Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Funny blog by the Oatmeal


The Mt. Oread Manifesto on Rhetorical Education 2013

This manifesto discusses how speaking and writing have become separate disciplines over the last 100 years and how members of both disciplines tried in the 20th century to reintegrate them because they have similar objectives. According to Clyde Dow, these are "clear thinking, judgment, evaluation, organization, methods of development, vocabulary, good informal usage, and knowledge of how language influences others and ourselves" (qtd. in Mt. Oread Manifesto). I can definitely see these objectives manifesting in both disciplines. 

The main difference is that writing instruction tries to achieve them through the written word, and speech focuses on verbal delivery. It is as if the same thought processes can go into both activities, speaking and writing, but the method of delivery is different, and each method carries its own intricacies. For instance, the idea of using a clear vocal speaking style is part of the speech discipline; in writing there would be more emphasis on a clear writing style. There is somewhat of a difference between speaking clearly and writing clearly. However, both can involve clarity of thought processes. Still, it does make sense to integrate speech and writing to some extent! They are both crucial aspects of human communication that pedagogically require emphasis on thought.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Question 3

3.         “. . . questions about the psychic, political, and social effects of information are as applicable to the computer as to television. Although I believe the computer to be a vastly overrated technology, I mention it here because clearly, Americans have accorded it their customary mindless attention; which means they will use it as they are told, without a whimper. Thus, a central thesis of computer technology—that the principal difficulty we have in solving problems stems from insufficient data—will go unexamined. Until, years from now, when it will be noticed that the massive collection and speed-of-light retrieval of data have been of great value to large scale organizations but have solved very little of importance to most people and have created at least as many problems for them as they may have solved”(Postman 161).

Question: “What is [‘the Internet’]? What kinds of conversations does it permit? What are the intellectual tendencies in encourages? What sort of culture does it produce?” (Postman, Ch. 6; slightly modifiedJ) If television was “the command center of the new epistemology” (Postman 78), what is the epistemology of the Internet, and how can or should that affect our understanding of rhetoric? What is the ideology of digital culture? What is its relationship to issues of race, sexuality, disability? How might we understand “the public sphere” online?

Question 2

2.         “. . . for nearly forty years—from the 1920s through the 1960s—rhetorical theory was  treated largely as an exercise in intellectual history. . . .  By the mid- to late-1960s dissatisfaction with this approach to rhetoric began to grow. It became increasingly clear that however important the intellectual history of rhetorical theory was to our understanding of rhetoric as a discipline, the pressing need was to develop ‘new’ rhetorical theories that would adapt our understanding of rhetoric to the changing conditions of the new era” (Lucaites and Condit, “Introduction” to Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader 8).

Given the list of theorists and works we’ve read (or referred to) this semester, how would you characterize the “intellectual history” of rhetorical studies in the 20th century?  Sketch out that history with reference to specific theorists and works, as well as the “changing conditions of the new era.” [see attached “Timeline”]

Question 1

1.  Like many academic disciplines, rhetorical studies has been challenged by a variety of voices from the “margins.”  It has also been or become a site of radical resistance.  Explore some of these challenges and/or this “resistance.”  In particular, consider the relationship between the politics of rhetorical study (for example, rhetoric and feminism, rhetoric and critical race studies, rhetoric and heteronormativity), and continuing debates over the relationship(s) between rhetoric, truth (or Truth), epistemology, and doxa.

On "What makes rhetoric rhetoric"

I've been reading the Hauser supplemental article today--"Teaching Rhetoric: Or Why Rhetoric Isn't Just Another Kind of Philosophy or Literary Criticism"--and I love it.

I've been teaching composition courses since 2002, and I didn't really learn a lot about the rhetoric side of composition prior to teaching. I've always had my own spin on why I teach composition and why I teach it the way I do--I'm post-activism, and when I was teaching in Chicago, I worked at four to five schools at a time for up to ten hours a day for four days a week. I'd just finished an MA in Women's & Gender Studies and had been feeling a little bad about  myself as a person because I simply didn't have time for "making the world a better place" like I did as a student. In my prior English MA program, I'd been president of the LGBTQ Alliance on campus, put on our first gay prom, and a "Queer-In" activist event that involved microphones and loud speakers at the center of campus with people reading radical texts. As an MA student at Roosevelt, I brought Alix Olson to perform one semester, and the next semester, I brought Judith/Jack Halberstam to come speak. If you aren't swooning over that, it's probably because she's a English/gender/queer studies person. After doing those types of things for four years, I was doing nothing. Nothing except teaching.

One day, one of the jobs I was working asked for a new CV and teaching philosophy, and in the philosophy we were required to use one source to help justify our teaching practices. That's when rhetoric, unbeknownst to me, came into my life. I discovered Susan Jarratt.

Jarratt's "Feminism and Composition: The Case for Conflict" opened my eyes to the teaching practices I was already using in the classroom. I hadn't realized that there was a whole world of theory about the hows and whys of teaching composition.

If I had read this article by Hauser years ago, when I was feeling unsure about going to graduate school to study Composition & Rhetoric. His breakdown of why rhetoric is and why it's different than "just teaching composition" with its commitment to civic engagement and commitment to "'capacitating' the individual student to lead the life of an active and responsible citizen" (40). This is what I do in my classroom! I've moved my activism from the outside arena into my classroom. My focus went from commas to helping students interrogate the cultural beliefs foisted on them from childhood. As Hauser says, "Teaching rhetoric involves teacher and student in a continuous journey to uncover personal beliefs and the reasons for holding them" (42). My own beliefs were uncovered and shaped by interaction with my students as their beliefs were uncovered and shaped by interaction with me.  The differentiation of rhetoric from "just teaching composition" or philosophy or literary criticism really hit home with me because the commitment to teaching embedded in rhetoric is why I value teaching rhetoric, I think.

What kinds of responses did you all have to Hauser? Am I the only one who wishes she would have read this article years ago? Are there other articles, like my Jarratt article, that have really impacted you as a teacher-scholar?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why don't we talk about AIDS anymore?

From time to time I have thought about this, because as I have said in class before I watch ton of documentaries, and needless to say I have watched several about the AIDS epidemic and how people first responded. To me, it seems that once people equated AIDS with the gay community those who were not gay were no longer concerned and decided to not really make it a priority any more. Thus, we now see the detrimental affects that it had on the gay community. However, as we all should know by know AIDS can infect anyone, so when I came across this article and read the comments


I was reminded why AIDS has been put on the back burner. There was a tremendous amount of gay-bashing, sometimes supported by religious beliefs. Naively, I was somewhat surprised by the amount of these comments. How can we fight an epidemic if people's belief systems don't allow them to do so?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson Decision equates to Boycotting Black Friday?


I thought this article tied nicely into our discussion tonight (i.e., how we talked about how digital technologies have the capability to promote change, we, as a society, have just not effectively used them as such--at least not in the US).

I don't want to make it seem like I am questioning the goodwill or good intentions of the people who are attempting to protest by boycotting Black Friday. What I question is why they think putting pressure on corporate America will effect the police force and the judicial system? I also doubt that sitting out one day of Christmas shopping will make a difference, because I don't think many people will be willing to forgo Christmas shopping altogether, and then doesn't that defeat the purpose?

Anonymous Hacks KKK's Twitter Account

All I want for Christmas is...a scarred, freckle-faced, redheaded Lamilly doll?

I caught the end of this news story the other day, reporting on the new Lamilly dolls. Apparently, you can add "marks" to the doll to make it more realistic.

Notice how the doll doesn't represent disabilities or racial and ethnic minorities. It also reinforces gender norms.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

NFL's response to domestic violence

I’m a huge football fan, and like many fans this season, I’ve been disappointed in the NFL’s response and handling of the players involved with domestic violence, most notably Ray Rice. I’ve noticed the effort they organization has put forth to right the audiences’ perceptions of the League by their promotion of the “Say No More to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault” campaign. The first few PSAs that aired boasted players and celebrities saying, “No more” this and “No more” that. It was a fairly diverse group of individuals (as far as celebrities go). However, more recently, the League has aired a player only PSA. This is the one I struggle with. It’s only males (23 of them to be exact), and the majority of them (16) are Black players. The only player to speak twice (once at the beginning, and once at the end) is Eli Manning. 

My concern it that this reinforces the assumption that black men are the “abusers, while white men are the “fixers” or “leaders.”  As Cloud notes, “Race and sex have always been overlapping discourses in the United States” (57). I think this is an example of overlapping and perpetuating troubling assumptions. Why not have an all women PSA?

I curious to know what everyone thinks about this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Developing the Citizen

When I started reading the introduction to Roberts-Miller's Deliberate Conflict, I was brought back to an interview that Kelsie and I conducted a few weeks ago with our 103 mentor. A quick background, in our 601 course we have been working on creating Dynamic Criteria Maps for our mentors. What that means is that we have been collecting data based on their syllabi, assignment sheets, feedback on student papers, and an interview to determine what their belief and values are concerning teaching composition. During our interview Kelsie had asked a question about how our mentor viewed the values of the Writing Program. In her answer our mentor began to delve into the value of teaching argument. More specifically she said, "I think you have to be able to do that [be able to develop an argument] as…to be a citizen, to be an employee, to be a parent, to be anything. So I think argument, the essence of argument, all things are argument is critical. I think it’s very valuable to any student." It struck me that some of the very things that Roberts-Miler was discussing, the debate on teaching argument and teaching students to be citizens, was one of the values that my mentor had just recently discussed herself. In her introduction Robers-Miller even talks about how students and some instructors "do not see college in of for citizenship." While I may not agree with all of the points that she was making I do think that she is right in this aspect. Students don't go to school to learn anymore. College is a stepping stone, something to get through on the way to somewhere better. The problem is that in combining that with Habermas's discussion on a switch from culture-debating to culture-consuming, our future generations, and current generations, are not taught how develop themselves as effective citizens and don't seem to care. Habermas makes the point that "news media deprives the public of the opportunity to say something and to disagree." His discussion on the fall of the literary sphere shows the timeline of the public (in his case the bourgeois class) losing its want and ability to be an active and influential citizen. As we've moved further and further into the consumer culture our ideas of discussion and debate have waned and become very negative. We've kind of become this society of observers that would prefer a more hands off approach to citizenship. I definitely agreed with my mentor when she said, "…it’s a little discouraging when students say I’m in college so I can get a better job. Yes, that’s true, but be in college so you can learn things and be a more interesting person."  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fraser's "Rethinking the Public Sphere" and a multiplicity of publics

In "Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracies" Nancy Fraser discusses four assumptions that Habermas makes in his conception of the public sphere. Assumption number two is "that the proliferation of a multiplicity of competing publics is necessarily a step away from, rather than toward, greater democracy, and that a single, comprehensive public sphere is always preferable to a nexus of multiple publics" (62). Fraser re-examines this assumptions and believes that stratified societies benefit more from multi-publics and what she calls subaltern counterpublics.

I found the concept of subaltern counterpublics interesting, especially in the example that Fraser gives of feminist fighting for a larger public awareness of rape and sexual violence. She explains these feminist movements first had to begin in a counterpublic before it gained acceptance and awareness by a larger public.

Although I agree with Fraser, I find a multiplicity of publics necessary, I wonder what the limitations of having such stratified publics are. In other words, not all publics are going to be viewed in the same way, so wouldn't that create a power structure that not all counterpublics may not be able to overcome?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Problematic Discourse

The other day, I was conferencing with a student about his draft for the unit on proposals I was teaching in my mentor's class. He was proposing that Ball State should have a group on campus where people of the LGBTQ community and heterosexual people could come together to learn more about each other, specifically, for heterosexual people to learn more about "homosexuals," so they (heterosexual people) could be more accepting. (Btw, I informed him that such a group does exist--SPECTRUM--which he ended up including in his final draft, but essentially wrote they weren't doing enough.)

The word, "homosexual," was used quite a bit throughout his paper, even after I responded on several of his drafts to consider using more affirmative words such as "members of the LGBTQ community" or even "gay" and "lesbian" and "transgendered." He adopted one of these terms once in his proposal.

Now a bit of background: my assignment was themed, Social (In)Justice. When we started the unit, we did an activity where students took on "identities" that were apart from the heteronormative/able/white/male ideology. The students were to walk around campus for one week, seeing the campus and the community through the eyes of the identity they drew. The student in the above story drew a "lesbian student" as his identity.

As we worked on this assignment, I sensed engagement from most students and also some resistance from other students. As I planned the unit, I tried very hard to create a unit that opened discussions about "otherness" and that provided opportunities for students to see practices and identities inherent and privileged by the institution. For the most part, the unit ran smoothly.

Now, though, as I reflect on my unit and in thinking about this week's readings, I can't help but think I only perpetuated and reinforced a heteronormative discourse by asking students who (for the most part) don't identify--through gender, sexual orientation, race, or ability--with the students they were proposing changes for. It kind of reminds me of the historical instance reported in Brueggeman's introduction about the cochlear implants: how they were seen as a gift from the gods and also an evil invention that could harm Deaf culture, an invention created by hearing ("normal") people to make Deaf people ("abnormal") "normal,"without consideration for how Deaf people might respond.

Due to the time constraints, I also didn't have students do any field research, which further makes the assignment problematic--the voices of those being written about were silenced and unaccounted for. But, how do you account for those voices without singling out a person based on a physical appearances, that is, if some "disabilities" are invisible, if gender is performed, if skin color says nothing about race?

I'm afraid I put students in the position to feel like they can speak for people whom they themselves can't identify with or as, instead of taking the position of ally or advocate and speaking with. I'm afraid I helped construct a problematic discourse.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

More thoughts on Sexism and Rhetoric

I came across this article on MSN news, "12 Sneaky Signs He'll Never Commit to You."


There are many things that could be said about this, but since we just read bell hook's piece on sexism/racism I thought it would be interesting to look at in that light.

The interesting thing about this article is that there are many others just like. What I mean is that there are these "advice" and "tips" articles for women in relation to men. What I find unfair about these articles is that both men and women are usually portrayed in a stereotypical way. Women are given advice with how to cope or handle maleness.

Since I identify as a feminist, I normally do not find myself taking up the banner of defending maleness. However, I find it equally alarming when any gender, whether it be female, male, or trans, be portrayed as flat, unshifting, fixed, or static.

Most alarming though, is that these articles portray maleness in a fixed state that must constantly be coped with by femaleness. While femaleness has been defined by maleness for quite some time, I do not think that giving women advice due to assumed victimization is helpful or useful.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

More on Catcalling.

So we discussed the video of the woman & NY street harassment.

Here's a video of a model in New Zealand who recreated the experiment in her country.
The difference in the two countries is pretty interesting. What do you think makes American men in NY feel more comfortable harassing women on the street? Is it our foundation? Or influenced by culture?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Critical rhetoric

Raymie McKerrow, in discussing six principles of critical rhetoric, names two that I particularly find interesting. Principle four centers on the fact that naming things is a way of interpreting them (105). There is some truth to this. I usually try to find humble words to say what I'm discussing. I could call a college a school, a university, or an institution, and I choose to call it a school more often than not. There is some degree of interpretation in the word I choose. If I call it a university, then I am differentiating it from primary schools, secondary schools, and other types of colleges. I decide on "school" because I prefer to connect college education to education in general. I was learning before I came to college and will continue to do so after graduation. "School" implies that continuity for me. This principle can be extended to countless other matters where interpreting a word implies what that concept means to the speaker.

Principle six concerns how "absence is as important as presence in understanding and evaluation symbolic action" (107, emphasis in original). McKerrow relates this to the fact the prime TV is missing a variety of body types and races. This is problematic for countless reasons, the main one being that the U.S. population is diverse, and mainly featuring white people of average height and a specific type of physical appearance is not acknowledging the true reality of the range of individuals in this country. McKerrow implies that rhetoric can consist of what is not shown or not discussed, not just what is presented. I'm thinking of our previous discussion of women being excluded from the rhetorical canon. While I still think the present is more important than what's in the canon, I consider how in that case, what is absent is communicating something. And thus my hope for future discourse is that women and men would both be represented strongly. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Oops! (bell hooks & Gloria Steinem)

Apparently they've just posted the link for the bell hooks & Gloria Steinem dialog! Here's the link if you want to check it out. There's a whole series of talks with bell hooks through the New School to check out. They talk about feminism and how it's problematic today. Favorite quotes: "Patriarchy has no gender" and "Patriarchy is not static."

This video is fantastic. You should watch it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Progressive Politics in the Classroom.

Michel Foucault in "Foucault Live" lays out several hypotheses about progressive politics (page 48-49). In particular, he says, "A progressive politics is one which recognizes the historical conditions and specified rules of a practice, whereas other politics recognize only ideal necessities, univocal determinations, or the free play of individual initiatives" and "a progressive politics is one which defines in a practice the possibilities of transformations and the play of dependencies between these transformations, whereas other politics rely on the uniform abstraction of change or the thaumaturgical presence of genius" (48). 

Similarly, James Berlin in "Rhetoric and Ideology for the Writing Class" posits social-epistemic rhetoric as a way to teach that is "self-consciously aware of its ideological stand, making the very question of ideology the center of classroom activities, and in doing so providing itself a defense against preemption and a strategy for self-criticism and self-correction" (478).

To me, it seems as though Foucault's progressive politics and Berlin's social-epistemic rhetoric should go hand-in-hand. Foucault's "progressive politics," being aware of "historical conditions" and "rules" alongside "possibilities of transformations" sounds as though it is "self-consicously" aware of its ideology and avoids "preemption." How would a combination of these two ideas look in the classroom?  Is it possible to use alternative/"progressive"/"self-consciously aware" readings in the classroom to provide a foil to mainstream society without including readings from dominant ideologies? How can we break down univocal determinations and individualism in the classroom to help students analyze social systems?

Truth Discovered or Created in FYC?

This week’s readings point out the interesting tention between discovery and creation of truth. While thinking about rhetoric and its epistemic nature, I’ve been also thinking about truth in the composition classroom. I’m particularly interested in whether truth is created or discovered in my classroom. Yet, this question doesn’t seem as easily answered as I’d like it to be. I’d like to say that my students create their own truths, rather than discover those predetermine truths they assume are out there (or worse, that I hold the key to). At the very least, I’d like to think they leave my class with an awareness that other create truths and they should question those truths. Again, this gets tricky, because, as, Brummett suggests that a mistake to assume everyone is using the same meaning of “rhetoric is epistemic” (1). He identifies three meanings: methodological (truth discovered), sociological (truth discovered and created), and ontological (truth created). My students my have other classes (like, biology or chemistry) where the meaning is methodological. If that is the case, how do they transition back and forth between classes where these meanings are different? How can I help them do this? Better yet, how do I make them aware that others are creating truth for them (i.e. news programs, social media, etc.)? For example, Scott notes, “Thus rhetoric may be viewed not as a matter of giving effectiveness to truth, but of creating truth” (13). The rhetoric surrounding the Ebola outbreak is not simply revealing truth to people, but creating it for them in some cases. 

One of my students asked last week if we could spend a day talking about Ebola, because she was “very worried about getting it” and “didn’t know much about it.” What she did know was that there were now cases in America (though, she didn’t know how those people contracted the disease or who they were) and that people were talking about the dangers of it. In this case, she was letting other people create her truth that this disease was a serious threat to her health. I told her that, unfortunately, I couldn’t spend a class period on it, but if she wanted to do some scholarly research on Ebola and present it to the class, I’d give her extra credit. She seemed interested, but at least she could go research and re-evaluate her truth. Is that discovery, creation, or both? Will she discover that her truth was wrong and create a new one?

Friday, October 17, 2014

A comment on a reoccuring thought/theme in our class: Why do they hate us?

Besides watching a lot of documentaries and South Park, I also watch a lot Japanese films and animes. One thing that I have noticed in the films/animes is that Americans are often the villain. The most recent film of this genre, in which the example is very obvious, is called "The Host" (Gwoemul), directed by Joon-ho Bong. It is technically categorized as a horror film; however, I would consider it more of a creature flick, it wasn't really scary at all--hardly even gory.

Interestingly enough, it was the actions of uncaring American doctor that allowed the creation of creature to take place, which the set the action of the film into motion. There is also another different slightly crazy American doctor later in the film who nearly lobotomizes the hero, who is trying to save his daughter. In other words, the Americans aren't looking so good in this film. Of course, you could say it could just be this particular film--and I would agree if I haven't seen this stereotypical "evil" American theme run throughout other Japanese work.

Although, I don't have much to base this on, I would guess that this theme has to do with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how devastating that was for Japan.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rhetorical Situation

It seems that the definition of the rhetorical situation is as fluid and contested as the definition of rhetoric (which makes sense). The problem for me, then, is that of the three definitions that we read for tonight all of them make sense in one way or another. They also have their faults, but there are bits an pieces of each definition that I feel have some merit. For instance, Vatz brings up Bitzer's example of the assassination of President Kennedy to argue against the idea "that the situation 'controlled' the response" (160). When it comes to this particular example I can agree with Vatz on the idea that the media, administration, and anyone else that discussed the event made a choice to do so. He is correct in his notion that the rotunda speeches given were needed to calm the public because the perception of the threat of an instable government had been a creation of rhetoric and not an actual actual threat (unfortunately, our government is all too ready to deal with people killing our leaders). Even his suggestion that the use of the term assassination had implications in creating the fear. However, I too agree with Bitzer that the situation also had some part in the need for public information. The reactions may have been predictable and rhetoric of fear may have created a larger the need for these reactions, but the reason for the reactions was in response to a situation. You can't simply look at the situation or the rhetor on their own. Did these people have a choice to report on the assassination or give a speech about the former president? Technically, yes. However, to them there would seem to be no choice. How would Vatz's definition of rhetorical situation change if the rhetor could not see any other options? I guess what I'm saying is that, so far nobody's definition seems to be completely solid.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Campbell's View on the Rhetoric of Women

In Man Cannot Speak for Her: A Critical Study of Early Feminist Rhetoric, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell analyzes the early women's suffrage movement, in which she looks at how women were able to persuade during this period in time. She emphasizes on how it was particularly difficult for women to be persuasive to male audiences due to the characteristics that a "good woman" was supposed to have (i.e., submissiveness, gentleness, and domestic qualities). Public speaking was seen to be an activity that men typically do, so then it was associated with male characteristics. Public speaking then was in opposition with society's construct of what a "good woman" should be. Campbell then demonstrates that in order to be persuasive with their male audience women cannot take on too many characteristics that the audience would consider to be male. In other words, to be persuasive with a male audience women would still have to maintain many characteristics associated with that of the "good woman."

I found this analysis interesting, because it demonstrates the balancing act a woman must take on when being persuasive. I feel that this still occurs, maybe not to the extremity that the suffragists had to contend with. I think women live in a world where they need to be several different people in order to be successful. To be persuasive, women's identity is in constant flux. I think this happens with the identities of men as well; however, the difference is that men's identities still shapes women's.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Redskins argument: who is involved in this discussion?


Since we recently discussed a similar topic, I thought I would post this article. However, it wasn't the argument that I found interesting here. Instead, I found it interesting who had a voice, especially in this article. You'll note that nothing referring to race occurs in the article until towards the end, and then it is through a quote. The quote is from John Banzhaf, the George Washington law professor, who filed the petition with FCC, claiming that the name Redskins violates federal rules that disallows "indecent content"--whatever that really means, the article doesn't define it for us. John Banzhaf is not really new to media attention apparently. I did some brief research, and apparently he is a big anti-smoking activist, as well as activism towards healthier eating (e.g., attacking fast food corporations). As far as I can tell he has not had a great interest in Native American activism before, nor does he seem to be a Native American. However, he is the predominant voice that is speaking for Native Americans in this situation.

The other players are the FCC, who are currently "reviewing the filing," and the Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who refuses to changes the name of the team.

The FCC seems to be playing a weird mediator, with Banzhaf and Synder on both sides of the argument. So where are the voices of the Native Americans that are being oppressed? This is all that the article says, "American Indians argue that the term is an ethnic slur and is deeply offensive." We aren't given any more information about who this group of American Indians are or what they think of Banzhaf's petition.

In other words, I find it very strange that there is only one sentence in this whole article that tells us what Native Americans supposedly think. Shouldn't they have more of a voice in this debate since they are the ones being oppressed by the name?

"Through" these hegemonic eyes...

I tried to italicize "through," so you'd all know I wasn't misquoting Kelly Clarkson. I mean, come on, we all know the song is "Behind These Hegemonic  Eyes."


As I was working on my index card at the Heorot last night (you know, in celebration of turning in that Classical Rhet paper), I was in deep conversation with a friend about both of our religious/spiritual upbringings. My friend recounted growing up mostly nonreligious, remembering how classmates in school would make her feel strange for being indifferent to matters of religion.

I told her I was a little bit envious of her ability to separate herself more easily from the religious constructs/discourse/beliefs that I--being raised in a conservative, religious environment--have such a difficult time separating from my academic identity.

What I was really meant was I wish I could more easily distinguish the hegemonic ideals that are so engrained in our political/academic/social discourse, but sometimes, when you are raised in a particular hegemony, it's hard to see (through my hazel eyes :) the forest for the forests, so to speak. Especially when everything seems like one big forest.

Crowley defines this well: "Hegemonic discourses construct and inform community experiences to such an extent that their assumptions seem natural, 'just the way things are.' The very inarticulateness of hegemonic belief is source of its power" (p. 12). 

I find Crowley's argument encouraging, especially when she recognizes that the very foundations upon which liberalism and apocalyptic Christianity rest don't actually jive with each other or value the similar ways/strategies to argue/contest ideas, which is largely why these two discourses don't seem to communicate with each other or move towards consensus on political/social topics.

While it seems so easy to buy into Crowley's idea about rhetoric (as well as Perelman and Olbrecht-Tyteca's New Rhetoric), how do we make these ideas accessible and mobile to the public? How do we effectively promote argument as a necessary facet of language (and democracy)?

Is Toulmin's method useful for only particular discourse communities, e.g. the academy?

Toulmin Method

I want to discuss the Toulmin method briefly here, as ever since I first encountered it (as an undergraduate), I have found it pretty technical and somewhat perplexing. While I understand that it can be useful to break arguments down into technical terms, I also feel this method erases some of the naturalness that can come from framing an argument in a social context. Claims seem simple enough (until they become complicated by other variables). The warrant and the backing can get tricky. From what I gather, the warrant is what would make the data valid.

For example, if I say that Bob is a graduate student, the data supporting this could be his enrollment in graduate courses, and the reason why that data would be valid (the warrant) is enrollment in graduate courses generally means that someone would be a graduate student. If I were to scrutinize that warrant, it could be that perhaps an undergraduate could be enrolled in a graduate course (which was occasionally the case at my previous college). Then I might change the data to, instead of being enrollment in graduate courses, to Bob having been accepted into a graduate program and consequently being enrolled in graduate courses. Even then it could get tricky, as there tend to be outliers that somehow could make a general claim invalid. Words like "always", "never", "without fail" can increase the odds that a claim will be invalidated by something.

I find it easier to use "common sense" than to get hung up on warrants and backing, and to think about how most valid claims can be thought of as generally true, in most scenarios. True, there might be an outlier, but it's safe to say that A or B is often the case, with some exceptions. Thinking about what is "generally true" in a social context can be helpful. As in, "Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is generally healthy." The data: they contain vitamins, minerals, and little processed or no processed food.

Could it be argued that maybe eating fruits and vegetables is not healthy in all cases?  A discussion on pesticides, allergies, and excessive consumption of fruits and vegetables could complicate my claim. Still--it's generally healthy to eat fruits and vegetables, and in American culture, this is an important claim to make, as it's better to promote these foods than other options. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca state, "All language is the language of a community, be this a community bound by biological ties, or by the practice of a common discipline or technique" (513). When I think about claims and warrants and backing existing in community, it becomes slightly more straightforward to think about what generally works as a claim than to get halted by considering all possible exceptions to the claim.

Church, State, & Crowley

I saw these articles not too long ago, and the Crowley reading reminded me of them.
Those pushing for religion in state matters forget that the US has no official religion.

Scalia Law Backfires!
Satanic Coloring Books at FL Schools

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Social Media's Critique of Mainstream Media Tactics

In Chapter 3, Silberstein cites Charlotte Linde's theories on storytelling: storytelling "'create[s] group membership for [the speaker] and solidarity for [a] group.' Stories, by their nature, locate our very personal experiences within larger cultural norms and expectations" (61). Recently, we saw reflections of this in Ferguson, MO, and in the social media memes that sprung from that event. Coverage of the shooting of Michael Brown presented him in two lights: a promising college-bound student or a crime-committing thug. As a result, people took to Facebook and Twitter to tell their own stories and show their own contrasting depictions of self-identity with the #iftheygunnedmedown posts. Here are two examples:

By using rhetoric and personal stories, these two examples of #iftheygunnedmedown clearly urge audiences to sympathize with Michael Brown and doubt the role of the media in reporting his shooting. These images also tie in to Silberstein's "assumptions" about identity--she says, "Identities are neither singular nor stable; that is, people have multiple identities, including, for example, being family members, professionals, religious (non)believers, (non)citizens. And these identities are not necessarily stable. Individuals can be seen as competent professionals at one moment and lose that identity in the next...Identities are displayed, and thereby (re)constructed through interactions with others" (61).  The #iftheygunnedmedown meme complicates identity for viewers because they display two different conceptions of identity simultaneously, and viewers are inclined to identify with the people in the memes because they are depciting personal identities and evoking a group identity. This subversive tactic helps problematize media coverage of the Michael Brown shooting.

These memes create a group identity and solidarity, contributing to a larger skepticism of both the media and the police. In the future, perhaps more people will turn to social media like Facebook and/or Twitter for "real" news that is "free" from media bias.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reuters say 1 in 4 Americans wants their state to secede.... ?

I stumbled across this article today that I just had to share with you guys. I found it to be an interesting example of how the media constructs conversations. For example, the article is framed, so that it seems concerned with 25% of Americans who are unhappy with the current going-ons in the government; however, you'll notice it was Reuters that conducted the survey in order to write the story. What I am getting at is those who were queried for the survey may have never considered secession before they were asked about it? In that sense, is the article really about them?

A bigger question that the article doesn't dare tackle is: Is secession in the United States even possible now?


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A link

We mentioned this briefly in class tonight. Here' the link if you want to watch.
21 absurd things lesbians say to straight people

Rhetoric of the body and media

This week's readings introduced several themes, but I’m interested in two that I saw connecting across several of the readings: the rhetoric surrounding the physical body and the rhetoric surrounding media. First, Jordan presents an analysis surrounding controversial procedures called “Ashley Treatment” and the rhetoric used to promote and protest this intervention. The parents claim to know what was best for their daughter, Ashley, because they were with her the most, but others argued that, “As neither parent’s bodies aligns with their daughter’s, their rhetoric is suspect because it cannot speak from bodily identification; they can impose their own understanding onto Ashley’s body but cannot claim sympathy with it” (Jordan 34). Yet, in Condit’s article, Jack’s pro-life rhetoric and response to the Cadney and Lacey episode is not called into questions, because of he “cannot speak from bodily identification” (Jordan 34) with the character seeking an abortion or any of the female characters.

Also interesting to me in the Jordan article, was that the author didn’t clearly state (or I didn’t catch) how the conversation about the Ashley Treatment was reported, except that her doctors reported it and her mother blogged about it. I’m interested to know how this conversation would have changed if it were broadcast on a television news magazine, like CBS' 60 Minutes or Sunday Morning, or even via social media. What impact or “new perceptions” would the “public screen” as (Deluca and Peoples 131) have on this conversation?

What expectation should we have of those participating in the public screen to employ Critical Literacy?

What would hooks say to the Ashley Treatment discussion?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Kenneth Burke ate my homework

I'd like to start off with my ability right now to identify with the frazzled ENG 103/104 student. I have been reminded of how tantalizing plagiarism looks when you must synthesize and respond to information that has not yet taken root in your mind's crevices. (Yet, you will know this is not plagiarized because the post will be largely incoherent.)

One particular thought/question I had while reading this week is this: why is Burke insistent on replacing the--during the time of his writing--traditional view of rhetoric as persuasion with his own view of rhetoric as identification?

It seems that, by promoting the idea of identification, he his describing a facet, a shade, a particular complexity of rhetoric, but I don't think his idea IS the definition of rhetoric. Maybe I'm misunderstanding him.

I do agree, however, with his idea of symbolic action--that humans respond to symbols, that we are symbol constructing and symbol manipulating agents who employ symbols in order to spark action from/in something or someone.

His idea of symbolic action jives nicely with I. A. Richards' beliefs about language and thought being separate, and that words don't have inherent meanings; instead, we as symbol making/manipulating agents impose meaning onto words and images so that they mean what we want them to mean.

I would probably, then, meld these two writers' ideas about rhetoric to produce my own, intertextual definition: rhetoric is understanding/studying/employing a particular set of symbols that are used to effect a particular behavior/movement/thought/act.

And as a quick-like-a-bunny conclusion, and in the words of that kid jacked up on dentist's anesthesia: IS THIS REAL LIFE?!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sorting out the concept of Image and Idea

In this week's readings, we are presented with two different perspectives regarding image and idea. In his lecture, I.A. Richards states very clearly, "Language and Thought are not-- need I say?-- one and the same" (13). In fact, a good portion of this lecture is dedicated to clarify upon this point. Basically, Richards does not think studying the relationship between images and ideas of a word can answer his question of "How does a word mean?" Richards then says that the question the becomes, "How does an idea (or an image) mean what it does?" Which brings us back to Richards original statement--language and thought are not one in the same.

Kenneth Burke also examines a similar concept in Part II of A Rhetoric of Motives. However, Burke's examination is much different. He begins with a review of the concept of the "imagination" and then moves onto an examination of the "image and idea." It is in the "image and idea" section where Burke's stance really takes shape. For instance, he states, "Seen from this angle, the antithetical relation between image and idea is replaced by partial stress upon the bond of kinship between them. Add the fact that all abstractions themselves are necessarily expressed in terms of weakened and confused images, a consideration which doubtless explains why Aristotle said that we cannot think without images" (90).

From the above quote, I've tried to demonstrate that Burke does not take the same position as Richards. And although I understand both positions, I am jumbled about my thinking of them. Let me explain: From Richards, it makes sense to me that language and thought are not one in the same. Language needs thought to exists, but not vice versa. I'll amend this by saying thought without language may take a different form than with it, but that may be veering off topic.

With Burke, the concept of imagery needed for thinking is interesting as well, especially when you consider it in terms of a persuasive rhetorical device.

I suppose I am still trying to exactly sort out how images relate to ideas and then how those image-ideas relate to meaning...

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Instant Media

While reading Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death I kept comparing all of the examples he gave with today's media culture. In Part I of the book Postman describes the audience of oratory events by stating that "its attention span would obviously have been extraordinary by current standards...[and] these audiences must have had an equally extraordinary capacity to comprehend lengthy and complex sentences aurally" (45). If the audiences attention span would have been extraordinary in the '80s then I imagine it would seem damn near impossible now. Seven hours of talking? Most students in school today can't go a single class period without checking to see if they have a new text or if someone 'liked' their latest facebook post. Television today has evolved so that we can skip through the commercials or, if you're watching something like Netflix, avoid the commercials all together. People today can no longer sit through a ninety second commercial. Our media has been made so instantaneous that if we become bored within a few seconds of a commercial on television we can transfer out attention to something that will bring our entertainment to us even faster, like Pinterest.

Today's media has also made content much more concise. It takes a little effort to try to convey a complex message in 160 characters or less. A constant complaint I get from students is that they can't possibly write about a topic for five, whole pages. Which is why I have all of my classes participate in Smith Magazine's Six Word Memoir activity. I give the students an allotted amount of time to write about several different experiences in their lives that have made them you they are today. Then I show them the Smith Magazine challenge and ask them to explain each event or the meaning of each event in six words. In all of the classes I've used this activity the students have agreed that it is much harder to get their point across in six words than in several paragraphs. It would follow that the same struggle can be found for public figures in the 21st century. Lincoln and Douglas had hours apiece to explain their ideologies. Public debates today could never dream of lasting that long if they actually wanted to keep the attention of the majority of their audience. Now they have to cram everything they want to say about their position and ideologies into soundbites that the public can consume in small doses. If not they risk people forgetting or ignoring what they are trying to convey. Instant media may seem to make communication easier by making faster, but faster isn't necessarily easier.   

Changing Paradigms

In Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, he makes the point, in chapter 10, that television shows like Sesame Street place an emphasis on entertainment and not learning, despite its claim to be an educational show. He says, “If the classroom now begins to seems a stale and flat environment for learning, the inventors of television itself are to blame, not the Children’s Television Network” (143). While Postman’s argument was written in 1985, it reminds me of the “Changing Paradigms” TED talk by Ken Robinson. In his Ted talk, Robinson argues that kids today are raised in the most stimulating environment in the history of the world, but adults become frustrated when they can’t sit through a school day without paying attention. “School is boring,” he says. So, to correct the problem many parents drug their kids with ADHD medicine. He continues on this line for a good minute. While both the arguments, Postman’s and Robinson’s, make assumptions (as Margo points out) and are written 25 years a part, I find it interesting how similar they are. Here’s the link to the “Changing Paradigms” TED talk, if you are interested. I use it in my Eng. 103 class.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Television and Education

In the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman’s son, Andrew Postman, makes a case for how relevant the book is today, although it was published in 1985. I agree that it definitely is applicable in 2014. One major thing that has changed is that the Internet has become a major force alongside and at times competing with television for people’s “screen time.”

The book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains kept coming to my mind while I read Amusing. Nicholas Carr argues that the Internet has contributed to humans thinking in fragmented, shallow ways and that it has influenced how they read—their eyes jump around on the screen versus reading linearly. Postman notes that he is not claiming that media changes affect changes in people’s “cognitive capacities,” although he thinks that people arguing as much are probably right (27).  In a sense, though, both Postman and Carr are asserting that the media (TV in Postman’s case and the Internet in Carr’s) has altered how people think.

Postman argues that television is a medium of communication that makes people perceive serious matters as entertainment and not be required to think about any particular news clip or program for any extended length of time; Carr asserts that the Internet has lowered people’s capacity to concentrate on one topic and reflect deeply.
I kept thinking about this in terms of education. According to Postman, television has perpetuated the belief that education should be entertaining, and he describes “the refashioning of the classroom into a place where teaching and learning are intended to be vastly amusing activities” (148). I think many teachers do hope that their classes will somehow be entertaining as well as educational, and I think that creating interesting lesson plans is important to keep students’ attention.

However, the phenomenon of making education entertaining that Postman describes was not a big force in either of the two public schools I attended during K-12. He seems to be in some ways writing about the future in the chapter “Teaching as an Amusing Activity,” yet I wonder if schools really have made “edutainment” as much of a priority as Postman suggests. Without knowing how the K-12 schools in 2014 are operating on the inside, I am not sure, but I sense they are still making reading and writing a priority, and in many cases this involves—at least I hope—being trained to still think in depth and reflectively. 

One major thing I take from Postman’s book is that teaching students to think about the medium itself and what kind of messages or thinking processes it is perpetuating can be a useful practice. Rather than judging television or Internet as negative, it is more important to consider what students are using them for and whether they can think analytically about how they affect their lives.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Remediated Arguments

In Douglas’ “Rhetoric for the Meritocracy: The Creation of Composition at Harvard” he brings to light several arguments that I think echo in today’s digital age. For example, Douglas notes that Channing’s major “revision of rhetoric” involves the orator’s relationship with his audience (116). The awareness of this relationship, which at the time was in reference to print media, is now even further complicated by the Internet. Clay Shirkey notes in Here Comes Everybody that the line between author and audience is blurring thanks to co-authoring Websites like Wikipedia. Furthermore, Eliot expresses concern over the common men leaping from “farm or shop to courtroom” (126). Likewise, the Internet provides a space for current-day common men to present themselves as authorities on the Web. Eliot’s response to this “leaping” is increasing professionalism, but not for everyone—just the "gentlemanly" (127). During this time print could have been a democratizing force, as the Internet is (or is suppose to be). Yet, there are questions of access—access to education or discourse instead of technology. I think these are interesting parallels between media, and I have to wonder what impact these parallels have on the rhetoric we use for them. Or, what does it say about rhetoric surrounding a “new” medium/technology, if these same arguments surface each time?

Starting and Ending with Rhetoric

Today's readings about rhetoric really resonated with what I've been doing in class this week. I had students read Johnson's "Patriarchy: the System," Freire's "The Banking Concept of Education," and the first chapter of Rhetoric, Composition, and Expression for the Digital Age (RCE).  These three pieces work together to set the tone for the semester--Johnson raises student awareness of social systems and how, while everyone is a part of the (patriarchal) social system, each person can choose how she or he participates in it. Freire discusses teaching and explains the difference between the "banking system" (depositing knowledge into student receptacles) and "problem-posing" education (empowering students to think rather than regurgitate facts). Chapter 1 in RCE discusses play and creativity in composing and multimodality. I've chosen these three readings to start with because in my composition class, the students are going to be encouraged to play (as RCE encourages) as they write and research this semester--I don't want them to write what they think I want them to write. We went over Freire to help them better understand my teaching style and show them that composition doesn't have to be me lecturing at them about things. I want them to be excited about their research and come up with their own truths. And finally, Johnson's article helps students think beyond that individualized mindset that is so prevalent in U.S. culture. Thinking about social systems and understanding that we are all a part of them, whether we like it or not.

This week's readings connected to my classroom practices because my students will be examining normative ideologies--the stories and images that society depicts as "normal" and "natural"--and interrogating how social systems perpetuate these myths. In class today, we discussed the images presented publicly that support the patriarchal social system--the students specifically mentioned the ideology of the nuclear family and explained how advertising and mainstream media presents a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and well-behaved children as a "normal" family. The students explained that in the real world, most people don't come from those types of situations--one student discussed her family as a foster family with a single mother at the head. This type of analysis engages students in rhetorical discourse--Herrick defines "the art of rhetoric as the systematic study and intentional practice of effective symbolic expression" (7). Students see and study the "symbols" society presents and pick them apart to decide if the symbol is persuasive or the "truth" as it is presented. 

Next class session, I will be introducing the students to their Project 1 assignment--they will be taking their own truths and creating their own enthymeme--explaining their own truths to a specific audience in a persuasive narrative.

I wonder, though, is it absolutely necessary, as Herrick argues, that there must be a commonality between the rhetor (student) and the audience (9)? Does persuasion rely on commonality or identification? Would it be useful or beneficial to ask students to write an anti-enthymeme, addressing an audience that they have nothing in common with, or, even, an audience who may be hostile to their ideas?