Revolution Lullabye

May 30, 2007

May 31 Response

Filed under: Uncategorized — by revolutionlullabye @ 1:05 am

Graff and Leff, in their chapter “Revisionist Historiography and Rhetorical Tradition(s),”  investigate the tension between the desire to have a continuous tradition in rhetorical history in order to have a stable community of rhetoricians in the discipline and the need to use revisionist historiography to include sources, histories, and methodologies that lie outside this traditional canon. They explain the difference between the first wave and second wave of revisionism: the first wave conflated rhetoric with theory, distancing rhetoric from pedagogy. The old tradition only gave preference to those rhetorical works that added to the ideas of the ancient rhetorical theorists; the new, revisionist rhetoric saw that there could be additions and advances outside that one traditional strain. The second wave, on the other hand, was more concerned with the subjectivity of historiography; rhetorical historians like James Berlin argued that critiquing existing histories is the essential first step, as we must realize that there can be no objective history (history is rhetorical), and that histories must reflect the social/economic/political context of the time. New histories cannot be grand master narratives. The problem with these two waves, Graff and Leff argue, is that they might lead to such diverse research in the field of rhetoric that there is no common foundation for the field to claim. Graff and Leff suggest that the new history of rhetoric might be held together by a common interest in rhetorical pedagogy: “We propose to conceive the rhetorical tradition in the modest key of the history of teaching writing and speaking. Whatever else we are or do, we all teach rhetoric, so the practices of past teachers clearly constitute something we can claim as our history” (25). It can’t be just anything goes – there must be a common thread, and pedagogy seems the natural one for rhetoric. This will be a big adjustment – pedagogy is often ignored or dismissed as not important as theory and philosophy.

Sutherland, in her 2002 article “Feminist Historiography: Research Methods in Rhetoric,” notices the same tension that Graff and Leff write about in the new recovery and revisionist efforts in historiography. There is such a tremendous desire to include texts not recognized in the traditional canon that the methodologies of the scholars doing this work are not necessarily sound. She argues against the postmodern view that everything is relative and therefore everything has equal value in the field of rhetoric – there must be work that has more influence than other work. Sutherland writes that honesty is the most important virtue of a historian. You cannot read things into texts just because you want that text to support your own ideas and ideologies. She states that she has “a moral duty as a scholar not to misrepresent what the text says…[Manipulating texts]to support whatever we have already decided to promote seem to me to defeat scholarship. It is the abuse, the exploitation of the texts, and betrays both the original writer and the readers” (118). If that is the case – that the text has an identity separate from the historian – where is the line drawn? When do you go too far?

Pat Bizzell, in her article “Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric,” advises current and future historians of rhetoric of the feminist methodologies that they might employ to find repressed rhetorical histories and integrate them into modern rhetorical studies with the hopes of including them in a new canon. She explains three approaches to feminist research in rhetoric: employing the “resisting reader” [“to notice aspects of the canonical texts that the reader is not supposed to notice, but that disturb, when the reader is a woman, and create resistance to the view of reality the work seems to want to purvery” (51).]; focusing on women who have done similar work to traditionally canonized male authors and argue for their place in that canon; and looking for non-traditional women’s rhetoric in places where male rhetoric is not found – to reconceive what rhetoric is. (51) I believe she would have the same concerns as Sutherland and Graff and Leff – that the feminist rhetorics that are recovered must be valuable not because they are just written by women, but because they add something new and important and different to the study of rhetoric. The postmodern fervor that swung the doors wide open for the study of rhetoric let good and bad scholarship flourish; it is essential now that the field specify what constitutes critical and significant scholarly work so that the discipline does not spiral out and become unrecognizable.

 

 

Bizzell, Patricia. “Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review: 11.1 (Fall 1992) 50-58 

When writing The Rhetorical Tradition with Bruce Herzburg, Bizzell says they were surprised by the lack of critical work done outside the traditional rhetorical canon (in 1990). (50).

 

Three approaches to feminist research in rhetoric: employing the “resisting reader” [“to notice aspects of the canonical texts that the reader is not supposed to notice, but that disturb, when the reader is a woman, and create resistance to the view of reality the work seems to want to purvery” (51).] (Judith Fetterley); focus on women who have done similar work to traditionally canonized male authors and argue for their place in that canon; look for non-traditional women’s rhetoric in places where male rhetoric is not found – to reconceive what rhetoric is. (51)

 

 

Sutherland, Christine Mason. “Feminist Historiography: Research Methods in Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly: 32.1 (Winter 2002) 109-122. 

In response to Enos’ lament that no one does research in rhetoric: “[Primary research] has most engaged me. The excitement of bringing some forgotten text to the attention of my colleagues in rhetoric has been one of my greatest pleasures: it makes me feel like a benefactor.” It is essential to read primary texts before secondary texts: “Only after we had made our own response, however naïve or mistaken it might be, should we proceed to expand and adjust our ideas by reading scholarly discussion” (111).

 

“One of the dangers of traditional scholarship is the false notion that what is your idea cannot be my idea too; it leads to the ridiculous assumption that ideas spring from a single mind, as if the mind existed in a vacuum, and was not necessarily affected by the insights of others. Much feminist research, on the contrary, is typically not competitive, but cooperative, in a number of different ways” (112).

 

Note on Weaver: to talk of human beings in pure scientific, non-emotional language is unethical – it’s denying a portion of their humanity. (115)

 

Good point: “Some feminist scholars make a gratuitous assumption of deliberate ill-will on the part of men for which we don not always have enough evidence. I am sometimes uneasy with the use of the word ‘erasure’ in this context: it suggests a deliberate policy on the part of men which was probably not, or not always, the case” (116).

 

“Feminism, Marxism, post-colonialism and postmodern theories which are often also ideologies have valuable critiques to offer: but I see them as correctional, as restoring a necessary balance. Taken too far they do not promote peace and understanding – quite the reverse” (116).

 

What to do with the postmodern dilemma that everything is relative? Her response: “My own position – the position from which I conduct my research – is fundamentally traditional. I believe that there is such a ting as ultimate truth; I also believe that it is impossible for a single person or party to reach it. We must all strive to find it, but must be modest in our claims to have done so. Above all, we must co-operate: only so can we hope even to approach it. And we must search for it honestly. We must not exploit the postmodernist perception of the fuzzy boundaries between fact and fiction to invent the truth…Some Platonic ideal of an absolute truth (however unfashionable such an idea appears to be at the moment) might prevent us from constructing evil realities” (117).

 

Honesty is most important – you can’t just say something because you like it and it agrees with your ideologies.

“I have a moral duty as a scholar not to misrepresent what the text says” (118).

 

“This recommended manipulation of the text to support whatever we have already decided to promote seems to me to defeat scholarship. It is the abuse, the exploitation of the texts, and betrays both the original writer and the readers” (118).

 

The rhetoric of historical women doesn’t have to be applicable today to justify doing primary research on it – they can just be unknown and good works. (120)

 

Graff, Richard, and Michael Leff. “Revisionist Historiography and Rhetorical Tradition(s).” In The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition. Eds. Richard Graff, Arthur E. Walzer, and Janet M. Atwill.
Albany: SUNY Press.
 

“[The revisionist effort] does capture something important about the temper of our times, does reveal serious limitations in our conventional historical scholarship, and does make a strong case for complicating and expanding our efforts…Such work demonstrates that, at minimum, we no longer can assume that the history of rhetoric consists in a stable, neutral record open to disinterested inquiry” (12).

 

The revisionist direction in modern historiography of rhetoric threatens to undermine any sense of a tradition. “Without a tradition against which we can measure our innovations, we may lose the minimum level of coherence necessary to sustain an academic community…While the received view of tradition is no longer acceptable, if we lack a usable sense of tradition, we risk dispersal, dismemberment, and the loss of any semblance of a collective identity” (12).

 

Purpose is to investigate revisionist history and see how it can be married with a sense of tradition and a theory that can keep the field cohesive.

 

Where does the crux of rhetoric lie? Before the mid-twentieth century, rhetoric was tied to pedagogy, but beginning with Duhamel, historians of rhetoric began to look at how history was written in regards to the philosophical ideologies of the rhetorician/writer. Was rhetoric going to become more in lie with philosophy than with practice? (14)

 

First Wave of Revisionism: conflating rhetoric with theory, distancing rhetoric from pedagogy. The old tradition only gave preference to those rhetorical works that added to the work of the ancient rhetorical theorists (influence), the new rhetoric saw that there could be additions and advances outside that one strain.

 

“[Blair exhibits] a bias that she inherits from the earlier school of revisionism and its modernist attitudes toward rhetorical theory as a static body of substantive principles rather than as a dynamic and evolving activity” (19).

 

Second Wave of Revisionism: Pre/Text,
Berlin – critique existing histories is the first step; realize that there can be no objective history (history is rhetorical), that repressed voices are not represented in traditional histories, histories must reflect the social/economic/political context of the time, bias bias bias! New histories cannot be grand master narratives.

 

“The new historiography is to be, above all, critical; it searches for biases and exclusions, for disguised tactics of repression and marginalization, and it applies that critical sensibility to the act of writing history itself” (21).

 

“The choice of research methods, periods, and objects of study are indeed choices and the products of argument…The resulting historical accounts [of revisionist historiography] should confront contingency and change, eschew the need for continuity and the imperative to tell a seamless and unified story” (21).

Two strands of this new type of historiography: 1. Rereading (reading Aristotle through a Marxist lens, for example) and 2. recovery (discovering and bringing to light new traditions, like women’s rhetorics or working class rhetorics or non-Western rhetorics) (22)

 

“Is it possible to imagine a tradition that is both broad enough to resonate across disciplinary lines and flexible enough to allow for the diversity demanded by new approaches to our subject and its history?” (24)

 

Graff and Leff suggest that the new history of rhetoric be centered around pedagogy: “We propose to conceive the rhetorical tradition in the modest key of the history of teaching writing and speaking. Whatever else we are or do, we all teach rhetoric, so the practices of past teachers clearly constitute something we can claim as our history” (25). This will be a big adjustment – pedagogy is often ignored or dismissed as not important as theory and philosophy.

 

Current histories of writing pedagogy have been limited to “modern, institutionalized forms of college writing instruction in English-speaking countries.

 

“The teaching of rhetoric is a point of continuity in Western history, but teaching practices themselves vary and change. Thus, the teaching of rhetoric as a practice offers a stable referent for a historical tradition, but it does not lock us into grand narratives or perspectives that move us outside a local context” (27) Their big idea – we have teaching rhetoric in common, look at history through that lens.

 

Mattingly, Carol. “Telling Evidence: Rethinking What Counts in Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly: 32.1 (Winter 2002) 99-108. 

Fear in the feminist recovery effort that “by promoting individual rather than collective women, early feminist recovery efforts duplicate traditional canon formation and patriarchal hierarchical patterns” (100).

 

Mattingly’s questions: Why are some figures like Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony given more preference in the history of women’s rhetoric than other women? Isn’t that anti-feminist?

 

Scholars are often nervous about the “conservative” or “religious” overtones of temperance leagues, but the concerns of those women mirror the concerns of women today, like domestic abuse. (103)

 

“With additional time to delve deeply into extant texts of nineteenth-century culture, and the dedicated efforts to create a fair and accurate understanding of nineteenth-century women’s rhetorical patterns, we can construct a more comprehensive and authentic tradition. We can, I think, learn to appreciate the many women who were rhetorically effective rather than focusing only on a few” (104).

 

“We must immerse ourselves in a broad range of historical texts, across genres, including but not limited to texts of speeches, to gain a clearer understanding of both the politically active women in our history and the evidence that demonstrates their facility with rhetorical matters (105).

19th century women had rhetorical concerns that men did not: they paid particular attention to their dress: “Their appearance, marking gender (feminine) and intersecting with location (public and improper for women), might instantly preclude a credible ethos and negate efforts to employ logical and pathetic appeals” (105).

 

“How can we possibly judge women’s rhetoric according to masculine standards? We cannot do so fairly. We cannot do so if we want a full understanding of the rhetorical context of our tradition”(107).

 

“Rewriting the rhetorical tradition will be a lengthy process involving relearning history – not only specifics involved in the discovery of new information about women, but also in the way we think about history…We need time to see rhetoric in new ways” (107). Need to explore and find sources not considered in traditional historical studies.

 

Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs. “Consciousness Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly: 32.1 (Winter 2002) 45-64. 

Her argument: “consciousness-raising is the thread that links the recovery of texts, their recuperation through criticism, and the extraction of theoretical principles that underlie women’s ways of persuading” (45). She looks at the recovery of texts, the recuperative process of criticism, and feminist theory.

 

“No matter what contemporary scholars do, the historical record will remain profoundly distorted, skewed toward those lucky enough to be literate, educated, and middle or upper class and whose works appeared in mainstream outlets with wider circulation” (46).

 

“Constraints on who may speak, on what issues, in what sites, on what occasions and using what styles and appeals have been the primary means by which women (and others) have been excluded from rhetorical action” (48).

 

“Based on Western cultural history, the role of rhetor has been gendered masculine, one reason that women’s assumption of it was resisted; skillful women found ways to meet its traditional expectations for cogent argument, appropriate evidence, and refutation of opposing positions while incorporating stylistic elements that projected femininity, such as inductive structure, which increases audience agency, or the use of personal experience, the single area of expertise acknowledged for women” (51).

 

“The task of recovery is unending; recuperation, however, requires the analytical and interpretive work of critics. The most productive theorizing seems to be grounded in the discursive practices of specific women” (59).

 

“Because women have had little conferred authority, their discursive practices inevitably have involved struggles to shape an identity that gave them voice and assumed subordinate or egalitarian relationships to those addressed, which, in turn, presume an epistemic stance based on shared experience, participatory interaction in arriving at conclusions, strategic indirection in presenting evidence and argument, and conversation as the predominant mode through which influence occurs” (60).

 

 

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