loader from loading.io

Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Mere Rhetoric

Release Date: 12/11/2017

James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.” show art James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

Mere Rhetoric

Some time ago, I was asked by listener Sarah Rumsey to do a podcast on composition theory. That’s a doozy of a topic, so I read a lot, I poked around, even pulled together a couple drafts, but couldn’t find the balance of breadth and depth to do this subject justice. So I gave up.   Ah, clever listener, you know I didn’t really give up, because this is Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history and I am Mary Hedengren and instead of trying to capture the entire depth of rhetorical theory thought I...

info_outline
The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt) show art The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere R the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary H and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, like I did, then you might remember a series of posters in your school and public library. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker,A-Rod and, of course, Lavar Burton would be posed with a book, smiling, encouraging you to read. They were all readers, and so should you, because being a reader was a worthy identity.     Deborah Brandt, in her decades of interviews with people of all walks of life,...

info_outline
The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon show art The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’d like you to think a little about the types of writing you’ve done in the past, oh, let us say, year. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably written breezy email, stern syllabi, obscure academic texts and pun-based posts on Reddit that didn’t get nearly the number of upvotes as they deserve. Now what if a random, oh, say 12% of what you wrote was preserved and no one who knew you was around to testify you wrote it...

info_outline
The Meaningful Writing Project show art The Meaningful Writing Project

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to MR the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history   It’s the start of another semester, which, for me, means a season of wonder. I wonder about who my students will be. I wonder whether my schedule will be crushingly busy. Mostly, though, I wonder how my students will react to the syllabi and assignments that I have lovingly crafted. Will they understand the instructions? Will they learn what I hope they will? Will they find it meaningful?   Many compositionists have wondered these same questions and have...

info_outline
Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power show art Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol this holiday season because I’m playing Mrs. Crachit in a community theatre production. And wow. There is a story behind that. But becaue I was interested in The christmas carol, so I started reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s history of Dickens’s masterpeice. I was surprised to hear how A Christmas Carol had solidified Christmas as we know it, a home-and-family...

info_outline
Inventing the University--David Bartholomae show art Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

Mere Rhetoric

[intro] Welcome to MR the podcast for beginngs and insiders aboutt he ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren. This last week I graded my students’ rhetorical analyses. For many of them, this was the first time they had been asked to write a rhetorical analysis and this assignment always makes me nervous. I give them sample papers. We practice writing a rhetorical analysis together. We discuss in depth examples and abuses of ethos, logos, and pathos, but many of them struggle tremendously. I know I could write a 3-page rhetorical analysis in 20...

info_outline
Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

Mere Rhetoric

Weeeeellllcommmme to Meeeeeereeee Rhetoooooric! It’s our annual Halloween episode, which means a little bit of the people, ideas and movements who have shaped rhetorical history, but mostly a ghost story. This year, we’re going with our first not-MR-James story. Don’t worry--there are still intials--but first--to business.   If you’re going to talk about ghost stories and influential thinkers, you won’t dig long until you come across Freud’s contribution, a little piece called “The Uncanny.” You might not peg Sigmund Freud as a connoisseur of boogeymen, but he was...

info_outline
Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast show art Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and every semester, I feel like it’s New Year’s Day. “This semester,” I say, “everything’s going to be different.” I revise my classes, everything from switching two minor assignments to rehauling the entire curriculum. I try to create assignments that will catch my students’ attention, prepare them for their other classes, and, because I teach dozens of students, be interesting to grade.   But how do I know if the...

info_outline
The Other Eight: Andocides show art The Other Eight: Andocides

Mere Rhetoric

Andocides (An-DOS-id-dees) Do you remember in the 90s when there was this huge “thug life” thing going on? Shady types getting money doing shady things. Andocides, the 5th century BCE rhetor, would have fit fell into that world. Even though he may have been acquainted with Socrates, he was more interested in roving with his friends of rabble-rousers. He was born to wealth and lived as what one editor called “a hot-headed young man-about-town with more money than sense” (321).   His carefree life came to a hard stop after a significant act of vandalism. Andocides was accused of...

info_outline
College Composition and Communication show art College Composition and Communication

Mere Rhetoric

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. Uh, I guess including recent history, because today we’re going to talk about the February 2017 issue of College Composition and Communication as our “journal of the month” summary. This issue, as editor Jonathan Alexander points out, “takes up the notion of the ‘personal’ in a variety of ways” (436), departing from what we might think of as “composition as usual.” The articles in it include thinking about students who are full-time...

info_outline
 
More Episodes

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol this holiday season because I’m playing Mrs. Crachit in a community theatre production. And wow. There is a story behind that. But becaue I was interested in The christmas carol, so I started reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s history of Dickens’s masterpeice. I was surprised to hear how A Christmas Carol had solidified Christmas as we know it, a home-and-family holiday rather than a racacus drunken orgy of disrule. Yeah, Christmas used to be like that. In fact, there was a debate about Christmas raging over several centuries when Scrooge came on the scene. After Dickens, though, industrialists started giving their employees Christmas Day off, and everyone started sending their workers the ubiquitous Christmas turkey. Robert Louis Stevenson, upon reading Dickens’s Christmas Carol first cried his eyes out and then committed to donate money to the poor. Even Dickens’s best frienemy and critic, William Makepeace Thackery, was deeply moved by it. Dickens’s book had, in the words of Lord Jeffrey “fostered more kindly feelings and prompted more positive acts of beneficence” than all the sermons in all the churches pervious. So if literature is so powerful to change the way people live, why isn’t it considered rhetoric?

That question is probably best addressed in Steven Mailloux (My-U)’s Rhetorical Power. In the book that would in some ways define his career, Mailloux advances a rhetorical perspective of literature that would present a middle ground between idealist and realist literary theory. He calls the exercise of this perspective “rhetorical hermeneutics” which he suggests as an “anti-Theory theory” that will  “determine how texts are established as meaningful through rhetorical exchanges” (15). It isn’t just the content or, to use the old fashioned phrase, “theme” of a book that impacts people, but the way the story is drawn through, and the techniques that the author gets us to buy into.

Such a reading differs wildly from the notions of New Criticisms that would restrict interpretation to the page and from even Stanley Fish’s narrow academic interpretative community. Instead, the work is rooted in a specific history, rhetorical tradition, and cultural conversation (145-6). We can be impacted by 19th century books, but not the in same way that Lord Jeffrey and Stevenson were. There are conversations going on and arguments made in the book catalogs of any culture.

Mailloux claims that this perspective is not only engaged in the world outside the text, but also describes the temporal experience of reading. In this way, literature exits circles of elite academic interpretative communities and instead belongs to the community of readers at large. The text has an individual influence as well. Mailloux describes how a text can educate a reader (41) and train the reader to see and think a certain way as the text progresses (99). This education depends on the form of the work, how the work develops from premise to premise. Moby Dick is Mailloux’s main example of this kind of trained reading. The disappearing narrator through chapters isn’t just an error; it’s an education. In this way, rhetorical hermeneutics seem to draw on both Kenneth Burke’s discussion of form in Counter-statement and Wayne Booth’s concerns about immoral narration in The Rhetoric of Fiction. While Mailloux uses Moby Dick as his primary example of the education of the reader within the pages of a book, he spends more time discussing the way that a text’s educating qualities relate to a community’s debate, and what better example could he use than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?

    In Mark Twain’s book, Mailloux has a prime example of the way a work “includes rhetorical histories of interpretative disputes” (135).  Because of the way Twain’s work was part of the national debates of the “Negro Question” and the “Bad Boy Boom,” it can clearly demonstrate a reading that prioritizes not the “isolated readers and isolated texts” but the entire “rhetorical exchanges among interpreters embedded in discursive and other social practices at specific historical moments” (133).  We often think of Huckleberry Finn in terms of race only, because that’s the predominant issue from the book for our culture, but the issue of “bad boys” was even more pressing on Twain’s contemporaries, which may seems a shocking undersight to modern readers. Huckleberry Finn was originally banned from some schools and library for showing a bad boy getting away with rebellion.  Mailloux demonstrates that there were many pieces of literature of all sorts discussing what to do with juvenile delinquent boys, and Twain’s contribution in the unintentionally humane and thoughtful Huckleberry was a response to, and instigator of, some of the alarm.

Moving from Mark Twain, Mailloux applies his theory to contemporary political disputes, demonstrating that this kind of reading practice isn’t exclusive to formal literature. So we come full circle. Literature participates in a wider societal conversation, and our political conversations can benefit of a reading as intense as the one we give to literature. As Mailloux says “textual interpretation and rhetorical politics can never be separated” (180).

    So if you do a little light reading this holiday break, you might take a moment and wonder, what, exactly, are the political implications of what you’re reading. If you found a deeper level of rhetorical discourse in your holiday reading, why not drop us a line at mererhetoricpodcast@gmail.com? This is Mary Hedengren, ruining your vacation from Mere Rhetoric.