John Schilb—“Future Historiographies of Rhetoric and the Present Age of Anxiety”

John Schilb—“Future Historiographies of Rhetoric and the Present Age of Anxiety”

Schilb extends Kellnar’s points about how scholarly tribes produces and harbors certain anxieties, which incidentally mark that scholar within a particular community. Using a bit of linguistic humor, a rhetorical move more scholars should adopt, Schilb identifies the following anxieties:

Taxonmania—which is evident in Kellnar’s, Atwill’s, and, of course, Berlin’s scholarship. Schlib admits we can’t probably altogether stop categorizing, but says we should begin to ask ourselves why and when we need to invoke them. And if we do use them, how might they “prematurely fix our own or someone else’s research agenda”? (130)

Epistemologia—which takes time away from other kinds of research

Canononia—doing so shapes our whole sense of rhetoric’s past. Like Berlin and Kellnar suggest, we need to value intertextuality and investigate incongruencies that other texts might bring.

Brumairism—golden aged nostalgia—respond to present conjunctures by evoking past rhetorical traditions. Problems are they reify canon and limits questions and insights that could be produced.

Heterophobia—closed nature of our discipline—we need to disrupt the paideia—get interdisciplinary

Essentially, we need to stop playing it safe and take risks with our work. Step outside are scholarly comfort zones.

Schilb’s article, perhaps most of all, was most entertaining. I raised this question earlier. How can we entertain and educate at same time? When we will stop taking ourselves so seriously and realize we are writers that write for multiple purposes, one of which is to provide our audience with an enjoyable writing experience? I think I like to use visuals in my writing because I feel that they disrupt the standard academic, scholarly essay. I wonder if most rhetorical scholars really view themselves as writers sometimes??? Or simply academic machines?

Thanks Schilb for the entertaining and educational text!



Filed under historiography exam

2 responses to “John Schilb—“Future Historiographies of Rhetoric and the Present Age of Anxiety”

  1. I thought the Schillb article was great fun, too… I loved the play and the wit. The problem is – he’s right. How do we work as a discourse and yet avoid, well, being a discourse with borders and practices – which necessarily become static? I think your discussion of good writing is really a discussion of discourse communities…

  2. Lois Agnew

    It should be evident that rhetoricians should focus on the style of their scholarly writing as well as the substance–but you’re correct that this doesn’t always seem to be the case. I’m glad you enjoyed Schilb’s article. As this semester wears on, I hope we can work to identify particular characteristics in the scholarly arguments we read that make those texts interesting and compelling–and discuss strategies for cultivating these qualities in our own work. I plan to spend some time on these types of questions at the beginning of Thursday’s class, so please feel free to reflect on that subject based on the texts we’ve read so far.

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