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Rhetoric in an Antifoundational World

Rhetoric in an Antifoundational World: Language, Culture, and Pedagogy

Michael Bernard-Donals
Richard R. Glejzer
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    Rhetoric in an Antifoundational World
    Book Description:

    In this brilliant collection, literary scholars, philosophers, and teachers inquire into the connections between antifoundational philosophy and the rhetorical tradition. What happens to literary studies and theory when traditional philosophical foundations are disavowed? What happens to the study of teaching and writing when antifoundationalism is accepted? What strategies for human understanding are possible when the weaknesses of antifoundationalism are identified? This volume offers answers in classic essays by such thinkers as Richard Rorty, Terry Eagleton, and Stanley Fish, and in many new essays never published before.The contributors to this book explore the nexus of antifoundationalism and rhetoric, critique that nexus, and suggest a number of pedagogical and theoretical alternatives. The editors place these statements into a context that is both critical and evaluative, and they provide for voices that dissent from the antifoundational perspective and that connect specific, practical pedagogies to the broader philosophical statements. For those with an interest in rhetoric, philosophy, comparative literature, or the teaching of composition, this book sets forth a wealth of thought-provoking ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14657-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-30)
    Michael Bernard-Donals and Richard R. Glejzer

    In an essay on antifoundationalism and the teaching of writing, Stanley Fish defined the termantifoundationalismas the assertion “that matters [of fact, truth, correctness, validity, and clarity] are intelligible and debatable only within the precincts of the contexts and situations or paradigms or communities that give them their local and changeable shape” (Fish 344). The foundations that had previously been assumed to be objective or neutral or value-free—for Fish, in this essay, the idea that language communicates real situations; for others, that we can have unmediated knowledge of historical events, or that we can move unproblematically between written...

  5. Part I Antifoundationalism and Rhetoric

    • 1 Rhetoric
      (pp. 33-64)
      Stanley Fish

      For Milton’s seventeenth-century readers this passage, introducing one of the more prominent of the fallen angels, would have been immediately recognizable as a brief but trenchant essay on the art and character of the rhetorician. Indeed in these few lines Milton has managed to gather and restate with great rhetorical force (a paradox of which more later) all of the traditional arguments against rhetoric. Even Belial’s gesture of rising is to the (negative) point: he catches the eye even before he begins to speak, just as Satan will in Book IX when he too raises himself and moves so that...

    • 2 The Contingency of Language
      (pp. 65-85)
      Richard Rorty

      About two hundred years ago, the idea that truth was made rather than found began to take hold of the imagination of Europe. The French Revolution had shown that the whole vocabulary of social relations, and the whole spectrum of social institutions, could be replaced almost overnight. This precedent made Utopian politics the rule rather than the exception among intellectuals. Utopian politics sets aside questions about both the will of God and the nature of humanity and about dreams of creating a hitherto unknown form of society.

      At about the same time, the Romantic poets were showing what happens when...

    • 3 A Short History of Rhetoric
      (pp. 86-98)
      Terry Eagleton

      A political literary criticism is not the invention of marxists. On the contrary, it is one of the oldest, most venerable forms of literary criticism we know. The most widespread early criticism on historical record was not, in our sense, “aesthetic”: it was a mode of what we would now call “discourse theory,” devoted to analyzing the material effects of particular uses of language in particular social conjunctures. It was a highly elaborate theory of specific signifying practices—above all, of the discursive practices of the juridical, political, and religious apparatuses of the state. Its intention, quite consciously, was systematically...

  6. Part II Theoretical Elaborations

    • 4 Language Obscures Social Change
      (pp. 101-127)
      Melanie Eckford-Prossor and Michael Clifford

      When Michel Foucault asserts the following, he presents us with a crucial problem:

      Before the end of the eighteenth century, man did not exist—any more than the potency of life, the fecundity of labour or the historical density of language. He is a quite recent creature, which the demiurge of knowledge fabricated with its own hands less than two hundred years ago; but he has grown old so quickly that it has been only too easy to imagine that he had been waiting for thousands of years in the darkness for that moment of illumination in which he would...

    • 5 Toward a “Materialist” Rhetoric: Contingency, Constraint, and the Eighteenth-Century Crowd
      (pp. 128-146)
      Michael Hill

      InWalter Benjamin: or, Towards a Revolutionary Criticism, Terry Eagleton identifies two “epistemological options” which circumscribe the nettlesome encounter between antifoundationalist rhetoric and materialist critique. “Either the subject,” he writes, “is wholly on the ‘inside’ of its world of discourse, locked into its philosophico-grammatical forms, its very struggles to distantiate them ‘theoretically’ themselves the mere ruses of power and desire; or it can catapult itself free from this formation to a point of transcendental leverage from which it can discern absolute truth” (131). The termstranscendental, absolute, andfreeare, of course, meant as obvious caveats. Eagleton is trying here...

    • 6 The Decentered Subject of Feminism: Postfeminism and Thelma and Louise
      (pp. 147-169)
      Linda Frost

      In an end-of-the-year summary for 1991,U.S. News and World Reportcommented on the media debate surrounding that summer’s hitThelma and Louise, noting that the film “may not have appealed to as many people as the producers hoped. In 1991, 36 percent of American women called themselves feminists, compared with 56 percent five years ago” (“Year” 100). Many film fans and commentators on popular culture, though, did not agree with this journalist’s description of the film as feminist. In fact, the polarized responses to the question, IsThelma and Louisea feminist film? and the reports of those responses...

    • 7 Habermas’s Rational-Critical Sphere and the Problem of Criteria
      (pp. 170-194)
      Patricia Roberts

      A recurrent issue in the study of public discourse is whether a public sphere might be so constituted as to be both free and liberatory: free in the sense that it would be perfectly inclusive; liberatory in that it would enable participants to identify and critique coercion in institutions. Jürgen Habermas’s lifelong project might best be understood as an attempt to define the characteristics of a sphere with both such qualities, as well as to argue the feasibility of attaining it. The recent translation of Habermas’s early book,The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, is particularly important in this...

    • 8 Foundational Thuggery and a Rhetoric of Subsumption
      (pp. 195-224)
      Frank Farmer

      For some time now, Truth (with a capitalT) has acquired a reputation as a fugitive of sorts, a runaway loose on the epistemological mean streets of the old neighborhood. According to a few who claim to have befriended Truth, what makes its capture so difficult is that Truth can assume any number of aliases and disguises, all of which provide it with an uncanny ability to elude those seeking its whereabouts. Occasionally, authorities report that the secret hiding places of Truth have, once and for all, been found out. But such reports, as everybody knows, are forever premature: Truth,...

  7. Part III Extensions and Complications

    • 9 Hymes, Rorty, and the Social-Rhetorical Construction of Meaning
      (pp. 227-253)
      Robert E. Smith III

      Today, yesterday, and tomorrow—it is 3:00 A.M. in the southernmontanaand lowlands of eastern Ecuador, in the tropical rain forests of the upper Amazon Basin. Inside a traditional Shuar house of palm and thatch, surrounded by the now-dark gardens of manioc and plantains and yams, set apart from any sort of village—living “concealed,” as the Indians sometimes call it—a Shuar father begins the day by instructing his children. This morning he is talking about “Takea and Hummingbird.”

      “Of this Hummingbird long ago,” he tells his children,

      who stole the fire from Takea

      what was said of...

    • 10 “Too Little Care”: Language, Politics, and Embodiment in the Life-World
      (pp. 254-291)
      Kurt Spellmeyer

      When I think about the politics of speech and writing, I return again and again to the final scene in Akira Kurosawa’s movieRan, or “chaos,” which contemplates, among many other things, the fragmentation of social life in postmodernity. Kurosawa shows us a man in the fading light, bent forward on his staff at the edge of an enormous cliff. This man, really a boy, cannot see that the sun is going down because he can no longer see anything, having lost his eyes in a dynastic struggle that left most of his family dead. Nor can he know that...

    • 11 History and the Real
      (pp. 292-317)
      Charles Shepherdson

      In spite of the difference between English and continental philosophy, there is a link between Michel Foucault and writers like Jonathan Swift, as there was between Nietzsche and Paul Rée: “The first impulse to publish something of my hypotheses concerning theoriginof morality,” Nietzsche says, “was given to me by a clear, tidy, and shrewd—also precocious—little book in which I encountered for the first time anupside-down and perversespecies of genealogical hypothesis, the genuinely English type …The Origin of the Moral Sensations; its author Dr. Paul Rée” (Nietzsche,Genealogy17–18, emphasis added). Taking this...

    • 12 The Subject of Invention: Antifoundationalism and Medieval Hermeneutics
      (pp. 318-340)
      Richard R. Glejzer

      Over the past decade Medieval Studies has increasingly begun to question overtly the issues surrounding its object—the Middle Ages—in terms of methodology. The studies of Lee Patterson, Paul Zumthor, Norman Cantor, and others begin to consider the ways in which the Middle Ages are constructed as an a priori, where readings of medieval texts are grounded by particularinventionsof the Middle Ages, to borrow Cantor’s title. Questions of medievalism have become central to the medievalist as a way to get outside particular methodological hermeticisms, outside contemporary foundations, whether they be New Critical (which is still very much...

    • 13 The Royal Road: Marxism and the Philosophy of Science
      (pp. 341-368)
      Michael Sprinker

      What is a consequent marxist view of the history and philosophy of science? Reference to Marx’s and Engels’s (or even Lenin’s) work will not yield a satisfactory answer, although certain signposts are evident. For example, there is the famous observation on method in the introduction to theGrundrisse, which argues that, contrary to the procedures adopted in classical economy, where the starting point for investigation is apparently concrete phenomena from which abstract theoretical descriptions are then derived, “the method of rising from the abstract to the concrete is the only way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as...

  8. Part IV Teaching and Writing (in) an Antifoundational World

    • 14 Beyond Antifoundationalism to Rhetorical Authority: Problems Defining “Cultural Literacy”
      (pp. 371-388)
      Patricia Bizzell

      When students enter college, it soon becomes apparent that some of them are already comfortable with academic discourse, while other students seem quite unfamiliar with academic discourse and resistant to learning it. This state of affairs might not be considered a problem: the academy might simply expel those who do not share its discourse and welcome and reward those who do. Indeed, this is how the situation is handled in many schools today.

      Many writing teachers, however, have not been satisfied with this response to the lack of a shared discourse. Many of us have felt that it is unfair,...

    • 15 Composition Studies and Cultural Studies: Collapsing Boundaries
      (pp. 389-410)
      James A. Berlin

      Calls for situating cultural studies, a radically different set of research and teaching practices, at the center of English studies have been frequent of late. These projects range from the liberal formulations of Jonathan Culler, Gerald Graff, and Robert Scholes to the frankly leftist proposals of Gayatri Spivak, Frank Lentricchia, Edward Said, and Fredric Jameson. Their common contention, admittedly within a dizzying range of differences, is that texts, both poetic and rhetorical, must be considered within the (variously defined) social context that produced them. Responses to texts, furthermore, must include the means for critiquing both text and context. For those...

    • 16 What We Need to Know about Writing and Reading, or Peter Elbow and Antifoundationalism
      (pp. 411-422)
      Ellen Gardiner

      While the work of Peter Elbow has been a powerful force in composition studies, several composition theorists have been critical of the conservative political implications of Elbow’s pedagogy. James Berlin and Lester Faigley, for example, argue that Elbow’s theory “hides the social nature of language” (Faigley 531) and teaches students how to “to assert a private vision, a vision which, despite its uniqueness, finally represents humankind’s best nature” (Berlin 487). Theorists such as Patricia Bizzell have viewed Elbow as foundationalist because he believes, she argues, that students are capable of “learning to examine [their] beliefs in light of those advanced...

    • 17 Teaching as a Test of Knowledge: Passion, Desire, and the Semblance of Truth in Teaching
      (pp. 423-435)
      David Metzger

      At the end of theProtagoras, Socrates discovers that insofar as what we teach is knowledge we cannot teach it. The essential thrust of theProtagoras, as well as theMeno, is that if knowledge is particular, teaching cannot be and if teaching is particular, knowledge cannot be. In theMeno, Socrates asks what virtue is, and Meno insists on teaching him about virtue by examples. Socrates tells him that such teaching will not do; Socrates wishes to know what virtue is. Then Meno tells him how to be virtuous by acting virtuously. Socrates insists that Meno has not yet...

    • 18 Composition in an Antifoundational World: A Critique and a Proposal
      (pp. 436-454)
      Michael Bernard-Donals

      In 1982 Maxine Hairston wrote an essay that suggested the field of rhetoric and composition studies was undergoing a revolutionary change the likes of which Thomas Kuhn noticed occurring in the natural sciences (Hairston, “Winds of Change” 76–77). That essay is less notable for its assertion that composition studies was undergoing vast change than it is for its invocation of Kuhn. Three years earlier, Patricia Bizzell had written an article noting a similar shift in English studies, one closer to the spirit of Kuhnian paradigm shifts, suggesting that without foundations, students run the risk of thinking that all knowledge...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 455-456)
  10. Index
    (pp. 457-468)