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.