Revolution Lullabye

February 19, 2007

And more Calling Cards

Filed under: Uncategorized — by revolutionlullabye @ 2:13 am

Chapter 14

Holmes, David G. “Say What?: Discovering Hugh Blair and the Racialization of Language, Culture, and Pedagogy in Eighteenth-Century Rhetoric.” 203-213.

In his article, Holmes investigates the inherent racism in 18th century Scottish rhetorician Hugh Blair, arguing that we must more critically examine and question the revered global rhetorical figures of our field’s past to see how their ideals and beliefs might have shaped and continue to influence pedagogy in rhetoric and composition. Blair, like many 18th century intellectuals, believed in an innate inferiority of Africans, which was backed by both religious and scientific beliefs of racial hierarchy. Blair thought that rhetorical taste and delicacy is learned through high European culture and education, and therefore blacks were not capable of the same rhetorical “beauty.” Holmes points out that many have drawn similarities between African and Scottish Highlander culture, and Blair, in his academic career, sought to distance himself from his Scottish dialect and heritage and become more “purely” British. Holmes agrees with Royster and Williams that we must force ourselves to reconsider the elevated status we attribute to some histories and try to see in them how the dominant culture might have forced other voices into silence.

Quotable Quotes

“We should not feign historical amnesia but consider the assumptions upon which theories were based and how tehy have been used to enact and inscribe oppressive agendas, such as the racist discourses that were prevelent during Blair’s era…While we may continue to value rhetoricians [such as Aristotle and Blair]…there is much to be acknowledged, interrogated, and critiqued” (211).

“The goal in reexamining iconic figues in our field is to clarify and deepen historical knowledge and also to lay a better foundation from which to develop better pedagogical uses for this knowledge. We must challenge students, including students of color, to critique Blair and others, to analyze historical contexts, and to analyze purposes and consequences as well” (212).

“As a disciplinary field, what we cannot afford is canonization without well-deliberated critique. Our field boldly asserts that we value critical questioning. We should demonstrate this value in casting a more critical gaze on figures such as Blair” (213).

***Interesting note: Holmes cites Lois Agnew’s work on Blair several times in this article.

Chapter 15

Logan, Shirley Wilson. “‘By the Way, Where Did You Learn to Speak?’: Black Sites of Rhetorical Education.” 215-227.

Logan takes up the question asked often of black students and academics, a question used in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: “Where did you learn to speak?” and explores five sites where black intellectuals received their rhetorical education in the 19th century. Those five sites are traditional African oral storytelling traditions, religious singing and preaching, private home spaces like sewing circles or parlor conversations, African-American societies [literary, debating, benevolent, and educational] and lyceums, and self-education in rhetoric, including private lessons in oratory and elocution. She also mentions three other sites of rhetorical education for 19th century African-Americans: black colleges and schools, political gatherings, and the black press. Logan shows through her extensive examples of the first five sites that African-Americans were able to carve out a unique rhetorical education for themselves in the face of the often oppressive dominant culture in the United States. She points out that her study has particular exigency today, given the educational crisis in the United States, and that through reading her research, people might begin to question if students today have the variety of alternative ways to gain a rhetorical education as 19th century blacks did, and if they do not, then to interrogate why that is the case.

Quotable Quotes

“We need to recognize the various ways in which people can acquire and have acquired rhetorical knowledge. A broader definition of rhetorical education might help us answer important questions: What are the sites of rhetorical education today? What new sites have replaced those no longer in existence? How confidently can we as teachers and scholars of rhetoric and composition answer the question, ‘Where and how will our students learn to speak?'” (225).

“The oral tradition of storytelling among the enslaved instilled respect for the spoken word and preserved ancestral wisdom and culture” (217).

“I use the term rhetorical education here to mean those combinations of experiences influencing proficiency in communication” (216).

Royster, Jacqueline Jones. “Last Words.” 255-264.

This afterward is the partial transcript of a conversation conducted electronically over email between the authors of the chapters of Calling Cards. In it, the authors question what readers can take away from the collection as a whole. Since I’m doing the presentation in class on this book, I found this section especially helpful for tying together some of the major themes in the book and for formulating those “What next?” questions that always must follow such an engaged and varied text. Some of the questions I liked (and that I think I’ll pose in some variation in class on Tuesday):

1. From Espinosa-Aguilar: “How are these pieces at all related?…Where is the advice, cautionary tale, guides, and maps for those engaging in this kind of work?…I was completely surprised by how ignorant I am of the culture of more than a billion people on the planet” (256). Her “confession” here is important and one I think many of us share. How can we get students to realize this in 15 weeks and begin to have them become more aware? How do we do this while teaching rhetoric and composition? How do we access those texts that will help us do that?

2. L’Eplattenier: “These chapters remind me that subjectivity is about examining the multitudes contained within our ourselves, the people/topics we study, and our interactions with them and the work – that subjectivity is and will always be an incredibly complex and slippery topic” (257). L’Eplattenier gives us an example of a type of methodology that we can use to embrace this subjectivity – but what are others? How do we research with subjectivity in mind without othering our subjects?

3. Simpkins: In this collection, “we collapse the borders of the binary constructed by what Valerie Lee appropriately describes as an overdetermined academy” (257). I liked this because of the 670 “collapse the binary!” echoes it has. We try to get our students to do that in their work, but how do we go about doing that in our own research and institutional work? What binaries are collapsed in this collection? What other binaries should be collapsed?

4. Holmes says that there are “common denominators” in Calling Cards: “less of a focus on the whys of theories and practices related to race, gender and culture, and more on the hows, and also on the collective motives that govern both agendas and inquiries” (258). Is that what is really going on in this collection? Who is giving the reader the hows? Is this the case for all the pieces?

5. Krouse says that she wants “to encourage the idea of indigenous scholarship because it includes a perspective that can only come from inside” (258). Should that be encouraged – or preferred – over, say, an Asian-American studying Native Americans or a white person studying African-American rhetorical practices? What benefits does an “insider” have? What new perspective might an “outsider” have? Is the academy ready to support everybody studying everybody else? What would we gain? What would we lose?

6. L’Eplattenier: “What does a new, multiple perspective history look like?” And how is it done? And who will publish it?

7. Wu discussed how almost all the authors in the collection chose to use the first-person pronoun instead of the traditional academic third-person. She writes, “If I had not used ‘I,’ my essay would give the impression of pretense, remoteness, and indirectness. Yet, the emphasis on the ‘I’ in this collection can be said to be the enemy of self-promotion, or egocentric discourse. To a large degree, the ‘I’ in these essays is not deployed to promote self-interest or enhance self-image.” How well do the essays in this collection walk this fine line? and……”The impact this collection may have in a market, whee pure research without consideration of its social and ethical consequences has long been esteemed, is to resteer the direction of academic research. It may draw scholar’s attention to the connection between academic research and its potential sociopolitical impact” (260). I found this really compelling – how will this happen? What will this research look like? Do all the chapters in this collection fit this bill? Some more than others? Which ones? What will be valued in tenure and promotion if this shift happens?

8. How is composition and rhetoric an interdisciplinary field? How is it not? To what extent are all disciplines interdisciplinary? Is comp-rhet more interdisciplinary than others? Why or why not?

9. Green: “If we’re taking on (and have taken on) this ethical work of changing the world by looking hard at race, gender, and culture, who is the audience?” How do we in composition “look hard” at race, gender, and culture? What does it look like? What do our students do? What will they learn? How? Are students are audience? Or the public? Or other departments? Or the university as a whole? Or our fellow comp rhet colleagues?

Tell me what you think – what questions are intriguing – which ones you have that I don’t, etc. Thanks!


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