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. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/20176745>

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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Putting the OoS in Discourse

As with many things in the very large topic of rhetorical studies, the question of OOS is a tricky, possibly indefinable one. After all, nearly anything can probably be convincingly argued as a “text,” meant to have an effect on some sort of audience, and as such rhetorical study has been applied to everything ranging from architecture to interactions between doctors and patients. So, though I can’t cover all of the OOS, I will focus on a couple of major areas where rhetorical study is used.

One of the major objects available for study in rhetoric is discourse. By looking at actual texts produced by students or others, rhetoricians can begin to identify patterns, discrepancies, or power structures. In composition studies, these texts are often student writing. An example of this type of study can be found in Goodin and Perkins. In their text “Discourse Analysis and the Art of Coherence,” they analyze student writing in search of the “given-new contract” to see what effect, if any, violating said contract had on coherence (spoiler: it affects it).

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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. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/465951>

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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