The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


Joe's Future

Submitted by Jim Aune on August 21, 2006 - 5:28pm

Today Lieberman attacked Rumsfeld, leading Eric Alterman to make this prediction, which I find frighteningly plausible: "Here’s my prediction: If Lieberman wins the election, he will not switch to the Republicans, as some fear. But he will do the functional equivalent, which is accept Bush’s appointment to replace Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, resign his seat and allow the Republican governor of Connecticut to appoint a Republican in his stead. That is the implicit deal between the Lieberman camp and Rove, Cheney, Bush etc and the reason, that alone, in the entire country, this is the only race where this most partisan of political operations, refuses to support the Republican in the race. Bush, Rove and Cheney do not make political decisions on the basis of what they think is good for the country. They care only about their party and themselves." More here:


t-sips Sip More Than t

Submitted by Jim Aune on August 21, 2006 - 2:52pm


Bush Hates America, Parrots Liberal Lies

Submitted by Jim Aune on August 21, 2006 - 11:18am

At a news conference today, Bush conceded that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Bush opened his remarks at 10 AM, announcing that the nation would be offering $230 million in aid to Lebanon. The president also called for fast deployment of an international peacekeeping force. Late in the conference, when asked what Iraq's role was in the World Trade Center attacks, the president said, "Nothing." But he went on to suggest that by overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime, the United States could forestall future acts of terrorism by defeating resentment with hope, "and the best way to do hope is through a form of government." --The full transcript is at Update: a quick survey of the CNN and other MSM websites reveals that NONE include discussion of these remarks; the focus is entirely on Lebanon and Iran. The oddest interchange from the news conference: QUESTION: But are you frustrated, sir? BUSH: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated, rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. You know, this is -- this is a -- it's -- but war's not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times. And they're difficult times. And they're straining the -- the psyche of our country. I understand that.


An Evening of Rhetoric, Reform, and Revolution

Submitted by Adria on August 20, 2006 - 1:28am

Tonight, Scot and I had the honor and privilege of witnessing the nuptial ceremony of Katie Feyh and Dana Cloud, and the growing/strengthening of their family with Dana's daughter, Sam. The entire evening was filled with beauty and joy, but I remain particularly touched by the words said during the toasts. As one might expect, a gathering of rhetoricians provided ample orators for the occasion. But what happened had nothing to do with skilled orators and everything to do with the passion and politics of the brides. Soooo many people came forward to speak of Dana's and Katie's impact on individual lives as well as politics. I watched the beloveds, glowing in love, (and I must add because it was such an awesome sight--they were later pulled out onto the dance floor by a VERY cool and suave Dean/Dr. Hart), and I was left breathless (from Dr. Hart's cool moves, yes, but primarily from the power and love in these two people). Scot whispered something to me that seemed to summarize everything: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."


Method Part II

Submitted by Jim Aune on August 19, 2006 - 7:30pm

B. Practice theory (getting from micro level of text to the macro structural level) 1. Emphasize specific social practices, including rhetorical strategies and tactics (a la De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life—what kind of everyday “resistance” do the weak use? 2. Understand the “structure of the conjuncture”: structural changes occur through practice—the values learned in practice become the new structure. Social change often occurs through failed structural reproduction along traditional lines, in which new “meanings” become central to re-structuration. 3. Practices as efforts to resolve social, political, economic contradictions (Ortner on Sherpa monasteries in High Religion) C. Big Theory questions: 1. Is the Structure/Agency opposition a “constitutive” one? i.e., an ongoing debate within Western culture, because of its own inherent contradictions? (Bourdieu, in Pascalian Meditations, says rather cynically that the opposition persists because it’s part of the academic game to attain symbolic capital by locating oneself within a particular school of thought). 2. Explicit and implicit accounts of rhetorical action are especially fruitful to analyze in understanding Sahlins’ “structure of the conjuncture.” a. Structure-oriented Marxists ignored issues of meaning and rhetoric—as Sewell writes, Marxist used to link “mere” and “rhetoric” the way they linked “rising” and “bourgeoisie.” b. More action-oriented social historians have neglected the role of public rhetoric as an important nexus of the elite and the popular. So, is rhetoric (discursive strategies and tactics) itself the primary site at which one can observe the structure/agency problem in social life?



Submitted by Jim Aune on August 19, 2006 - 7:28pm

I'm finally getting down to work on my next project--on the Gastonia strike of 1929 and its fictional and scholarly representations. Here's a stab at describing my "method"; if anyone has a minute, please point out strengths and weaknesses: A. Implicit rhetorical theory as recurring theme in my scholarship 1. Political “languages” or ideologies address or imply a. an ideal form of persuasion/communication, and b. a model of how people change their minds. 2. Sometimes a rhetorical theory is explicit, as in Plato, Aristotle, or Kant, but in others (since the 18th century) it has to be reconstructed, usually by attention to these key moments in the text a. representations of crowds and audiences, b. representations of oratory and other persuasive messages, including the “repertoire” (Charles Tilly) of actors in contentious politics c. signs of social anxieties about forms of communication (usually fear of the Mob or of deceptive elites) d. representations of “sparks”—moments of popular mobilization or popular quiescence (e.g. Plato’s “beautiful lie,” or the neoconservative belief in the need of philosophers to lie to the democratic public) 3. Both fictional and philosophical texts can be studied this way. 4. Methodological influences: a. Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (especially the classic first chapter describing differing narrative strategies in Homer and in the book of Genesis). b. Wayne Booth’s ethical criticism (The Company We Keep) c. James Boyd White’s constitutive rhetoric (When Words Lose Their Meanings) d Edwin Black on the “Third Persona”and Christine Oravec on the Whig and Jacksonian styles in antebellum American political discourse e. Derridean deconstruction’s attention to moments of figural and conceptual instability in texts (or Althusser’s symptomatic reading—attention to the non-dit—the not-said—and moments of décalage—slippage). 5. For example, in Selling the Free Market (2001) I studied the fictional and political discourse of radical libertarians, demonstrating that libertarianism as an ideology has a distinctive, and highly limited, view of communication: communication and persuasion are reduced to information exchange and cost-benefit analysis, ignoring the “friction” created by social norms and emotions. 6. Rhetoric and Marxism (1994): Classical Marxism contained an internal inconsistency or décalage: why should anyone revolt if history follows a deterministic sequence of modes of production? An inability to theorize political persuasion itself led to efforts by later Marxists (especially the Western Marxists) to fill in the gap between “structure” and “struggle,” culminating in Habermas’ theory of communicative action.



Submitted by Jim Aune on August 19, 2006 - 5:25pm

"Dr." James Kennedy is one of the more dangerous televangelists. Here's information on an upcoming special with Ann Coulter as one of the guests: Christian attitudes toward Jews had nothing whatsoever to do with it, evidently. Seems odd, again, since in my experience White Evangelical Southerners are perfectly social darwinist in their view of the disabled and poor.


"Abortion Shouldn't Be Something To be Ashamed Of"

Submitted by Adria on August 19, 2006 - 3:54pm

A post from the blog, Bitch, PhD: The year before Roe v. Wade, fifty-three famous women, including Susan Sontag, Gloria Steinem, and Anne Sexton, publicly acknowledged in Ms. magazine that they had had abortions. Now Ms. is asking those of us who value the fact that we've grown up with the ability to obtain abortions safely and legally to do the same. If you've had an abortion, you can say so here ; and like Sexton, Steinem, and Sontag, you can give Ms. permission to print your name in the magazine, or on the website (or not at all, if you prefer). And if, like me, you've been lucky enough to have only the pregnancy(ies) you were ready for, you can still sign in solidarity with your sisters--in my case, literally--and donate to Ms. "Reproductive Freedom Fund," which goes to support the Feminist Majority Foundation , which "engages in research and public policy development, public education programs, grassroots organizing projects, leadership training and development programs, and participates in and organizes forums on issues of women's equality and empowerment." They also, if you didn't know, have a nifty Feminist Career Center that lists interesting jobs and--for you academic types--internships that you or your students might be interested in. for original link: click here



Submitted by Jim Aune on August 19, 2006 - 12:02pm

Jack Balkin analyzes the judicial opinion, and finds it wanting: While Erwin Chemerinsky praises it: Includes links to the opinion and orders.


Rhetorical Review

Submitted by Jim Aune on August 19, 2006 - 11:40am

The June issue is out: Rhetorical Review The Electronic Review of Books on the History of Rhetoric Includes a review of a very important new book on Wilson: Robert Alexander Kraig: Woodrow Wilson and the Lost World of the Oratorical Statesman