Rhetoric CFPs & TOCs

Rhetoric CFPs & TOCs
Photo: Kristoffer Trolle (creative commons)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Blogora Classic: Aune on Academic Style, 2006-07-17

Academic Style: Poetes Maudits, 

One good thing about blogging is that it gives one something to do at 3 a.m. when you can't get back to sleep, and the world is in chaos. First a Wikipedia definition:
--A poète maudit (French: accursed poet) is a poet living a life outside or against society. Abuse of drugs and alcohol, insanity, crime, violence, and in general any societal sin, often resulting in an early death are typical elements of the biography of a poète maudit. The first poète maudit, and its prototype, was François Villon (143a1-c. 1474) but the phrase wasn't coined until the beginning of the 19th century by Alfred de Vigny in his 1832 drama Stello, in which he calls the poet “la race toujours maudit par les puissants de la terre.” Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud are considered typical examples.--
What I have come to find puzzling over the last ten years (it hit me with a vengeance the year I taught at Penn State), is the peculiar combination of academic careerism and the--er--"valorization" of a poete maudit's style of life. Examples: Foucault's "limit experience" being hit by a car while on opium, Bataille's pornography, Deleuze's death (once praised to me by a graduate student), Nietzsche's madness. 1960's versions: the breakdowns, addictions, and suicides of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, John Berryman--the whole "confessional" school of American poetry. And the "popular" culture of the Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and on and on. For a young person of a certain temperament, this sort of thing is worse than crack.
It's not an ideology, because it is almost empty of argument--maybe "structure of feeling" is a better term. It has recurred steadily since the industrial revolution (Benjamin's "shock effects," I guess, as an aesthetic of coping with urban life). In its academic form: "a focus on the garbage of history," as Grossberg put it in at NCA last fall. It has developed into a particular--nod here to Hariman, il miglior fabbro--academic style.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Blogora Classic: Aune on Gouldner on Theory-Making, 2006-07-23

Gouldner on Theory-Making

I've been meditating today on this statement by sociologist Alvin Gouldner (probably the main influence on my own work):
"Much of theory-work begins with an effort to make sense of one's experience. Much of it is initiated by an effort to resolve unresolved experience; here, the problem is not to validate what has been observed or to produce new observations, but rather to locate and to interpret the meaning of what one has lived. . . . Theory-making, then, is often an effort to cope with threat; it is an effort to cope with a threat to something in which the theorist himself is deeply and personally implicated and which he holds dear" (The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, 1970: 484).

Monday, August 12, 2019

Blogora Classic: Aune on Sovereign Performatives, 2006-08-11

Sovereign Performatives

I continue to muse on the differences between rhetoric in English and in Comm; I suspect that by the time I retire there will be nearly complete convergence between the two institutionally, partially for good (it's only logical), and partially for bad (continued marginalization in NCA, and displacement of rhetoric by cultural studies/media studies as locus of humanities research in Comm departments). I am one of the few NCA rhetoricians of my generation to have been educated in a department that offered theater, oral interpretation, speech correction (!), and "speech" (a core of public speaking, argumentation, persuasion, and American public address)--in other words, a department centered almost entirely on performance. The model eventually failed everywhere, partially because of conflicting temperaments between "drama" and "communication" types, partially because of the rise of bad social science in NCA circles in the 1ate 1960's, and partially because of the inherent conflict between scholarship and a heavy emphasis on teaching undergraduate performance through extracurricular activities. Traces of the old model still survive at places like Memphis, where Communication is in a College of Fine Arts.
My department, which does a remarkably good job with undergraduate teaching despite our heavy research productivity and huge classes (e.g. 250 people in history of rhetoric), is charged--like the rest of A&M--to start planning for "enhancement of the undergraduate experience." At worst, this is going to mean some sort of testing/measurement of "outcomes," but it's a good conversation to have. Here's my problem: why is it that we cannot teach undergraduate performance effectively? There are two "skills" courses in speech: public speaking and argumentation. They are, for the most part, taught well, although they are staffed nearly 100% by graduate students, most of whom have very little background in oral performance themselves. From that point on, the most we have are group oral presentations in our 400-level classes, and, of course, oral reports in graduate courses. To put it bluntly: the skills aren't there, across the board, except for students with high school or undergraduate forensics experience (we do not have forensics at A&M). What is to be done?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Blogora Classic, Aune on Fascisms, 2006-08-11


Staying on message, both POTUS and Santorum used the term "Islamo-fascism" this week. I've posted on this before, but here again is a summary of Umberto Eco's classic essay on Ur-Fascism, for purposes of comparison:
1. Cult of tradition: there is some original wisdom (pre-philosophical) that we have lost:
a. Either "pure" (non-Jewish) Christianity or pre-Christian Indo-European mythology
b. Occult elements (hostility to science)
2. Rejection of modernity:
a. Rejection of science and technology (except as tools for warfare)
b. Suspicion of capitalism, especially big business, for destroying traditional communities
c. Rejection of liberty and equality as fundamental values (rejection of the Enlightenment)
3. Cult of Action for Action's Sake:
a. Hostility to intellectuals and intellectual life as subversive of traditional values AND as unconnected to the "real" world of toughness and action
b. Thinking is a form of emasculation
4. Dissent is betrayal: science proceeds by testing all hypotheses, liberal democracy by opening public issues to discussion and debate; no fascist can accept criticism.
5. Fear of difference (racial, cultural, ideological): everyone must think alike (or be eliminated from the community)
6. Springs from individual or social frustration: especially targets the frustrated middle class, envious of the rich but afraid of social pressure from below. The old "proletariat" or working class, having improved its lot in Europe and the U.S. post-WWII is now perhaps the greatest potential audience for a new Fascism, as it feels its economic gains slipping away.
7. Obsession with conspiracies: both outside the nation (xenophobia) and within (the perennial Jewish conspiracy from the inside).
8. Disciples must feel humiliated by the enemy's strength and power; paradoxically, the enemy is at once too strong and too weak.
9. Life is a permanent war; there must be a "last battle," "Armageddon," "final solution" after which an era of peace is created.
10. Scorn for the weak; "popular elitism": the people belong to the best people in the world, but there must be leaders, because the masses are like children, needing to be led.
11. Cult of death: the final reward for a heroic life.
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Fascist transfers his will to power onto sexual questions. This is the origin of machismo: contempt for women plus an intolerant condemnation of nonconformist sexual habits, especially homosexuality.
13. Populism: the "people" are no longer represented by the courts, the executive, and the legislature. Politics-as-usual is rotten.
14. Use of Newspeak (George Orwell, 1984): use of language to prevent critical and complex reasoning. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.
Part of the original essay, with references, is here: