Berkenkotter and Huckin – Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication: Cognition/ Culture/ Power

Berkenkotter, Carol, and Thomas N. Huckin. Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication: Cognition/ Culture/ Power. Hillsdale, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates, 1995. Print.

In Genre Knowledge in Disciplinary Communication: Cognition/ Culture/ Power, the authors outline their theory of genre knowledge from a sociocognitive perspective and then further explicate how it works through several case studies featuring different forms of academic discourse, including scientific journal articles, academic conventions, and graduate school writing assignments.

The authors opened the text by stating the importance of Genre Studies to academic disciplines:

Genres are the media through which scholars and scientists communicate with their peers. Genres are intimately linked to a discipline’s methodology, and they package information in ways that conform to a discipline’s norms, values, and ideology. Understanding the genres of written communication in one’s field is, therefore, essential to professional success” (1).

Despite the importance of genre to all disciplines, including Composition and Rhetorical Studies, at the time, Berkenkotter and Huckin claimed that very little work informed by case research with insiders had been done regarding genre in rhetorical studies (2). Their research, based on eight years of rhetorical and linguistic analyses of case study data that foregrounded individual writers’ language-in-use, argued for the importance of focusing on the ways in which writers use genre knowledge (or fail to do so) as they engage in various disciplinary activities (i.e. negotiating revise and resubmits with reviewers, or judging conference proposals) (3). Their thesis was “that genres are inherently dynamic rhetorical structures that can be manipulated according to the conditions of use, and that genre knowledge is therefore best conceptualized as a form of situated cognition embedded in disciplinary activities. For writers to make things happen… they must know how to strategically utilize their understanding of genre” (3). In other words, genre knowledge for scholars (and everyone else) is an available means of persuasion.

Through their grounded, predominantly inductive approach they developed their theoretical framework consisting of the following five principles:

  • Dynamism – genres are dynamic rhetorical forms that develop from actors’ responses to recurring situations. Genres change over time in response to user’s sociocognitive needs
  • Situatedness – genres develop fromand are a part of user’s participation in communicative activities
  • Form and Content – genre knowledge embraces both form and content, including a sense of what content is appropriate based on the particular purpose, situation and time
  • Duality and Structure – as users draw on genre rules they both constitute social structures and reproduce them
  • Community Ownership – genre conventions signal a discourse community’s norms, epistemology, ideology, and social ontology (4).

Through the case studies presented in the text it s clear that at the same time genre knowledge can help users execute more rhetorical savvy and enact agency, its use can also reinforce rigid structures and perpetuate gatekeeping. This can serve as a hindrance to newcomers to a genre, such as doctoral students as evidenced in chapter 7, a case study on former Carnegie Mellon University’s Rhetoric program doctoral student John Ackerman (AKA “Nate”). While the study argued that over the course of several years of enculturation in the program Nate shifted from using genre conventions that identified him with his previous community and began to use those most suitable to his discipline, the study also highlighted tensions when individuals are faced with using academic discourse: “The linguistic analysis we did on Nate’s texts show clearly that he had difficulty switching from the one mode to the other. Although informal, expressive writing appears to help writers explore new ideas, it also may deter them from expressing these ideas in the highly explicit, cohesive, hierarchical style expected in formal expository prose” (142). The authors cited Chafe’s argument that in informal speech, writers also focused on their thoughts and feelings – this clearly went against the genre’s conventions. It is clear that in Nate’s example the issue was not a lack of clarity on his part, but one of genre violation on his part and gatekeeping on the part of his department, university, and perhaps discipline.

This issue of conformity to academic genres is addressed in chapter 8, as well, but from more-so with regard to the schooling of children. The authors use scholarship on teaching academic genres in the UK and Australia to question U.S. approaches. While acknowledging the power and privilege differentials between white and nonwhite students in the U.S. and abroad, their review of the literature showed a tentativeness with regard to a solution. They argued that the solution is not as simple as teaching genre knowledge in the classroom and cited Kress (1987, “Genres are cultural constructs, they are as culture determines. Challenging genres is therefore challenging culture” (159).

The concluded with a more comprehensive suggestion:

“It may be that a genre approach to the teaching of writing does not fit many language arts and composition teachers’ conception of their role, given their training, ideological loyalties, and professional allegiances. If this is the case, rethinking the training of language arts and composition teachers as well as the current curricula in language arts and university writing courses may be what is called for, should enough teachers and scholars see a need to bring about systemic, programmatic change.” (163) [Bold emphasis is mine]

Dias et al. – Worlds Apart and Writing in Academic and Workplace Contexts

Dias, Patrick, et al. Worlds Apart :Acting and Writing in Academic and Workplace Contexts. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999. Print. Rhetoric, Knowledge, and Society.

In this text, the authors explored how writing functioned in academic and workplace contexts in order to determine the correlation between academic writing instruction and workplace writing preparation. The study began in 1992 and one goal of the study was to identify commonalities and differences between writing in academic and workplace settings. They selected four matching university and professional settings: public administration courses and Federal government institutions, management courses and corresponding work settings, architecture courses and a firm of architects, social work courses and social work agencies. The different pairs represented different genres of writing.The researchers used a multiple case study approach to study writers and writing across both academic and workplace settings. They stated that they chose case study in order to ensure that participants’ perspective were an integral part of the study.
The Data-gathering activities consisted of:
  1. Inventorying the genres in each domain
  2. Document tracking
  3. Conducting Reading protocols of designated readers
  4. Ethnographic observation of writers involved in tasks of composing
  5. Interviews
  6. Participant validation (12-13)
For data analyses researchers utilized textual analyses of the writing collected , analyses of oral discourse surrounding production of texts using categories based of systematic linguistics, and sociolinguistic analyses of production and reception of texts within the acts of speaking, reading, and writing occurred (13-14).
Two main questions they attempted to answer were:
  • How do university writing practices relate to writing in the workplace?
  • In what sense and to what extend is writing in university a preparation for writing in the workplace? (15)
Concerns emerging from the research:
  • What changes need to be made in university teaching practices in order to exploit more fully the potential of writing as a tool for learning, and to prepare students to enter more easily into workplace writing practices?
  • Can universities prepare students to write for work?
  • What workplace practices inhibit the full development and use of writing for productive work? What practices support the use of writing to promote workplace goals?

The researchers used a combination of several theoretical frameworks that emphasize the situated nature of writing, including: Genre Studies, Activity Theory (AT), Situated Learning within Communities of Practice (COP), Distributed Cognition, and Semiotic Theory.

Genre studies helped the authors to frame written discourse as “regularized, but not fixed; fluid, flexible, and dynamic; emerging and evolving in exigence and action; reflecting and incorporating social needs, demands, and structures; and responsive to social interpretations and reinterpretations of necessarily shifting, complex experiences” (23).
In this study, language, and writing in particular, are understood as mediating tools:
“Language as mediational means or tool is not a mere neutral conduit; it also puts its own mark on mediated action. Thus, in our case the genres that constitute the mediating communicative means of a community may affect thinking by constraining the sort of thought that can be expressed (and by creating a need to have certain kinds of thoughts in order to fulfill the requirements of the genre). And in general we concur with his insistence on regarding agent, means, and actions as integrally bound and irreducible.” (36)
The authors argued that it is fair to expect academic institutions to prepare students for workplace writing, but that in order to do so, we must acknowledge that there are differences in the act of writing in academic and workplace settings.
“Because with few exceptions writing is a medium deployed in both worlds, such preparation is not an unreasonable expectation. And it is precisely such an expectation that makes acting, the second term in our title, critical. Writing is acting; but in Activity Theory terms, writing at work and writing at school constitute two very different activities, one primarily epistemic and oriented to accomplishing the work of schooling, and the other primarily an instrumental and often economic activity, and oriented accordingly toward accomplishing the work of an organization. In that light, one activity, writing in school, is not necessarily preparation for successfully undertaking the other activity, writing at work.” (223)
These differences can be seen in  real ways, such as through the types of feedback given in response to writing in both contexts: “What seem radically different are the other sorts of consideration that inform the supervisor’s commentary. Whereas the professor’s sense of what is necessary and appropriate derives from ‘the literature,’ or from the curriculum, or from a sense of what is currently valued in the written transactions of the discipline, the intertext on which the supervisor draws is more varied and more diffuse” (225).
While functional literacies are portable in the transition from university to workplace, rhetorical literacy is necessary for the transition from the university to work: “Certainly, skills related to portable tools: computer-related skills, including key boarding, word-processing, and spreadsheet skills, language fluency, abilities related to using and designing forms, charts, and other kinds of graphic displays. Oral skills and the social skills valued in group work ought to carry over as well. Again, we meed to remind ourselves that such skills will be modified in transition; for instance, an individual’s fluency will be severely retarded in the workplace if he or she lack rhetorical savvy” (232).
Based on their study, the authors argued that in order for academic writing instruction to translate into workplace writing success, several aspects of workplace writing should be incorporated into academic writing instruction.

“It seems reasonable that the embededness of writing in workplace practices ought to be replicated in school settings as well, if it isn’t for the fact that the process of education does often operate on a model of detaching skills and practices from their workaday settings in order to teach them effectively. Such encapsulation (Engestrom, 1991) of knowledge and skills is quite likely a deterrent rather than an aid to learning to write… If there is one major, obvious-seeming way in which educational courses might prepare people better for the demands of writing at work, it is through constituting the class as a working group with some degree of complexity, continuity, and interdependency of joint activity. Such arrangements will go some way toward realizing the far richer communicative relations that contextualize writing in the workplace.” (235)

Herndl – “Teaching Discourse and Reproducing Culture: A Critique of Research and Pedagogy in Professional and Non-Academic Writing

Herndl, Carl G. “Teaching Discourse and Reproducing Culture:A Critique of Research and Pedagogy in Professional and Non-Academic Writing.” Central Works in Technical Communication. Eds. J. Johnson-Eilola and S. Selber. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 220-231. Print.

In this chapter, Carl Herndl argued for the need to have a more grounded theory of pedagogy in technical writing instruction based in his experience as a technical writing instructor and theories from Composition and Rhetorical Studies, Marxism, Feminist Studies, and critical pedagogy. Because education is not neutral, Herndl asserted that if we are uncritical in our research and teaching “our pedagogical practice will produce students who are ignorant of the ideological development of discourse and who cannot perceive the cultural consequences of a dominant discourse or the alternate understandings it excludes” (222).

Herndl cited Paulo Freire as the most familiar voice of radical pedagogy for writing theory. Several of Freire’s assumptions regarding critical pedagogy, including:

  • to be human is to develop a conscious recognition of your relationship to the social world and that educations can transform this relationship
  • to be oppressed is not only having your economic and political rights violated, but also to be submerged in what he calls a “culture of silence” by the misrecognition of your relation to the social and ideological
  • misrecognition is when you accept the practices and rationalities of your social position as natural and necessary rather than seeing them as ideologically constructed and politically interested; misrecognition leads people to accept and cooperate with an ideological system which oppresses them (223).

The goal of radical pedagogy, according to Herndl and Freire, is to bring students to consciousness where they neither accommodate nor merely oppose the social order, but can actively reposition themselves within it: “From this perspective, teaching a non-academic discourse without a careful cultural analysis reinforces the culture’s dominant ideological structures and makes cultural self-consciousness difficult if not impossible” (223).

Herndl theorized that individuals could use rhetorical and discursive action in order to come to a greater consciousness:

“That is, by recognizing and articulating the medium of their actions, they can affect the outcome of those actions. Thus education becomes a key process for either cultural self-recognition (Freire’s conscientizacao) or the reification of the structural properties as simply ‘the way things are’ (Freire’s ‘culture of silence’).” (224)

In his outline for a pedagogy for professional writing courses, Herndl suggested that instead of taking a theoretical approach, teachers need to begin working with a discourse and institution which is “palpable” to students. In accordance with this grounded approach, Herndl argued that students would more readily “recognize the connections between ideology, power, and discourse, and the value of resistance, if teachers started with a discourse that directly affected student’s lives” (229).

Within this model, difference is only accepted, but encouraged. Herndl drew on John Trimbur’s rhetoric of dissensus which argued that “collaborative learning can develop a ‘rhetoric of dissensus’ which leads students not to a conformity which reifies the existing social and institutional relations, but rather to ‘collective explanations of how people differ, where the differences come from, and whether they can live and work together with these differences’ (610)” (229).

Herndly asserted that a rhetoric of dissensus applied to technical writing pedagogy would benefit students:

“Once students see how these issues apply to their academic discourse, they can begin to apply the same understanding to the professional discourses they are entering. This rhetoric of dissensus does not condemn professional or technical discourse as ideologically incorrect, but it does allow students to recognize the ideological conditions and consequences of these discourses, and it provides a practical model of resistance.” (229)

More research is necessary, however, in professional and technical discourse in order to aid students in making the shift from discussing the
discourse of the university to analyzing professional discourses.

“Working from such reinterpreted and reconceived research, students and teachers can begin to explore the sources pf power and authority which condition their disciplinary and professional discourse. When it is successful, this pedagogy will allow students to participate in these professional discourses with a degree of self-reflexivity and ideological awareness necessary to resistance and cultural criticism.” (229)

Bartholomae – Inventing the University

Bartholomae, David. “Inventing the University.” When a writer can’t write (1985): 134-65. Print.

In this foundational article, David Bartholomae explicated the challenges of first year students in adjusting to academic discourse at the college level. In his examination of 500 student essays for placement in college writing courses, Bartholomae wrote that the difference between those students labeled “basic writers” and those seen as proficient in college writing skills was the degree to which they were able to confidently negotiate academic discourse, who for most was a relatively foreign language. Of one student who struggled to take on the authority necessary to successfully use academic discourse in their writing, Bartholomae wrote the student’s essay was:

“… the record of a writer who has lost himself in the discourse of his readers. There is a context beyond the reader that is not the world but a way of talking about the world, a way of  talking that determines the use of examples, the possible conclusions, the acceptable commonplaces, and the key words of an essay on the construction of a clay model of the earth. This writer has entered the discourse without successfully approximating it.” (138)

Bartholomae argued that a key component of academic writing is the ability of the writer to “build bridges” between his point of view and his readers (139). This, however, according to Bartholomae, requires students inexperienced and unfamiliar with academic discourse to see themselves within a privileged discourse that they cannot control and that selectively includes and excludes groups of readers and writers. This issue of audience awareness, Bartholomae contended, is therefore “a problem of power and finesse” (140).

Through his examination of the student essays in his study, Bartholomae concluded that the so-called problem of “basic writers” is less a matter of sentence level errors than it is their difficulty in appropriating the particular “codes” and larger language of power and assumed wisdom in the university:

“In the papers I’ve examined in this essay, the writers have shown a varied awareness of the codes – or the competing codes – that operate within a discourse. To speak with authority student writers have to not only to speak in another’s voice but through another’s “code”; and they not only have to do this, they have to speak in the voice and through the codes of those of us with power and wisdom; and they not only have to do this, they have to participate in and know what they are doing, before they have a project to participate in and before, at least in terms of our disciplines, they have anything to say.” (156)

While Bartholomae implied that the problem was not in the inherent defect of incoming college students, but the expectations the university community places on them to use codes and prior discourses that they have not yet had time to learn, he did not question necessity of these expectations or the role of administrators and educators in perpetuating these expectations. Instead, Bartholomae suggested that students may need to learn to “crudely ‘mimic’ the ‘distinctive register’ of academic discourse before they are prepared to actually and legitimately do the work of the discourse, and before they are sophisticated enough with the refinements of tone and gesture to do it with grace and elegance” (162). He takes a functional literacy approach to writing pedagogy in which academic literacy is a tool (Selber 2004) and practice using it or revision makes perfect.

Selber – Multiliteracies for a Digital Age

Selber, Stuart A. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age. Southern Illinois University Press, 2004. Print.

Stuart Selber distinguished this text on computer literacy in a digital age by approaching the subject from a humanities perspective instead of a technical one. He contended that college English teachers need to take a postcritical stance toward computer literacy in which they understand that computers in education are inevitable and need to help their students develop a critical consciousness regarding digital technology and computer literacy.

“In sum, if teachers fail to adopt a postcritical stance, thus leaving technology design and education to those outside of the field, it is entirely probable that students will have a much more difficult time understanding computers in critical, contextual, and historical ways; that technology designs, informed by pedagogical and cultural values not our own, will define and redefine literacy practices in ways that are less than desirable; and that computer literacy initiatives will simply serve to perpetuate rather than alleviate existing social inequities.” (12)

The three components of his multiliteracy approach include functional literacy, critical literacy and rhetorical literacy. All three of these literacies are necessary because while functional and critical literacies are necessary to help students utilize and understand these technologies within their contexts, the rhetorical aspect of interfaces also need requires attention, according to Selber: “… students who are rhetorical literate will recognize the persuasive dimensions of human-computer interfaces and the deliberative and reflective aspects of interface design, all of which is not a purely technical endeavor but a form of social action” (140).

Selber outlined specific parameters for each of the three literacies, but cautioned readers/ educators that his program should not be taken as a rigid prescription, but as a suggestive guide. His table of the conceptual landscape of a computer multiliteracies program provides a clear summary of how the literacies work in relation to one another and their objectives:

Functional Literacy views computers as tools (metaphor), students as users of technology (subject position) to achieve effective employment (objective)

Critical Literacy views computers as cultural artifacts (metaphor) and students as questioners of technology (subject position) to achieve informed critique (objective)

Rhetorical Literacy views computers as hypertextual media (metaphor) and students as producers of technology  (subject position) to achieve reflective praxis (objective)

Selber essentially argued that Neil Postman was right: technological education is not a “technical” subject, but one of the humanities.

“Humanists often have estranged or uncomfortable relationships with technology, yet neither indifference nor paralysis are acceptable options nowadays. In fact, an important role for English departments is to help position human-computer interaction as essentially a social problem, one that involves values, interpretation, contingency, persuasion, communication, deliberation, and more.” (235)

Bolter and Grusin – Remediation: Understanding New Media

Bolter, J. D., and R. Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. The MIT Press, 2000. Print.

As the title states, this text seeks to help readers understand “new media” by highlighting what is and isn’t new about it by using the theory of remediation. Bolter and Grusin placed new digital media, specifically visual media, within the contexts of older media such as photography, painting, television, etc. to demonstrate how by definition each medium is understood in relation to another.

“Digital visual media can best be understood through the ways in which they honor, rival, and revise  linear-perspective painting, photography, film, television, and print. No medium today, and certainly no single media event, seems to do its cultural work in isolation from other media, any more than it works in isolation from other social and economic forces. What is new about  new media comes from the particular ways in which they  refashion older media and the ways in which older media refashion themselves  to answer the  challenges of new media.” (15)

Their central argument was that more aggressive practices of remediation, the representation of one medium in another, is a defining characteristic of the new digital media (45): “Unlike  our other examples  of  hypermediacy,  this  form of  aggressive remediation does create an apparently seamless space.  It  conceals its  relationship  to earlier media in the  name of  transparency;  it promises the user an unmediated experience, whose paradigm again is virtual reality” (56).

The text is divided into three major sections: theory, illustrations, and implications for remediation and new media on American culture’s definition of self. The authors argued that new media, and technologies in general, must be understood in terms of their connection to other media, culture, and our social identities.

“The  World Wide Web is  not  merely  a  software  protocol and text and  data  files. It  is  also  the sum  of  the  uses  to which this  protocol is  now being  put:  for  marketing and advertising,  scholarship,  personal expression,  and  so on. These uses  are as much a part  of  the  technology as the  software  itself  For  this  reason, we  can say  that  media technologies  are agents in our culture without  falling  into  the trap  of technological  determinism.  New digital  media are not external agents that  come to disrupt an unsuspecting  culture. They  emerge from within  cultural contexts,  and  they  refashion  other media,  which are embedded  in the same  or similar contexts.” (19)

Their discussion of remediation opens up space for more nuanced discussions of human and technological agency in new media:

“Computer programs may  ultimately be human products,  in the  sense that  they  embody algorithms devised by human programmers,  but once the  program is  written and loaded,  the  machine can  operate without  human  intervention” (27).

Remediation as a theoretical framework is helpful in understanding this phenomenon because we can see how, in attempts to achieve transparency and immediacy, programmers intentionally seek  to remove the traces  of  their presence  in order to give  these programs the greatest possible autonomy (27).

The authors defined two major concepts in remediation, immediacy and hypermediacy, and explained how the two are simultaneously in tension with one another and interdependent. In short, the two can be understood through the “window/s” metaphor:

“Where immediacy  suggests a  unified visual space, contemporary hypermediacy offers a heterogeneous space, in which representation is conceived of  not  as a  window on to the world, but rather  as ‘windowed’ itself-with windows that open on to other representations or other media” (34).

Examples of hypermediacy in modern art include collages and photo-montages.

Hypermedia  and  transparent media are  opposite manifestations  of the  same desire:  “the desire  to get past  the limits of representation  and  to achieve the real.” Not “real” in a metaphysical sense, but “real” based on the viewers experience; “it is that which would evoke an immediate (and therefore authentic) emotional response” (53). This appeal to authenticity of experience is what brings the logics of immediacy and hypermediacy together (71).

The authors argued that this desire for immediacy is neither new nor neutral. One of the most compelling examples of this desire is the image of a draftsman drawing a picture of a nude woman from Albrect Durer, Unterweysung der Messung, Nurenberg, 1538. Bolter and Grusin suggested the image shows the desire for immediacy in viewing the female body with a clinical gaze “to analyze and control, if not possess, its female object” (79). They argued, “The  woodcut  suggests  the  possibility  that  technologies  of transparent  immediacy based on linear perspective, such  as  perspective  painting, photography, and film, or  computer graphics and virtual  reality, may  all be enacting the  so-called  male gaze, excluding  women  from  full  participation  as subjects  and maintaining  them  as objects” (79). At the same time, this example shows how media can be used to deny female desire and subjectivity, the book also offers numerous examples of human bodies are mediated as well as how immediacy and hypermediacy are employed to express new identities and subjectivities in new media.

Ultimately, Bolter and Grusin contended that because all media are understood in relation to other media, the only thing brand new about new media are the unique ways that we employ them in particular contexts now, and this will continue to be the case with any other new media: “The true novelty would be a new medium that did not refer for its meaning to other meaning at all. For our culture, such mediation without remediation seems to be impossible” (271).

Bridwell-Bowles – Discourse and Diversity: Experimental Writing within the Academy

Bridwell-Bowles, Lillian. “Discourse and Diversity: Experimental Writing within the Academy.” Feminism and Composition :A Critical Sourcebook. Eds. Gesa Kirsch, et al. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003. 294-313. Print.

In this essay, Lillian Bridwell-Bowles utilized theories from Feminist Studies, critical pedagogy, and Composition and Rhetorical Studies as well as her teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels to “imagine” and explicate the possibilities for the use of what she called a “diverse discourse” within the academy. She acknowledged the limitations of academic discourse and academic essays as a genre to connect with and express the full diversity of student bodies as well as meet their rhetorical needs. Despite the advances in composition theory through theories of cognitive process, social construction and advances in technology, Bridwell-Bowles argued that as long as our language remained inadequate (limited to academic discourse) our vision, thinking, and feeling will not be transformative (Rich 1979). Bridwell-Bowles alternative to exclusive academic discourse is “diverse discourse,” a discourse inspired by feminist discourse that allows for more languages and forms outside of academic discourse. She stated her conscious and political choice to not call it “alternative discourse” because it “does not allow us to reform thinking, to imagine the possibility that writing choices that are now marginal could someday be positioned alongside, or in place of , the dominant ones” (295). Bridell-Bowles does not argue for throwing out the pedagogical “baby (traditional academic writing components) with the bath water,” but asserts that in light of new theory these conventions should not be the only ones that count. While Bridwell-Bowles does not explicitly weigh in on the validity of bidialectalism for the speakers of language varieties outside of “standard” English, she does question its efficacy: “We may agree on its necessity, but not on its sufficiency. I also believe that linguistic and rhetorical flexibility may help students to write better conventional prose” (296).

Through her own experience and student examples Bridwell-Bowles admits she cannot provide concrete answers, but attempts to hypothesize the existence of a powerfully diverse discourse that allows for variation in race, gender, class, sexual orientation and other human variation. This work is challenging in complicated to do using a “patriarchal, racist, and classist variant of language,” because “it may not be possible to create feminist discourse with a “father’s tongue’ (Penelope) or the ‘master’s tools’ (Lorde, Master’s)” (298). She provides student examples of writing without argument and experimentation with form to illustrate ways that students have put themselves “back into their writing.” As she works to dot he same in her own writing she is candid about the privilege she has to do so as a tenured faculty member, but asserts that she intends to use this power to open more doors for others to do the same.

“The real change does not lie on the surface of language at all, where I have chosen to begin, but in the deep structure where language and culture interact. In these places, I treasure the new meanings that I and many others have discovered” (312).

 

Brooke – Lingua Fracta

Brooke, Collin. Lingua Fracta. Creeskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc., 2009.

Lingua Fracta starts from the premise that there is a technological dimension to rhetoric, but as a discipline we have become fixated on the print context of rhetoric. As a result our understandings and practices of rhetoric are steeped in print media and do not appreciate any other dimensions, least of all new technologies. Instead of technology being the enemy and impending doom of print media and rhetoric, as some have predicted, new communication and information technologies can in fact go beyond offering new sites for rhetorical practice and prompt us to rethink our traditions. At the same time, in moving toward a rhetoric of new media, Brooke urged scholars not to try and reinvent the wheel, but to look to our traditional canon and trivium for the basis of this transformation.

Brooke’s underlying argument is that criticism and critical frameworks are inadequate and unsuitable for the study of new media because it requires a stable and fixed text: “New criticism simply because criticism or “close reading,” a species of analysis that survives to the present day in the form of rhetorical analyses for instance, that urge students to locate instances of ethos, logos, and pathos in particular texts” (9). Brooke stated that new criticism is not intrinsically wrong, but they are not suitable because they render “new media” as objects to be studied and “[n]ew media ‘objects’ lend themselves neither to close reading nor really to demonstrating the broader values represented by the theoretical concepts that Landow deploys” (14). Instead, Brooke asserted that a rhetoric of new media should view new media and texts as interfaces instead of objects:

“A turn toward the interface as our unit of analysis would be an acknowledgement that it is not necessary that these processes culminate in products (which can then be decoupled from the contexts of their production), but rather that what we think of as products (books, articles, essays) are but special, stabilized instances of ongoing process conducted at the level of interface.” (25)

furthermore…

“…we must begin to move from a text-based rhetoric, exemplified by our attachment to the printed page, to a rhetoric that can account for the dynamics of the interface” (26).

Brooke argued that while a rhetoric of new media requires us to rethink our fixation on textual objects, we do not have to invent this rhetoric wholesale. To this end, in chapter 2, he explicated how we can revamp our traditional rhetorical canons in light of an ecological framework, highlights scholars who are beginning to do such work, and lays out his model of rethinking the trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic into layered ecologies.

In this ecological approach the trivium can be rethought as:

  • grammar —> ecologies of code
  • rhetoric —> ecologies of practice
  • dialectic/ logic —> ecologies of culture (47)

“One way of describing the relationship among these three ecologies is to see practices as combining various elements of code to produce a statement or action, one of many such that then combine and contend to produce a particular culture” (52).

Brooke also described each of the five rhetorical canons as an ecology: “a complex system of people, sites, practices, and objects” (52) Taken together, Brooke used the canons to form an ecology of practice within which the canons operate.

In chapters 3-7, Brooke refashioned each of the canons as ecologies that work to expand not only our notions of rhetorical possibility for new media, but “traditional” rhetoric as well.

“This framework is particularly useful in the case of interfaces, those imperfectly bounded encounters where users, technologies, and contexts intersect. Instead of describing a process that culminates in the production of a textual object, the trivium and canons help us envision a discursive space that is ongoing – one that is shaped both by the intentions of individual users and contextual constraints.” (200)

Enoch – Survival Stories: Feminist Historiographic Approaches to Chicana Rhetorics of Sterilizationand Abuse

Enoch, Jessica. “Survival Stories: Feminist Historiographic Approaches to Chicana Rhetorics of Sterilization and Abuse.” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics. Eds. Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan. West LaFayette: Parlor Press LLC, 2010. 183-199. Print.  

In “Survival Stories: Feminist Historiographic Approaches to Chican Rhetorics of Sterilization and Abuse,” Jessica Enoch draws on feminist historiographic methods, including those employed by Shirley Wilson Logan and Jacqueline Jones Royster recover rhetorical work of African American women in order to recover and reassess the Chicana rhetorical tradition of speaking out against sterilization abuse against Chicanas and other women of color. Enoch’s study is centered on the class action civil rights action suit, Madrigal v. Quilligan, in which ten Chicanas joined forces to argue that their constitutional rights were violated when doctors at the USC-LA Medical Center performed tubal ligations without the women’s informed consent. Enoch uses Cherríe Moraga’s “theory in the flesh,” in which physical realities of minority women’s lives necessarily come together to create specific voices, politics, and epistemologies, to frame the plaintiffs’ arguments for justice as collective “rhetorics of survival” in which they “forcefully fought for their right to personal, familial, and cultural survival.” (184)

First, Enoch examines the arguments made in the case as both an instance of and an inroad to the rich tradition of Chicana feminism (185). For her third approach, Enoch contextualizes the women’s arguments in their immediate setting to better understand the intended meaning of their rhetorical strategies and how they were received and interpreted by the presiding judge. In her fourth move, Enoch offers a new feminist methodology through “historiographic tracking” and recontextualizing the arguments made by the original Chicanas beyond their immediate contexts in order to answer the question, “what else?” (185, 196)

Enoch expands traditional feminist historiography in significant ways by situating Chicanas own words in their immediate rhetorical situation and by recontextualizing them in subsequent rhetorical situations.  The former approach has the potential to reveal new phenomena, such as the judge in the case’s “rhetoric of normalization” and his characterization of the women as atypical and deviant (198). Enoch states this is significant in that it:

“It is no longer enough to know that women’s words have been stricken from the public record. We should now press further to excavate and understanding the rhetorical strategies that those  in power used (and use) to make this striking seem “logical,” “normal,” and “reasonable.” (198)

By adding her fourth methodological tool of locating prior rhetorical arguments in different rhetorical situations to the historiographic trade, Enoch gives voice to marginalized women. She suggests that this method “enables scholars to look beyond the ways that rhetorical endeavors of women were ignored or silenced in order to see how these rhetorics survived,” and concludes that, “This method should give us hope and enable us to tell survival stories.”

Aune – Marxism and Rhetorical Theory

Aune, James Arnt. “Cultures of Discourse: Marxism and Rhetorical Theory.” Rhetoric and Marxism. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, Inc, 1994. 539-551. Print. Polemic Series .

James Arnt Aune began his essay from the position that rhetorical theory could benefit by filiing in the gaps between it and Marxism and questioned what Marxist rhetoric would look like in times past and at the time he wrote his text. He claimed that if in fact Marxism had been silent about rhetoric, which he asserted, then rhetoric had been just about as silent about Marxism.

One major difference between rhetoric and Marxism Aune noted was that the while he claimed the term “ideology” had attained quasi-conanical status in rhetorical criticism, Marx’s central focus was on class struggle; this focus Aune posited had been “thoroughly ignored” by rhetorical scholars.

His major critique is that rhetorical criticism was not as productive as it could or should be because scholars hadn’t “seriously” examined the root of how capitalism has affected the theory and practice of rhetoric: “The ambiguous position of academics within the class structure of advanced capitalism makes ideological criticism appealing but scarcely more useful politically than when the Frankfurt school invented it in the 1930s” (540).

To this end, Aune focused on the repression of rhetoric in Marxist theory and the reading of the history of theories of public argument in Marxist terms in order to present the beginnings of a theory of Marxist rhetoric. To do this he identified limitations of both Marxist traditions that specifically address communication, and rhetorical studies’ emphasis on ideology.

On page 549, he concluded and summarized the main themes of his overall argument in the context of some of his theses toward a Marxist rhetorical theory:

  1. “By foregrounding the role of labor in constructing our human world, a Marxist approach to communication may help revitalize the criticism of public discourse.”
  2. “By foregrounding class struggle rather than public consensus, a Marxist rhetorical theory may be better able to explain broad historical shifts in rhetorical practice and pedagogy than do existing alternatives.”
  3. “Traditional rhetoric, in privileging common sense as a starting point for the construction of enthymemes, may provide a needed corrective to Marxism’s tendency to view the common sense of a culture merely as a rationalization of that culture’s relations of domination.”
  4. “Uniting Marxism’s traditional concern for economic democracy with traditional (if at times ambiguous) concern for political democracy may provide a narrative structure for a new politics, one that views revolution as a struggle against racial, sexual, and economic oppression and against the specialized languages of expertise, which have characterized “liberal” reform in this century. Marxism needs to correct rhetoric’s avoidance of the category of labor in the construction of the social world, while rhetoric needs to correct Marxism’s one-sided focus on labor at the expense of other forms of domination.” (549)

Aune’s main argument is “…that a revitalized conception of traditional rhetoric, one informed by Marxist theory and practice, may be of some use in advancing, in not the Revolution, at least the humane practice of public argument” (549).

“What Marxism has taught us, in admittedly flawed ways, is that human beings have the potential to build a heroic society. What students of rhetoric and communication can give Marxism is a more human way of bridging the critique of ideology with political action. The ultimate point is that audiences, when presented with the contradictions inherent in their social systems, have a choice about the ideological narratives to which they will subscribe or which they will create. That these narratives will not be limited to the banal yet frightening ones of the White House or the Kremlin depends on our ability to extend our imaginative range. As Marx (1975) himself wrote, “Every emancipation is a restoration of the human world and of human relationships to man himself” (p. 240).” (550)