Revolution Lullabye

July 6, 2009

Berlin, Rhetoric and Reality

Berlin, James A. Rhetoric and Reality: Writing Instruction in American Colleges, 1900-1985. Carbondale, Southern Illinois UP, 1987.

Berlin traces the history of writing instruction in American colleges through three epistemological categories that have dominated rhetorical theory and practice since 1900: objective, subjective, and transactional. There is no one rhetoric – the rhetoric that informs a particular practice instructs students with a particular epistemology, a way of knowing and understanding the world. He surveys the dominant rhetorics in chapters that span twenty years (1900-1920; 1920-1940; 1940-1960), concluding with two chapters (1960-1975; 1975-1985) that try to capture the state of the emerging field of composition and rhetoric. His last chapter argues that all three epistemologies are present in composition and rhetoric research, but transactional rhetorics – ones that take into consideration the interplay between subject and object, the individual and society – lead the field.

Notable Notes

Objective – reality is in the external world and material objects, positivistic, current-traditional, language distorts truth, Scottish Common Sense realism, arrangement and correctness in writing, science

Subjective – truth exists within the subject and is discovered within, Plato, Emerson, Freud, cognitive psychology, romanticism, idealism, private, peer editing, therapist, voice, personal vision

Transactional – truth is at the intersection of subject and object, mediated by audience and language. Three kinds: classical (concerned with speaker, audience); cognitive (concerned with mind and nature, development); epistemic (concerned with speaker, audience, language, material reality; rhetoric is in all human behavior)

his history is written through articles, texts on rhetorical instruction history, textbooks

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