The Blogora: The Rhetoric Society of America


Textbook Inflation

Submitted by Jim Aune on November 5, 2005 - 9:53pm

An interesting article on the high cost of textbooks, from the New Yorker I'm not actually sure that the "agency costs" argument works, because I, like most faculty I know, do try to find cheap editions.


Fingers in their ears for 25 years

Submitted by Anonymous on November 5, 2005 - 8:34pm

The Centre Squawker provides a fuller account than any other I've read or heard of Thursday night's poignant protest against Penn State women's hoops coach Rene Portland. I'll be adding some more links as I have time. I was there as an observer. What I observed broke my heart ... and made me more sure than ever that we all need to educate ourselves about campus "speech codes," "free speech zones," and what parts of our campuses are arguably public and what parts private ... and by what statutes. I observed reporters who willingly and without comment gave up their right to use their press passes to TRY to gain access to arguably public events. And university administrators who complained to each other about the rude vagaries of "the second floor" -- or who asked me to "tell the students they're doing a great job" -- but who would not under any circumstances talk to reporters. That was left for the U's PR logomachia. I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by public relations...
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Rule 21

Submitted by Anonymous on November 1, 2005 - 7:31pm

It's interesting that Frist and other Rs would call the use of Senate Rule 21 a "political stunt."


A Hill to Die On

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 31, 2005 - 11:02am

The Alito appointment is really bad. Once again Bush chooses pandering to his base instead of bringing the nation together. Alito appears at first sight even more conservative than Scalia. From Jeffrey Rosen's backgrounder a year ago in the New Republic: "Samuel Alito Jr., 54. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Known as "Scalito," or little Scalia, he is considered less blustering than the big guy, but liberals will undoubtedly balk at his abortion record. In 1991, he dissented from a decision to strike down Pennsylvania's spousal notification provision--a decision the Supreme Court later upheld in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the decision that reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. What should be far more troubling to Senate Democrats, however, is Alito's 1996 dissent from a decision upholding the constitutionality of a federal law prohibiting the possession of machine guns. Applying the logic of the Constitution in Exile for all it's worth, Alito insisted that the private possession of machine guns was not an economic activity, and there was no empirical evidence that private gun possession increased violent crime in a way that substantially affected commerce--therefore, Congress has no right to regulate it. Alito's colleagues criticized him for requiring "Congress or the Executive to play Show and Tell with the federal courts at the peril of invalidation of a Congressional statute." His lack of deference to Congress is unsettling." The term "Constitution in exile" refers to the radical right-wing claim that we need to restore the pre-1937 Supreme Court, which routinely struck down social and economic legislation (e.g. child labor and the minimum wage) on grounds of interference with "liberty of contract." Yes, really.


My Leave Proposal

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 30, 2005 - 9:44pm

I'm eligible for a sabbatical in 2006, so I'm writing the proposal now. I've decided to revisit an idea I had about twenty years ago. If anyone in Blogora-land has a moment to read this and make suggestions, I'd greatly appreciate it. During the leave period, I plan to research and write a book on the Gastonia, North Carolina textile strike of 1929. The strike was the first American Communist-led labor dispute to receive national and world-wide attention. The strike was a dismal failure, resulting in the conviction of the strike leaders for conspiracy to commit murder, and in a long-lasting hostility to labor organizing in North Carolina and the South generally. The events leading up to the strike and the trial of the strike leaders, however, exercised a powerful hold on many writers, both academic and popular. The Yale theologian Liston Pope used the events to write a classic work in the sociology of religion, Millhands and Preachers ((1942). John R. Earle, Dean Knudsen, and Donald W. Shriver updated Pope's work on the role of religion in Gastonia labor relations in their 1976 book Spindles and Spires. At least six novels drew directly on the Gastonia events, three of which were even translated into Russian for the edification of the Soviet working class. Fielding Burke's (Olive Tilford Dargan) Call Home the Heart, has received considerable recent scholarly attention from feminist literary critics. Marxist-feminist Barbara Foley discusses the novels in her 1993 work Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941. W.J. Cash's influential The Mind of the South has a major section on the strike. A series of sociological studies of the Southern textile industry, most of them originating at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, also were inspired by the strike. Historians of American Communism have largely interpreted the strike as an example of the Party's impractical radicalism in the late 1920's. Fred Beal, the Communist labor organizer who led the Gastonia strike, fled to the Soviet Union after the trial of the strikers for the murder of the Gastonia police chief (the trial, which had a number of peculiar features--including a life-size replica of the murdered police chief's body, which terrified a juror so much he had to be institutionalized--was the subject of an intensive discussion in the Harvard Law Review). He soon became disillusioned by the Soviets' treatment of their workers. Louis McLaughlin, one of Beal's fellow defendants who had escaped to Moscow, was jailed for stealing a loaf of bread. Beal returned to North Carolina to serve his sentence, although he was pardoned in 1942. His book about the strike and his Soviet experienes, Proletarian Journey, was serialized in the Hearst papers, and he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a friendly witness. of American labor usually discuss the strike in terms of the ongoing failure of labor unions in the South, although Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, et al. in Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton-Mill World have documented sympathetically the distinctive culture of the Gastonia workers. John A. Salmond's 1995 book, Gastonia 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike, is the only complete narrative history of the strike. There is no study of journalistic representations of the strike in the United States, although some work has been done on foreign press coverage. The scholarly and popular representations of the strike and its causes provide a useful body of materials for discussing the following questions: 1. How did ideological factors, e.g. Marxist and/or feminism, affect the narrative and argumentative strategies in works on the strike? 2. How did the rhetorical constraints of academic disciplines (the sociology of religion, literary theory, women's studies, and labor history) affect scholarly understanding of the strike? 3. How do the academic and popular writings address the issue of historical causation? What is the proper relationship among cultural, political, and economic factors in accounting for the strike and its aftermath? 4. What is the nature of public memory of the strike, both in Gastonia and in the Southern Piedmont generally? 5. How might we explain the strike and its effects in terms of current theories of the rhetoric of social movements or "contentious politics"? 6. What are the implications of the study for understanding the role of rhetoric and narrative in historiography? 7. How does the strike illuminate the complex relationship between structure and agency in historical events? During the leave, I intend to research primary archival materials on the strike, most of which are held in the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Gastonia, North Carolina libraries. I also intend to spend two weeks in Gastonia investigating the public memory of the strike among the town's citizens. My book will focus on the rhetorical strategies of the sociological, literary, Marxist, feminist, religious, and legal commentators of the strike. It will provide the first overview of the ways in which the strike and the strikers were represented in narrative and academic forms, usually to serve some ideological or institutional purpose far removed from the needs and desires of the Gastonia strikers themselves. The book continues my research program in the history of Marxist theories of culture and communication, begun in my 1994 book Rhetoric and Marxism, and in the rhetoric of economics (Selling the Free Market, 2001).


Bush War Crimes Tribunal

Submitted by ddd on October 28, 2005 - 7:56am

The first session of the 2005 International Commission of Inquiry On Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration was held Oct 21-22. It's an interesting rhetorical study--might be good for classroom examination.


The GOP's Top Ad Man

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 26, 2005 - 4:44pm



Submitted by Jim Aune on October 26, 2005 - 9:49am

I have tons of things to do this morning, but I'm riveted to my computer monitor to see if "Bulldog" Fitzgerald makes a public announcement. He's with the grand jury as I write. Even this Administration isn't above the rule of law.


Higher Ed

Submitted by Jim Aune on October 26, 2005 - 9:37am

Andrew Hacker on several recent books on higher education: Nicholas von Hoffman on the privatization of public universities (Graham Spanier's hair even seems a bit mussed):


Shock and awe

Submitted by jenny on October 25, 2005 - 3:09pm

This Texas girl is shocked by the snow falling in October. I thought I could wait another month for a coat. And, as I freeze my tail, I see that my office is next to a collection of "genocide" (i.e., fetus) pictures from the anti-abortion group on campus this week. No matter. I've seen this kind of thing before on other campuses. Heck, I had to talk by a nine-foot tall image of an aborted fetus every year on UT's campus. I snuggle closer into my coat and keep walking. The problem with shock and awe is that fatigue sets in pretty quickly. Could it be that boredom is among the most powerful rhetorical forces?