Picking a Third In-depth Reading
In this course we read a lot from secondary sources and I try to have you read
three theorists "in the raw." In the past few years those readings
have been Burke, Habermas, and Foucault because they were the most central to
what is happening currently in contemporary rhetorical theory. But Foucault's
star, although by no means dark, is waning I think. At least, I feel comfortable
considering whether Foucault is who we should read. So, I have decided to list
some options and have you decide who we should read. Here are some options to
consider. We will discuss them and decide on a choice during the first week
or second week of classes.
- Michel Foucault, Archeology of Knowledge and Discourse on Language.
Foucault is still a choice. This reading lays out Foucault's method of analyzing
discourse at a macro level. In the trail of the structuralists, Foucault is
trying to understand the power discourse practices have to constrain behavior.
Thus, his contribution to rhetorical theory is to see language, rather than
the choices of individual rhetors, as the context for rhetoric and to trace
the powerful constraining forces that thus follow.
- Richard Weaver, Ethics of Rhetoric. Weaver's importance on American
culture has been underestimated in my judgment. He was a member of the Southern
agrarians who were primary to the intellectual development of conservatism
in the 1950s and 1960s. Weaver is the rhetorical theorists that the conservatives
read and that shaped their thinking. On the other hand, those working in contemporary
rhetorical theory tended not to follow the conservatives, and much of Weaver's
insights do appear in other ways in other places. (Burke accused Weaver of
plagiarizing his ideas in a letter to Weaver he never sent.) Our interest
in Weaver in this reader is to understand how rhetorical theory shapes our
modern political conservatism.
- Chantal Mouffe, The Democratic Paradox. Mouffe and his colleage Ernst
Laclau are to the left what Weaver is to the right. They are the theorists
that will probably shape the response that will emerge to the current conservative
hegemony. This book traces the implications of their thought into communication.
This would be a followup on Habermas and the political sphere.
- Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogical Imagination. Bakhtin plays at the
old rhetorical cunundrum of the nexis of poetics and rhetoric. Although I
sense his influence is ebbing as surely as Foucault's, Bakhtin provides a
sense for the dialogue as a framework for communication.
- Roland Barthes. S/Z. I know that several of you have encountered
Barthes. He is a leading structuralist. Most contemporary rhetorical theory
is post-structuralist, so this would provide us a notion of the response set
active in Europe during the late 20th century.
I will provide the opportunity for discussion and the opportunity for you to
propose additional reading during the first week and we will select what to
read during the second.
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