremonial speech, today there are questions about whether it should truly be limited to mere ceremony.  In my first reading, Sullivan examines what sort of ethos the epideictic speaker possesses.  Sullivan begins by arguing for the increased importance of ethos in epideictic speech. Since epideictic is reliant on an audience’s assent, the speaker needs to show that (s)he is reputable (119).  Additionally, the speaker needs to demonstrate an ability to “see,” which Sullivan seems to equate almost to prophecy (122). This image of the speaker as prophet infuses Sullivan’s encomiast with an almost otherworldly vision, able to see things as they truly are, rather than as they seem to be.  In regards to the question that I will pose in my next blog post, Sullivan makes the following answer to the question of “what, exactly, is epidictic (for)?”

We should not define epideictic rhetoric primarily as the rhetoric of praise and blame or as the rhetoric that attempts to reinforce traditional values, for both of those definitions are dependent upon the speaker’s intentions. Instead we can define it as the experience of members of an audience who find that the speaker is saying exactly what needs to be said, who find that they are being caught up in a celebration of their vision of reality (128).

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A Bibliography and a History

In Maureen Goggin’s “Tangled Roots of Literature,” (available here) she first explores the importance of paying attention to the history of English studies. She argues that interest in the history of these fields is important for E.S. as a discipline, because it legitimizes it as a field. In making this argument, Goggin points out the various niches carved out by each field in different intellectual space; calling attention to the use of the German ideas of Wissenshaft (science), naturwissenshaft (“an endeavor that created universal truth”), and geisteswissenschaft (“an endeavor that operates within contingent truths”) (65). This seems to be regarded as the largest tipping point of the differentiation into disciplines, as McComiskey also calls attention to this split as being very significant to English studies (6). Continue reading A Bibliography and a History