Hi! I'm Melissa Gray and I'm enrolled in ENGL 511. I've pasted my critical response to the first set of readings. I look forward to meeting everyone in class tomorrow!
Critical Response 1 – Readings for July 7, 2014
In the first chapter of The Rhetorical Tradition, Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg offer several overlapping definitions of rhetoric: the practice of, or study of strategies for, oratory, the use of language to persuade, classifications or use of tropes and figures, even the practice of spinning half-truths into propaganda. The definition that I most closely associated with rhetoric before reading this text was the use of language to persuade an audience. My favorite unit to teach in my eighth graders in English class is persuasive writing. Everyone has, at many points, in front of many audiences, attempted to persuade in writing or speech. The students learn Aristotle’s three forms of persuasive appeals by identifying them in commercials. They are stunned and often a bit entranced when they find out there’s a millennia old formula for getting them to want a new pair of Nikes. Once they see rhetoric as relevant, as something that connects to their own lives, then they are able to apply their knowledge to speeches and various writings. What struck me most when reading the three assigned selections was how rhetoric itself, from its definitions to its uses, changed in response to cultural, political and philosophical shifts. Despite the definitions offered, the authors make clear that rhetoric is constantly changing.
In Aristotle’s description of rhetoric, according to Bizzell and Herzberg, “logical appels are regarded as superior to the other two [ethos and pathos]” (4). I found this interesting because, at least in my class’ study of persuasive writing and speeches, we seemed to find more emotional appeals and more references to the speaker or writer’s authority. Even in contemporary political debates, it seems we see more emotional and moral appeals than logic. The authors explain that in the seventeenth century, psychology did confirm “in new ways the classical observation that reason could rarely persuade by itself” (7).
Though the Sophists found little support at the time for the idea that rhetoric was more about “making knowledge” than simply finding the logical truth, their ideas did gain credence in more modern studies of rhetoric. The meanings and uses of rhetoric continued to shift as it was adopted by early Christians to spread their message, and in the Renaissance private conversation came to be viewed as rhetorical. For centuries the study (and even use of) rhetoric of was confined to privileged males. In the late 17th century, women began speaking publicly, using rhetoric as a means of convincing men that they were, in fact, qualified to speak. Audiences and speakers has previously been similar; in the 18th and 19th centuries, audiences and speakers themselves became more diverse. It became more difficult to assume that words chosen by a speaker would have an intended effect on the audience. The authors describe Francis Bacon’s thoughts on the ability of a person to convey the truth: “Human knowledge must be regarded as a version of the objective truth, a version warped by prejudices, preconceptions and imprecise language” (8). This reminded me of a quote from a 1937 BBC radio broadcast on which Virginia Woolf spoke. She explained that “words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind.” A single word might mean one thing to one person and something completely different to another. The speaker and each member of the audience brings with him or her unique experience.
In James Clifford’s The Predicament of Culture, the author begins by introducing a William Carlos Williams poem in which the speaker laments the loss of cultural purity, of tradition. Bizell and Herzberg’s introduction to rhetoric brings us the question of truth and, Clifford’s work looks at the role of the ethnographer in presenting (or representing) that truth. “Who,” Clifford writes, “has the authority to speak for a group’s authenticity?” In “Arts of the Contract Zone,” Mary Louise Pratt examines a similar question. She refers to works by those considered “other” that directly respond to how they have been represented by those in power as “autoethnographic” texts. Guaman Poma’s letter is one striking example. In it, he uses the Spanish language to parody and chastise the Spanish for their poor treatment of the Inca and their land.
I thought that Pratt’s description of her new course, “Cultures, Ideas and Values” was an interesting and fitting modern alternative to the comparatively stale “Western Culture” course. I liked the idea that all the students fell like they had a pa
Ashley Pereira ENGL 511: Cultural Rhetoric July 7, 2014
Critical Analysis 1
Prior to reading The Rhetorical Tradition for the first class, I asked myself to define rhetoric. It was challenging, but I managed to come up with what I believed to be a decently suitable, one-word answer: language. What I have learned about rhetoric thus far in my education and career has always involved some aspect related to language. Once I began reading, I realized that my knowledge of the topic was somewhat limited. However, this excerpt helped me tremendously in gaining a better understanding of rhetoric. Bizzell and Herzberg help the reader attain greater understanding by breaking rhetoric down into different chronological periods instead of trying to specifically define it. Each period is thoroughly explained and the details are clear. It is interesting to learn how rhetoric has developed and changed, both positively and negatively over the course of thousands of years. By and large, learning about the history of rhetoric is proving to be more beneficial for me than trying to determine and understand one set definition for such an expansive topic.
Now, James Clifford’s “The Predicament of Culture” is also an interesting read. Beginning with a poem and using it to refer back to throughout the entire excerpt is quite clever. Clifford’s writing style allows me to better comprehend the concept of ethnography and all it entails. One particular line I find stimulating is when Clifford writes, “Intervening in an interconnected world, one is always, to varying degrees, ‘inauthentic’: caught between cultures, implicated in others” (11). This line struck me as true. I am of both Portuguese and Italian descent and at times, it is rather easy to “get caught” between both cultures. They each are comprised of different beliefs, traditions, ways of life, and it is difficult to achieve a steady balance between the two. I am unable to distinguish which culture I identify most with. Does this mean that I am to some degree, “inauthentic”? According to Clifford, it appears so.
The third reading, Mary Louise Pratt’s “Arts of the Contact Zone” immediately provided me with opportunities to make various connections, but it also presented me with some trouble. In the second paragraph, Pratt solidifies my belief that real-world examples and creative lesson plans are essential in providing an effective education. Students possess a variety of interests and it is necessary to appeal to as many as possible. This provides students with opportunities to determine their own interests and become acquainted with themselves and the world. One small interest can lead to an incredible amount of learning!
Sadly, about one quarter of the way through, Pratt begins to lose me. I cannot seem to follow what she is explaining. However, about halfway through, I am suddenly able to follow her ideas again. It seems that when she describes her examples in an educational context, it is easier for me to grasp the ideas being presented. It is when she veers away from the educational context that provides me with some difficulty in the comprehension and retention of her explanations and examples. Due to this implication, I am still a little unsure of what the “contact zone” actually is.
Overall, although these excerpts have somewhat challenged me, they do appear to be quite useful.
ENGL 511—Special Topics: Cultural Rhetoric
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson
July 7, 2014
The article by James Clifford “The Predicament of Culture” allowed me to come to several realizations that I had not previously considered, as well as several connections to my own life and future encounters that I have always planned on. The story of Elsie had me a bit confused at first. It honestly took me several times reading through the poem in order to grasp the author’s true intention and Clifford’s main point in the interpretation of this writing. First off, something that I had never really thought in-depth about is how when dealing with ethnographic modernity, many times these viewpoints come from “outsiders,” meaning people who are not part of that particular culture they are observing. Many thoughts and opinions arose upon reading this article and I came to the conclusion (although I do not know how I have not picked up on this before) that an outsider cannot accurately portray a different culture or community as an outsider. You normally do not hear from, as Clifford puts it for example, the poor class. While you do hear about celebrities who came from nothing and worked their way to the top, you hardly ever get the story of a struggling person or family who struggles for their entire lives. It is this writing that has the potential to spark change. We see the sufferings of these people in our country, but even more in other countries, but again, this reporting is done through another’s eyes; they do not have the foundation to give this topic any justice or hope for change. Back to Clifford and observing a culture that is not his own, this issue is apparent in the poem by William Carlos Williams (a doctor) writing about a girl Elsie working in his kitchen or laundry room and helping his wife out around the house. It almost seems as if he is describing her as an intruder in his household. Here you have a doctor, assuming of a wealthy class, observing the on goings of presumably his household servant, depicting the clashing of cultures. It is one of those observations that connected to my life. As a teacher, I have been recording funny moments in my classroom in a journal, with hopes of combining these precious moments into a book. This relates to Williams’ observation. I am not a student, merely a teacher taking an outsiders approach. Can I accurately depict my students’ lives? No, but I can capture a moment through a teacher’s viewpoint on my students.
However, with this said, this brings about the second article “Arts of the Contact Zone” by Mary Louise Pratt. I found myself getting frustrated with this article. I enjoyed the opening story about her son and the aspect of baseball cards and watching her child develop and grow. It is the second column of the first page that bothers me when she writes: “Like many parents, I was delighted to see schooling give Sam the tools with which to find and open all these doors. At the same time I found it unforgivable that schooling itself gave him nothing remotely meaningful to do, let alone anything that would actually take him beyond the referential, masculinist ethos of baseball and its lore.” This to me, reads as an attack on educators which should be directed elsewhere. Teachers work their hardest to provide students with the best education possible, dictated by THE STATE. While she later addresses the fact that teachers do not necessarily have the freedom to make the connections she so deeply she wants her children to have (and teachers want their students to have), the attack is misdirected. She then makes it noted that she is not coming from the perspective as a parent, or as an expert as literacy. However, she later attacks educators again, in my view, by providing a sample writing assignment from the teacher and then the writing assignment completed by her child. It was quite humorous, however she said on this humorous aspect that “No recognition was available, however, of the humor, the attempt to be critical or contestatory, to parody the structures of authority” (39). This is a huge generalization. With my students’ writing (and many other teachers that I know of) we take hours upon hours looking at students’ work and providing insightful, helpful comments, alongside making the notes of areas of amusement. But, back to her beginning disclaimer of not being here as a parent, I find Pratt not to be taking an objective opinion. The rest of the article I had a hard time following as I found it jump to sections that were not entirely connected and found myself many times having to reread (and then reread) passages to get the full meaning. I did find the manuscript letter of twelve hundred pages from Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala to King Philip III of Spain very interesting, as well as the well-thought out illustrations depicting cross-cultur
As an English teacher at an upper middle class, predominantly white school, many of the students in my classroom are Caucasian. I try to refrain from saying that there is a lack of diversity in my classes. I believe that my students, with their own unique personalities, do create diversity. However, many of the students in my class come from similar cultural backgrounds. I am looking forward to taking this course because I think that it will allow me to empower my students with a greater understanding of the dynamics that exist both within and between different cultures. Hopefully, I will be able to broaden my own mind and in turn, impart some of my knowledge to my students.
I began my pre-reading with the article entitled “The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present”. I found the article to be an effective means of orienting myself to the course. With my eleventh grade American Literature class, I teach a mini-unit on rhetoric during our study of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In the spirit of the great orator, the unit emphasizes the ways in which rhetorical appeals are employed in various texts, including Douglass. Students are then asked to compose and give a persuasive speech on a topic of their choice. I also ask students to complete an activity that is similar to the “Found Rhetoric” presentation. They are asked to find an example of visual rhetoric and present it to the class. Typically many students find inspiration from the media for this assignment. They are usually surprised and intrigued when they realize how pervasive and relevant rhetoric truly is.
In the article “The Predicament of Culture” by James Clifford, Clifford makes some fascinating arguments. He references the conflict that stemmed from the Museum of Modern Art’s consideration of “exotic objects” (12) associated with specific cultures as “modern” art. Clifford asks, “How have exotic objects been given value as “art” and “culture” in Western collecting systems”? (12). In asking such a question, Clifford also asks the reader to consider the subtleties of cultural appropriation. While those who support the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit might deem it as a sign of progress and acceptance, critics might claim that adopting the iconography of another culture is more so a demonstration of privilege.
Clifford also appropriately notes that, “This century has seen a drastic expansion in mobility, including tourism, migrant labor, immigration, urban sprawl. More and more people “dwell” with the help of mass transit, automobiles, airplanes…the “exotic” is uncannily close. Over the past school year I noticed a collective lack of curiosity amongst my ninth grade students. Perhaps this is because, in year 2014, the “exotic” is no longer “exotic” when technology creates such vast accessibility?
At the end of “The Predicament of Culture”, Clifford references the character from the Williams poem that he uses to introduce the article, Elsie. After reading the author’s insights into the relationship between modernity and culture, his choice for including the Williams poem seems appropriate. Elsie, with her “great/ungainly hips and flopping breasts (4) is representative of humanity’s relationship with “modernity’s inescapable momentum” (5). Clifford concludes by noting somewhat pessimistically, “The world is increasingly connected, though not unified, economically and culturally” (17). Choosing to begin his article with a poet like Williams, who thematically reflects the disillusioned attitude of the post World-War I Modernist movement, enforces Clifford’s assertion that “Everywhere in the world distinctions are being destroyed and created; but the new identities and orders of difference are more reminiscent of Williams’ Elsie than of Edward Curtis’s idealized “vanishing” American Indians” (17).
Jodie Nelson – Musings on the readings for July 7, 2014
Of the list of definitions offered in the introduction to The Rhetorical Tradition, societally we, the collective multi-cultural ‘we’ are predisposed to understand ‘rhetoric’ in light of the seventh definition, “the use of empty promises and half-truths as a form of propaganda.” Contemporary historical accounts of national affairs and global incidents are replete with examples of political propaganda fashioned ‘rhetorically’ of half-truths, part-truths, and too often blatant lies. Some Individuals and communities are inclined to accept what is read, seen, or heard as being ‘somewhat’ true, with the innate understanding that the information ‘is spun,’ rhetorically, while other individuals and communities turn a blind eye and ear to this underlying truth, as the practice of discernment requires far too much effort. Still others remain far less cognizant of the ‘spinning’, and are inclined to believe as ‘truth’ whatever they read, see, or hear. Secondly, or concurrently, depending on the audience or situation, ‘we’ are inclined to understand, albeit mostly subconsciously in terms of the third definition, “the use of language, written or spoken, to inform or persuade.” After all, ‘we’ are ‘consumers’ and as such everything we read, see, or hear is meant to convince us to purchase, or consume. Accordingly, we are so much so a community of consumers that we need technological devices to record and save up to twelve television shows at a time, that we do not run the risk of missing all or any one of those ‘realities.’ Apparently, we need “The Hoppa,” or Hopper (I wonder if the company airs the same commercial nationally, or if they alter the accent according to regional pronunciations.). Nationally, “we run on Dunkin,” or so we are ‘told,’ and we need a bombardment of advertisements to remind us of this. This conglomeration has gone so far as to provide those visual literate, but otherwise ‘unread,’ iconic reminders… (visual not accepted)
‘Big Daddy A’ may very well be rolling over given the current state of acceptance, or understanding by the general public’s ignorance or unawareness of the first and second definitions of rhetoric offered in the ‘general’ introduction of Bizell’s and Herzberg’s, The Rhetorical Tradition. “The practice of oratory” and “the study of strategies of effective oratory,” in American high school’s curriculums has seemingly gone the way of the study of etiquette…down the other “hoppa.” Albeit, speaking and listening literacy is on the national educational stage, and clearly, it is considered a 21st century learning expectation necessary for our youth to be competitive in our global society as it is a component outlined in, and mandated by the Common Core. The question, however as to what degree of importance is the attainment of proficiency in this literacy necessary remains unanswered. MCAS, nor PAARC address or assess the competency of tenth graders in this realm, and as such do we not value this literacy as much as the incorporation of it into the Common Core would lead one to believe? A cursory investigation of the state of attention to oration, debate, or dialectics revealed evidentiary support that ‘we,’ meaning stakeholders in the current state of education in America, are not paying near enough attention to the teaching of these skills as other countries around the world. Although statistics regarding neither the number of high schools offering debate clubs as an extra-curricular option, nor the number of students involved in extra-curricular debate teams, nor the number of school’s still offering Speech and Debate courses, I was able to quickly determine that as a nation, we are not ‘competitive.’ The World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) is an annual English-language debating tournament for high school-level teams representing different countries. In the twenty-five years between 1988 and 2013, the United States has earned the Championship title once, in 1994, but has not been a runner-up or a semi-finalist on any other occasion within the same timeframe. (Wikipedia) Given the penchant of this nation for championships, gold medals, and a myriad of titles for athletic endeavors, on can certainly spin this as being a lack of concern regarding our student’s oratory and dialectic prowess. Bid Daddy A msut be rolling over… thank you again Malea Powell.
(This is only one topoi of a myriad of possible responses to these readings...one page - Hah!)
This blog is designed for us to share responses to readings and to engage in conversations about Cultural Rhetorics.