Group A Moves

Preparation Guide 2012

Implicating Morality and History in Rhetoric

By now you have a sense for the active creative force of text in creating the socio-cultural world in which humans live. Discourse serves a practical role in the knitting of our day-to-day activities. Once rhetoric is seen as a force for textual merger, then a number of questions open seeking to understand traditional concepts and their relationship to this process. Two of those that have been a focus of rhetorical theorists are morality and history.

In addressing the practical reasoning problem, theorists had discovered that one of the most important advantages of rhetorical logic was its more powerful account of morality in human action. The initial development here was the concept of an advisory rhetoric: as individuals we use rhetoric to provide moral advice to others. But then, with the growth of the constitutive rhetoric, attention turned to rhetorically constituting morality. The rhetorical construction of morality became a central problem just as the rhetorical construction of reality was a problem for the social epistemics.

Similarly, history could be seen not as a study of material events told in language, but as a construction brought textually into rhetorically constituting the moment. But on what terms?

Clusters: Rhetoric as advisory; Rhetoric and history; Rhetoric and morality; Collective memory

Questions to stimulate thought:

Before Class Preparation:

Read the following:

Harold, Christine, and Kevin Michael DeLuca. "Behold the corpse: Violent images and the case of Emmett Till." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 8, no. 2 (2005): 263-286. We will talk about pp. 263-66.

This excerpt from Harold and DeLuca will guide our discussion as a place to anchor and meditate upon the theoretical concepts associated with morality/history Read the excerpt. As you read, think about how the critics construct the Till incident. What kind of role do history and morality play in this construction? How is the past, present, and future implicated by their narrative? As you read the other selections, return to Harold and DeLuca's article as a place to anchor theoretical concepts of history, morality, and collective memory.

Answer the following as you read the other readings:

On Weaver

On Klumpp and Hollihan

On Aden et al.

Basic Readings:

Additional Reading:

Recent Work: (Selected by Lauren Harris, Yvonne Slosarski, Meredith Styer)


Identity and Subjectivity

Three problems have marked the stages in the development of this move in contemporary rhetorical theory. The beginning lay in George Herbert Mead's notions of the role of the communication in the formation of the identity of the individual. Mead theorized the individual integrated through what he called "gestures" (that we would call "symbolic acts") reflected off significant others to construct our notions of ourselves. Mead founded symbolic interactionism and his followers began to map the strategies by which identity developed and evolved.

Mead's notion of how the identity of individuals was formed involved an inherently social context. So it was a small extension to seeing how groups of people were integrated by common discourses and the symbolic actions that they performed with those discourses. Social order could be seen as arrays of identifications jockeying for position, gaining and losing strength, clashing with others, aligning with still others, and defining the texture of social action in their activity. Of particular interest was how new identities formed and became the grounds of social action. McGee and then Charland theorized the ways in which rhetoric birthed identity.

The introduction of new identities seeking power in the competitive environment of societies of interlocking identities gave rise to the third stage of this work: subjectivity. The question was how the process of identity formation empowered individuals and positions to resist hegemonic discourses of control. This overt insertion of the freedom/domination problem led to questions about the tensions that compose social order: silence and voice, power and powerlessness, individual and community. How can the rhetor empower his/her rhetoric? This became known as the problem of agency or subjectivity.

Clusters: rhetoric and identity, constructing the subject, constructing agency, constituting subjectivity, <the people>.

Questions to Stimulate Thought:

The following questions will help you orient to the problems of this move:

Structure for Classroom Discussion

We will allow an organic discussion to flourish, focusing on the discussion questions as they naturally arise from our conversation.

Basic Reading:

Additional Reading:

Recent Work: (Selected by Tiffany Bell, Katie Kuhn, and Michael Stueudeman)

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