2nd Half–RHETORIC AND REALITY–Berlin

Long Summary: Might contain some plagarism (hah!)

In this section of Rhetoric and Reality in which James Berlin describes the changes in the field of Composition and Rhetoric from 1940-1974, Berlin highlights the influences the general education and general semantics movements had on the rise of communication courses, the revival and renaissance of rhetoric, and the major rhetorical approaches that evolved with modern interpretations of rhetoric. With the rise of the communication course came an emphasis on: individualized instruction, integrated instruction (reading, writing, speaking, listening), practical pedagogy, and a skills centured curriculum. With integrated learning came major influences from a variety of disciplines such as psychology, linguistic, literary studies, which caused a movement toward personal and creative writing as well as a strong focus on how grammar functions. During this time (1950s), rhetoric as a historical discipline worthy of study came into fashion as the composing process became significant to scholars.

Berlin signifies 1960 – 1975 as the renaissance of rhetoric, which is marked by the professionalizatin of composition teachers, the rise in graduate programs in rhetoric, the return of rhetoric to the English department, the rise of rhetorical approaches to literary criticism, and more focus on the composing process with the rise of new rhetorics. Major influences during the renaissance as identified by Berlin are Jerome Bruner—introduced process models of composing through introduction of cognitive psychology and emphasized writing as discovery and problem solving; Albert Kitzhaber—introduced concept of New Rhetorics, emphasized writing as thought, which designated writing at heart of education, and introduced writing based on rhetorical tradition; Wayne Booth—supported Kitzhaber’s propositions by pushing for rise in rhetorical studies and its value in writing instruction; Burke—pushed for restoration of rhetoric as informing the discipline of composition. During this time, Berlin notes, scholars struggled to define scope of modern rhetorical studies and called for an interdisciplinary nature of the field.

In the section in which Berlin describes the Major Rhetorical Approaches to the field between 1960 and 1975, Berlin classifies three movements: objective rhetoric, subjective rhetoric, transactional rhetoric. The major figures to influence what Berlin calls objective rhetoric are Bloom and Bloom and Zoellner. Bloom and Bloom based pedagogy on positive reinforcement, which only could be done if composing process was made visible to both student and teacher, and rubrics were established. Zoellner argued teachers must pay attention to the scribal act and called for instruction to be visible. Subjective Rhetoric was defined by expressionistic writing and instruction, which was based on belief that reality is a personal, private construct. Writing came to be seen as discovery of self. Interpretations varied from extreme notions of writing as therapy to writing as art which reaveals the self. Major figures here, Murray, Macorie, Gibson, Coles, and Elbow, thought writing can’t be taught, only learned. They pushed for learning environments that allowed students opportunities to arrive at their own visions of reality. Elbow, especially influential here, claimed the personal is political—enabling individuals to arrive at self understanding (of own perceptions, feelings, and thoughts) and self expression, both of which lead to better social order.

Transactional Rhetoric, identified by recognition of writing as act of interaction of material reality writer, audience, and language, can be divided into three rhetorics: classical, cognitive, epistemic. Classical rhetoric had strong commitment to rationality, but Corbett had major influence with his insistence on emotional and ethical appeals as well as holistic grading. Rhetoric of Cognitive Psychology was greatly influenced by Janet Emig—demonstrated ways students perform cognitively when writing in attempt to understand role of reality, audience, purpose, and language in rhetorical act—and Janice Lauer—encourage scholars to “break out of the ghetto” and look to other disciplines to inform our pedagogy and find possible valuable heuristics. The epistemic perspective views rhetoric as a philosophical subject that perceives knowledge (meaning) is a rhetorical (linguistic) social and historical construct. Since knowledge is dialectical, language forms through interaction and thus constructs ourselves, audience, and realities. Ohmann here played major influence by differentiating between old and modern rhetoric in explaining how old focused on persuasion, new on pursuit through communication, inquiry, self expression, and self-discovery which takes place in specific communities. Burke again was influential with his notion of identification—writer tries to establish identification with audience by understanding author’s perspective and trying to get audience to understand writer’s perspective. Young and Becker were influential with claim that goal of rhetoric is enlightened cooperation while Brufee introduced value of collaborative learning. Ann Berthoff developed idea of students as active agents and claimed function of language is to “give form to feeling, cogency to argument, and shape to memory.”

Despite these progressive pedagogies and theories, composition began to fade from universities because of financial strains, but when “Why Johnny Can’t Write” was published in Newsweek in 1975, a literacy crisis was identified and composition gained stability. Since

Favorite quotes:

“A language is a theory of the universe, a way of selecting and grouping experience in a fairly consistent and predictable way.”

Thoughts: I always say that I can speak from my own experience and this quote really sums that up for me. Languages, both verbal and non-verbal, are means to develop, articulate, question our realities.

“Human Differences are the raw materials of writing—differences in experiences, and the ways of segmenting them, differences in values, purposes, and goals. They are our reason to communicate. Through communication we create community, the basic value underlying rhetoric. To do so, we must overcome barriers to communication that are, paradoxically, motive for communication”
–Young, Becker, Pike Rhetoric: Discovery and Change

Thoughts: This quote will go on my course syallbus from now on. I think the purpose of communication gets forgotten when students write even though communication is the most obvious reason as to why we write. I have been working with my students to come to new understandings of why they write and this quote along with Burke’s notion of identification offer an enlightened purpose for them. I wonder how their writing would be different if the wrote with intention to identify the different way in which they see and understand the world so that their audience can understand their perspectives as well as better understand their own.

Favorite term:

Burke’s indentification

Sentences that raised skepticism:

Ohmann says rhetoric shifts emphasis toward cooperation, mutuality, and social harmony. Ideally yes, but in reality, probably not.

Corbett claims closed-fist rhetoric is irrational and coercive. Always??

Things of interest I didn’t know:

“Why Johnny Can’t Write” was so influential in comp history.

Articles in 60s and 70s about teaching to certain populations of students

Questions to Ponder:

How is field today a combination of overlapping theories and practices developed since 1900?

Has any one major movement really not influenced contemporary pedagogy in some way?

What new major rhetorical approaches have been developed since then?

When did media literacy come on the scene?

How would Berlin label 1985 – 2000 and 2000 until present?

Interesting that the word literacy is only found on three pages in entire book?

What does Berlin’s classification say about the way we conceive our field?

What role does Classical Rhetoric still play in first year comp courses?

What ideoligy drives Berlin’s historical account?

What social, cultural, historical events were left out?

What schools were excluded? Why?

What gaps exist in his historical account? What limitations exist in his narrative?

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4 responses to “2nd Half–RHETORIC AND REALITY–Berlin

  1. Dynamic Berlin summary, L …
    After reading the Royster in particular, I asked myself the same question about Berlin’s agenda. Which ideological narrative(s) does he operate from? Most curious to me is his depiction of the University of Denver composition program in the late 1930s, early 1940s. Berlin describes the program for a few pages (which I admit is a bewildering program in many ways) and then says, in the true tone of the book, “Clearly a leveling process was going on at Denver” (100). End of paragraph.
    Yet just a few pages later, 109, he points out another bewildering program ideology at Occidental College (in Los Angeles, so you know I paid careful attention). Here, however, he simply attributes a point of view to Oliver, the program director: “Since it is the individual genius who makes for salutary developments in society, Oliver’s view went, it is the individual genius who should be encouraged in the composition class through literature and expressive writing” (109). End of paragraph.
    So, Berlin uses Marxist spices, but what is the narrative we’re supposed to subscribe to as readers?
    Later on, Berlin describer subjective rhetoric: “The social world is even more suspect [to subjective rhetorics] because it attempts to coerce individuals into engaging in thoughtless conformity. For the expressionist, solitary activity is always promising, group activity always dangerous” (145).
    Now there is only room left for consideration of transactional rhetoric.
    Lest we forget about the rhetoric part of the reality Berlin depicts, he defines transactional rhetoric: “Transactional rhetoric does not locate reality in some empirically verifiable external phenomenon (sense impression or the quantifiable) or within some realm apart from the external (ideas or vision). It instead discovers reality in the interaction of material reality, writer, audience, and language. The differences between the various types of transactional rhetoric lie in the way each of these elements is defined and, more important, in the nature of their relationship” (155).

    And then, of course, as I sit back and return to Jacqueline Jones Royster’s article “History in the Spaces Left” (CCC 50:2), I question narrative construction and, more importantly, historiography. This, of course, leads me to flip to the bibliography at the back of the Berlin text and try to imagine who isn’t there, but should be. Royster isn’t included as a citation, of course (Berlin only suggests an endeavor venturing to 1985). Just wondering which 1985 folks are disappeared here…

  2. Eileen E. Schell

    Laurie, I like your questions that you pose at the end of your response, and I fixated on one in particular. “How would Berlin characterize 1985-2000 and 2000 and after.” That is a great question, and we should try to take it up as the weeks go by. How would we write the past twenty years in a way that would account for all the complexities of location, multiple institutional sites, extra-curricular or non-school literacies, and civic literacy sites? Also, how would be avoid the problems of lacking “location” and “primacy” that Williams and Royster call our attention to in their article?
    Trish, bring up all of the points in class that you refer to above. I, too, had a “What?” response to the University of Denver characterization.

  3. Eileen E. Schell

    I tried to type a comment earlier, but I don’t know if it posted! I like your questions-especially the one about how Berlin (and how we) would write the last 20 years of history. How would we frame it to account for the problems of primacy and location as well as multiple institutional sites?

    trish, bring up the University of Denver point in class. I had a “What” response, too.

  4. Ah hah! Here’s the connection between Suzanne Langer and Berthoff that’s been on my mind since we embarked on the project in Louise’s class. Berthoff uses Langer’s terms–form and feeling (in relation to one another) and applies it to comp studies. Berthoff argues that writing needs to be taught as a political act. She says we create forms of experience using language. These forms enable us to shape our lives, our reality, our place in society. Unlike Langer, she concentrates mostly on language itself as the medium of presentation of thought (or in other words, the form), but perhaps she transfers language into visual presentation as well…I’m not sure. Berthoff says language is rational, empirical, emotional and creative, and “an integrated being thinks and feels simultanously.” Langer’s theory is experience+feeling transforms into symbols, transforms into thoughts, transforms into action, transforms into presention of thought via language or the arts. So, Berthoff inserts the emotional into thinking; like Langer, she says thinking is feeling, feeling is thinking. Now, the difference is Langer’s idea of process verses Berthoff’s idea of simultaneous activities. YET, Langer says the visual form itself presents articulation simultaneously, as opposed to compartimentalized elements but attributes it to the very fact that it’s non-discursive. So, in Langer’s mind, the product presents the simultanous elements of the process, and Berthoff says the product as well as what Langer would call the process is simultanous. Interesting….
    I see Berthoff also use Langer’s terminology in describing humans as symbol-using animals. Interestingly enough, Berlin says she draws on Ernst Cassirer to make this point. Who is Ernst Cassirer? Did he exist pre or post-Langer? Maybe he was writing at the same time as Langer and therefore, perhpas they influenced one another or one influenced the other…..hmmm….
    Sorry, I think I just used this space as a free-write. Yet, I think this is something I will think about in relation to Eileen’s paper assignment.

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