Play #DefineRhetoric & win pounds of prestige

Rhetors, Technorhetors, Rhetotechnos, and Compositionists,

It’s that time again.  Our Define Rhetoric competition has begun. Help us add to the almost three million different definitions of rhetoric we’ve found. Help us flavor the world with new perspectives on what rhetoric is, isn’t, and does, doesn’t. Come up with THE best definition of rhetoric for 2013 and you’ll win a sweet trophy, a gift certificate to, and, well, between 10-20 pounds of prestige.

To play:

  1. You’ve gotta tweet. If you don’t have a Twitter account, ya gotta make one.
  2. Tweet your brand new definition of rhetoric, your tweaked or remixed definition of rhetoric, one you’ve liked from a theorist, or even a visual or audio definition. You can play or define as many times as ya’d like.
  3. Put the hashtag #DefineRhetoric somewhere in your definition because we find the definitions using that hashtag.
  4. DUE DATE– September 15th 2013.

We encourage you to have fun and play with what rhetoric can mean. Be your own Plato, Aristotle, Aspasia. Be your own Burke, Richards, Perelman. Be your own Villanueva, Glenn, Lanham. And in the spirit of givin’ cred where cred is due, we ask you to try to cite your sources as best ya can when ya tweak or remix or quote a definition.

Here are a few we’ve gotten so far.  Check out how last year’s champ @RhetRock is already defending his title:

  • #definerhetoric Rhetoric is how your persuade yourself that you can get ONE MORE DAY out of that empty tube of toothpaste.
    by @RhetRock

And, if ya getta chance, follow us on Twitter (@HarlotTweets) for competition updates and tweets that will make your wildest dreams come true!

Good luck and good rhetoricking!

Sweet Trophy!
Sweet trophy
#DefineRhetoric Champion 2012
Rhetoric is a bag of Halloween candy, sometimes you get the good stuff and sometimes you get apples with razor blades.
by @TheOriginalRock (now @RhetRock)

Birth of Two Suspicions

“Language—in any case, language in the Indo-European cultures—has always given birth to two kinds of suspicions:

  • First of all, the suspicion that language does not mean exactly what it says.  The meaning that one grasps, and that is immediately manifest, is perhaps in reality only a lesser meaning that protects, confines, and yet in spite of everything transmits another meaning, the latter one being at once the stronger meaning and the ‘underlying’ meaning.
  • On the other hand, language gives birth to this other suspicion: It exceeds its merely verbal form in some way, and there are indeed other things in the world which speak and which are not language.  After all, it could that nature, the sea, the rustling of trees, animals, faces, masks, crossed swords, all of these speak; perhaps there is a language that articulate itself in a manner that is not verbal.

These two suspicions, which one sees already appearing with the Greeks, have not disappeared, and they are still with us, since we have once again begun to believe, specifically since the nineteenth century, that mute gestures, that illnesses, that all the tumult around us can also speak; and more than ever we are listening in on all this possible language, trying to intercept, beneath the words, a discourse that would be essential.”

+ Michel Foucault, excerpted from the essay, “Nietzsche, Freud, Marx”

enculturation: McLuhan at 100

If you haven’t already, I encourage to check out enculturation‘s latest issue: Marshall McLuhan @ 100: Picking Through the Rag and Bone Shop of a Career, launched on the final day of centenary celebrations, 21 years to the day of McLuhan’s death.  Editors David Beard and Kevin Brooks have pulled together quite a stunning issue.

McLuhan quote

image by stefan.erschwendner, flickr

Classical Rhetoric: A Manly Introduction

The Art of Manliness has a well written series of primers on classical rhetoric and the five canons.

Check ’em all out:

Classical Rhetoric 101: An Introduction

Classical Rhetoric 101: A Brief History

covers the sophists, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintillian, Medieval, Renaissance, and the “modern day”

The Five Canons: Invention

includes a brief section on Topoi

The Five Canons: Arrangement

covers narratio, partitio, confirmatio, refutatio, peroratio

The Five Canons: Style

covers the five virtues of style: correctness, clarity, evidence, propriety, ornateness

The Five Canons: Memory

not just about memorizing, but making memorable

The Five Canons: Delivery

master the pause, watch your body language, vary your tone, let gestures flow naturally, match your speed with your emotion, vary the force of your voice, enunciate, look your audience in your eye

The More The Easier: Persuadability Scales Inversely

From ScienceDaily comes this report out of RPI, concluding that the tipping point of shifting public opinion is surprisingly low:

Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.

The implications for rhetorical practice, teaching, and study are intriguing.

Present Tense: Issue #2

Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society has released its second issue.  (Thanks goes to David Beard over at The Blogora for the tip.)  Of special note is the piece, “Methodological Dwellings: A Search for Feminisms in Rhetoric & Composition,” which features a performance by OSU’s very own Nan Johnson:

Methodological Dwellings: A Search for Feminisms in Rhetoric & Composition

"Methodological Dwellings: A Search for Feminisms in Rhetoric & Composition"

On a more personal note (or at least professionally-selfish), I’d like to offer thanks to Gae Lyn Henderson, Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University, for her review of the recently published Activism and Rhetoric, a simply stellar collection of essays curated by Seth Kahn and JongHwa Lee.  I’ve been fortunate enough to pursue this volume over the past few weeks and am energized by what Kahn, Lee, and the various contributors have accomplished.

For those also interested in affective/non-rational elements of rhetoric, check out Nathaniel Rivers’s, “In Defense of Gut Feelings: Rhetorics of Decision-Making,” which is an insightful and deftly managed piece on a notoriously difficult topic.  (And if any of you Harlot readers out there will be joining me at this summer’s “Non-rational Rhetorics” workshop led by Diane Davis and Debra Hawhee, be sure to head over to the latest issue of Philosophy and Rhetoric, which has fresh essays by both.)

Thanks to all in the rhetoric community who keep exploring new realms of rhetoric with their research —


The Production of Language

Five weeks ago I came across a quote by Henry Ford.  It has remained close to the fore of my thoughts since then.

Speech is one of man’s most marvelous tools and there is a direct relation between the kind of speech which he uses and the kind of work he does.

A good engineer can tell what language a machine ‘been built in just by looking at it.  There are some languages in which a machine cannot be built at all.  There are some languages in which it would be impossible to efficiently manage a factory.

Ford’s speech has a distinctive directness to it.  It’s quietly militant.

This might not surprise those who know Ford’s capitalist success story of the assembly line.  There’s a steadiness to his prose that resembles the production line–just look at the repetitive evenness of the last three sentences.

Ford’s quote shows a remarkable grasp of the relationship between language and reality, between our knowledge and our actions.  More specifically, it reveals in no uncertain terms how capitalism is successful in large measure because of our language choices.

Ford no doubt would find dreadful a society without “efficient” factories and engines–though we must understand that “efficient” in this context is heavily colored by a capitalist frame of reference.  “Efficient,” for Ford* and many other capitalists, for example, means maximizing the externalization of costs, and minimizing accountability in order to maximize profit.  “Efficient” will mean something quite different to a Marxist or an environmentalist.

But what Ford dreads is precisely what many are fighting for: a language that makes a capitalist economic model an impossibility.**  The goal is a language which cannot support the flagrant exploitation of labor and environment.

Among those broadcasting this message are Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, authors of Empire, Multitude, and most recently, Commonwealth.  One of their principle claims is that a language of resistance is an integral part of any successful resistance movement.  Of course, they’re not the only ones saying this, but they are perhaps the only ones saying it that have such a large constituency of readers.

I recently had the privilege of hearing Michael Hardt speak at the Nonstop Institute in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  He was very gracious with his time and answers, always working hard to understand the questions as clearly as possible, while remaining sensitive to the questioner’s desires.  In short, I was impressed and appreciative, along with many others.

When the microphone came around to me, there were two questions I had in mind, one that relates directly to Ford’s quote.  Hardt and Negri use the phrase “production of subjectivity” to discuss how capitalism influences thought- and action-patterns that benefit its continuation.  What I’m curious to know–and what I was lucky enough to ask Michael Hardt–is what happens when the key terms we use to critique capitalism are they same that have served its advancement so well?  Production is a term very near-and-dear to the capitalist way of life (see, for instance, how Derrick Jensen defines it–premise #5).  Do we reinforce certain lines of capitalist thought, even though we’re trying to critique it?  When we say “production of subjectivity” do we invoke a frame a reference that is best (if not only) understood through capitalist means?

Check out the video to hear his answer–roughly around the thirty minute mark.  (And please excuse my stumbling questioning.)

I’ll leave you with the same questions, as I don’t have any answers right now.  There are pros, cons, and in-betweens to all these choices.  What does a language of resistance sound like, read like, feel like?  On whose shoulders does it fall to create and sustain this language?  Should we be spending our energies elsewhere?



* Perhaps the most notorious admirer of Ford’s commitment to “efficiency” was Hitler, who told a Detroit News reporter in 1933, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration.”  Indeed he did: a framed picture of Ford hung in Hitler’s office and he’s the only American mentioned in Mein Kampf. This should indicate clearly enough the devastating consequences of a subjectivity that fetishizes a certain type of “efficiency.”

** On this end of the spectrum we find yet another spectrum: there are those who argue the factory should be owned by the workers and there are those who argue the factory shouldn’t exist at all, no large-scale production facilities period, as they almost invariably support unsustainable economic models. We literally cannot continue an economic system of ravenous extraction and perpetual growth and sustain the ecosystems that make life possible.  The fact of this isn’t up for debate–but what we do in response to it most definitely is.

Question (FB & Commonplaces)

Has anyone written about Facebook working as modern day commonplaces?

I mean, wikipedia suggests that “[s]ome modern writers see blogs as an analogy to commonplace books,” but I see Facebook posts has a much more similar connection. Considering that blogs are there to produce content more than just post it, then I’d say that blogs are closer journaling and facebook, which many of us use to post various articles, music, pictures, etc, could tie in with commonplacing.

I’m just wondering if anyone else has had any insights into this?