Revolution Lullabye

May 25, 2011

Bizzell, Rhetorical Agendas

Bizzell, Patricia (Ed.). Rhetorical agendas: Political, ethical, spiritual (Proceedings of the 11th biennial conference of the Rhetoric Society of America, May 28-31, 2004, Austin Texas). 2006.

These essays were collected from the Rhetoric Society of America’s 2004 conference, which called for papers based on the theme Rhetorical Agendas: Political, Ethical, Spiritual, and the conference featured speakers who took up the theme to talk about a wide range of histories, theories, and pedagogies.

Bizzell argues against the postmodern idea that human beings have no agency, claiming that rhetoric is based on the idea that individual rhetors have choices (constrained, yes, but still have agency), and part of what scholars of rhetoric do is “investigate the conditions that produce rhetorical agency” (xi).

In the collection:

Faigley, Lester. “Rhetorics Fast and Slow.” 3-9.

Faigley distinguishes between “fast rhetoric,” the rhetoric that seems to define our information-saturated, fast-paced world, and “slow rhetoric,” a kind of rhetoric that encourages students and people to think deeply and consider problems from multiple points of view. He argues that developing pedagogies of “slow rhetoric” can better equip students to deal with and solve the complex problems of our world.

“That most of our problems are human-created is both a cause for optimism and depression. Many problems could be addressed if people choose to do so. Yet a sense of inevitability – that nothing can be done – pervades our culture. Fast rhetorics are manifestation of a culture that suffers from attention deficit disorder, a culture where things are quickly used and discarded, a culture where the abuse of the environment and gaping inequalities are ignored. As Jackie Royster puts it, we need better ways of being and better ways of doing. We need pedagogies that encourage students to develop a sense of place, a sense of stewardship, a sense of equity, and a sense of connectedness to the world around them. We need to make better arguments about the value of slow rhetoric and be more imaginative about creating spaces where slow rhetoric can be practiced. The fate of future generations will depend on how well the students we teach can use slow rhetoric” (9).

April 25, 2009

Hawk, A Counter-History of Composition

Hawk, Byron. A Counter-History of Composition: Toward Methodoligies of Complexity. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2007.

Hawk argues that in modern composition, vitalism (equated with romanticism) is seen in opposition to rhetoric, especially in terms of how composition scholars and teacher talk about and teach invention. He centers on 1980 as a pivotal year, analyzing three articles published that year (Richard Young, James Berlin, and Paul Kameen) to show how they positioned the field to take an oppositional approach to vitalism. He argues that vitalism is a powerful, important philosophy with roots in Aristotle and developed in science and philosophy over centuries. It is at the root of complexity theory, which is an increasingly relevant and important theory today, as digital technologies are rapidly changing the cultural context, showing the inadequacy of methods and techniques rooted only in mind-driven logic. He argues for vitalism to take a central role in reconfiguring composition and rhetoric scholarship and pedagogy, because only through vitalism is the body and experience brought together in concert with the mind. Vitalism also prevents teachers from having a set agenda, a set desire for their students to fulfill, placing instead the onus on the students to develop and find their own relations and metaphors, drawing on all possible means and resources in our complex, dynamic, and ever-changing ecology.

Quotable Quotes

“Composition theorists should be striving to develop methods for situating bodies within ecological contexts in ways that reveal the potential for invention, especially the invention of new techniques, that in turn reveal new models for action within those specific rhetorical ecologies” (206).

“An ethical goal for pedagogy, then, would be to design occassions in which students are more likely to create compositions rather than decompositions. A pedagogical act would be evaluated based upon the relationships it fosters and the relationships it serves – on its ability to increase rather than decrease a student’s agency, power, or capacity to produce new productive relations” (256).

“To desire an outcome for them [students] is to commit a certain violence to them” (257).

“Heuristics do not function in a vacuum; they function within complex and specific rhetorical situations. Importantly, the body is the critical, epistemological link between situation and invention. It is the interface.” (120)

Notable Notes

a counterhistory (drawing on Feyerabend) – “a counter-history is an additive paratactic aggregate rather than a recuperative manuever” (123)

distinguishes between 3 forms of vitalism: oppositional (electronmagnetic forces); investigative (scales of influence and organization); complex (events, cooperation)

dissoi logoi – new ways to group texts and to read them

Young – concerned with disciplinarity, so rejects vitalism

Berlin – concerned with his own political Marxist agenda and can’t see anything else, and so rejects vitalism

all the work in comp/rhet on vitalism seems to stem from one dissertation, Hal Rivers Weidner “Three Models of Rhetoric: Traditional, Mechanical, and Vital” (2)

vitalism became the scapegoat term

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