Comparative Rhetoric Without Binary Inducing/Excluding “Non”

I continue to question how historiographic work might differently develop comparative rhetoric methods to not assert cultural values/reading/ways of knowing onto a text, but allow that text to establish its own rhetoric. How can two texts/object/ideas/persons be compared without the burden of binaries, “non”, the inheritance/weight of a Western historical timeline? How might comparative be developed as text design as a method of doing with/from texts? How might positionality move from a mindful stance to an action—doing within con/text?

Kermit E. Campbell “Rhetoric from the Ruins of African Antiquity”

  • “black Africa was not exclusively oral and not without recourse to a means of recording its use of language” (Abstract)
  • in 2006 (when this was published), the only extensive comparative rhetoric book of the time was George Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-cultural Introduction (1998); parts of Kennedy’s book describe rhetorical practices of various cultures in comparison with major components of classical (Greek and Roman) rhetoric so that other cultural groups are deemed “nonliterate” (256)
  • Comparative Rhetoric divides human culture into two main groups: “Societies Without Writing” and “Ancient Literate Societies”—such dichotomy assumes that societies are literate or oral and that literacy is non-transferable (258)
  • goal is not to codify African rhetoric, but to understand it as having rhetorical features different from those in ancient literate cultures (those based on alphabetic writing)
  • Campbell looks at Nubia, Axum, and Mali civilizations—acknowledges treatment as introductory and necessarily broad because knowledge of African antiquity is emerging gradually (258)
  • examples of rhetorical questions, metaphors, and proverbs according to Greek and Roman speech are not present, so “Samples of other kinds of speech or writing are needed to support or refute the claim” that there is explicit logical reasoning inherent that does not adhere to Western cultural practice/influence (274)

Keith Lloyd “Learning from India’s Nyaya Rhetoric: Debating Analogically through Vada’s Fruitful Dialogue”

  • truth-centered and rhetorically egalitarian method of analogical debate
  • “Though rhetoric was not identified as a discipline, India’s debate tradition clearly embodies rhetorical impulses: setting forth and testing propositions, analyzing and applying various perspectives, and convincing others through common experiences” (286)
  • the entire debate is not to find “a winner and a loser, but to tease out hidden assumptions that may lie in the background of some given position, so that there can be a clarification of what is at stake and what each party is committed to” — Nyaya vada as democracy and public discussion (286)
  • “most examples of Indian debate occur in recorded mythical-religious dialogues; inter-scholar debates are mentioned rather than recorded”…so most studies in Nyaya are theoretical, completely neglecting debate in action (286)
  • “Comparative rhetoricians describe Indian rhetorical context, but most, due to Greek biases, apply Western rhetorical terms to Indian texts rather than look to its own theoretical and practical debate tradition” (287, citing work of LuMing Mao)
  • examines the method’s rhetorical journey from “discussions of scholars and kings, to academic formulization, to popular dialogic expression”
  • Nyaya method:

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 7.33.54 PM

  • this idealized portrait (above)  says almost nothing about why Nyaya took shape as it did (291)
  • “dialogues are hierarchy-leveling, based in shared analogies, truth-centered, and proposed to encourage fruitful living and spiritual liberation” (292)
  • “the Nyaya method creates a hierarchy-leveling rhetorical environment in which interlocutors set aside social and ideological differences to share a ‘‘knowing episode,’’ offering a proposition tested by inference, perception, and comparison” (297)

Dominic Ashby “Uchi/Soto in Japan: A Global Turn”

  • presents a method for reconsidering identities linked to place and the rhetoric used to construct them (Abstract)
  • Focus on particulars and use of thick description becomes even more important for comparative studies (citing work of Arabella Lyon and Jacquline Jones Royster)
  • Asby proposes a” theory of inside–outside positionalities for engaging the meaning-making potential within tropes of inside-outside, foreign-local, and traditional-modern” (257)
  • sets out to illustrate that spatial metaphors—of which inside-outside is but one—have a prominent place in rhetoric and composition scholarship
  • uchi (inside) and soto (outside): the dynamic involves an expanding and contracting sense of ingroup and outgroup, or inclusion and exclusion, which shifts in response to context (257)
  • the relationship between individuals and social order is mutually constitutive and contextual. It influences participants’ speech and other behavior, including topics of conversation; but, these latter things also shape the social setting, so behavior and context constitute one another. The social order shapes what is proper behavior while the relationship between members of the group shapes or determines the social order. (258)
  • the work of Kaori Chino in visual studies of gender in art describes a moment of meaning-making resulting from this interaction between inside and outside, generating a new sense of what Japan ‘‘is.’’
  • Chino “characterizes the relationship between Tang China (Kara) and early Japan (Yamato) as a ‘‘double binary’’ structure, although a ‘‘nested’’ binary may be a better description” (260)
  • this “highlights how inside and outside together contribute to the construction of a cultural ‘‘inside,’’ and demonstrates that not only people shift along a polar axis of inside and outside, but that the significance of practices, objects, and genres do as well” (260)
  • terms: Kara-within-Yamato and of Yamato-within-Yamato
  • but this leaves out other possibilities of the ways cultural borrowings may act, and loses much of the potential for negotiation of meaning presented by the back and forth shifting of uchi/soto.
  • “Chino’s model is flawed in that it favors the most inner category, Yamato-within-Yamato, at the expense of the dynamism of the Yamato-Kara whole” (261)
  • Ashby emphasizes positionality to make dynamic the relationships “that define inside and outside as shifting, contextual, linked to identity and relationships, and involving agency” (262)
  • gives the example of Christmas cakes in Japan as a “hybrid adaptation” that have not done away with Western Christmas iconography but have not made Christmas in Japan uniquely Japanese’ (263)
  • cake: roundness (unity), white color (sacred festival food), red strawberries (to repel evil spirits), with red and white together appearing as the national flag; it is not just a modification of a tradition to better fit locally, the cake is an ‘‘invented tradition’’ that draws from two cultures
  • Ashby posits, “By looking anew at symbols and discourses of inside and outside in place of blockages to transcultural-national communication and understanding, we find new ways of seeing, appreciating, and enacting commonality–difference as an indeterminate and interdependent, polar relations” (268)

Analects of Confucius

As is customary to many of my weekends, I cook while reading and listening to podcasts. One of the more recent episodes of Radiolab called “Translation” struck me as significant to many of the conversations we have been having about doing historiographic work, translating texts, and what bearing the reading/research methods we bring to the text have on what we can and cannot see/read. The synopsis of the episode:

How close can words get you to the truth and feel and force of life? That’s the question poking at our ribs this hour, as we wonder how it is that the right words can have the wrong meanings, and why sometimes the best translations lead us to an understanding that’s way deeper than language. This episode, 8 stories that play out in the middle space between one reality and another — where poetry, insult comedy, 911 calls, and even our own bodies work to close the gap.

One of the stories within the episode, 100 Flowers, chronicled Professor of Cognitive Science Douglas Hofstadter’s captivation with the translation of  a short French poem. He compiled translations of the poem from different people he knew to examine whether or not people stuck to the original narrative (a poem to a sick young girl o get better), what details changed, how the rhyme scheme and length varied, and what words were chosen. I was struck by how complex just reading a text is—any text. We talk about context and circulation as matters of concern, as well as mindfulness in approaching a text. This becomes all the more salient when the text is decontextualized from its origin/time/place/impetus and further culture and language.

Reading through R. Eno’s edition of the Analects of Confucius, along with Arabella Lyon’s “Writing an Empire: Cross-Talk on Authority, Act, and Relationships with the Other in the Analects, Daodejing, and HanFeizi” and Xiaoye You’s “The Way, Multimodality of Ritual Symbols, and Social Change: Reading Confucius’s Analects as Rhetoric” I was curious as to how the texts themselves were laid out, particularly the Analects.

Eno structures the text as almost a double-entry journal, placing the translation of the text on the left with notes on the right.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 12.14.26 PM

Eno remarks that “scholars generally see the text as having been brought together over the course of two to three centuries, and believe little if any of it can be viewed as a reliable record of Confucius’s own words, or even of his individual views”. Instead he draws analogy to the biblical Gospels as offering “an evolving record of the image of Confucius and his ideas through from the changing standpoints of various branches of the school of thought he founded”. Further, due to the materiality of the original texts—ink drawn characters on strips of bamboo that were tied together with string— “all of the books bear the traces of rearrangements and later insertions, to a degree that makes it difficult to see any common thematic threads at all”.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 1.06.50 PM

Eno’s edition also includes a number of appendices that call attention to the speculation of reconstructive and translation work. Eno explains the numbering of the books in the as “speculative because we don’t know the original order of the bamboo slips; moreover some slips are clearly missing, many sections are fragmentary and difficult to reconstruct. In some cases, a passage number stands by a single orphan character, signify- ing that we can infer that a passage including the character existed, but it is otherwise lost (there may be other lost passages for which no remnant characters survive)”. Eno’s edition of Analects, in its design/layout, draws attention to how difficult reading is and just how much need be done to/with the text so that it can be read. This edition seems to demonstrate some of the critical considerations we have discussed in doing historiographic research—making the processing of the text more visible to the reader to consider and engage with.

Lyon and You’s texts aren’t structured like Eno’s, but work methodologically to draw attention to the situatedness of texts and what reading them as decontextualized from this original context may do to the text. Lyon works to replace comparative rhetoric with Steven Mailloux’s term cultural rhetoric, which he defines as “a rhetorical reading sensitive to the sociopolitical contexts of cultural production and reception”. Lyon is careful to note the usefulness of comparative rhetoric, along with cultural and transnational approaches, while drawing attention to what is most important for the “understanding and competent engagement with other cultures is learning the primary and secondary texts of a particular culture” (351). Lyon explains “As we situate our scholarship and its relationship to particular cultures and eras—as we approach global education—the purposes, limits, and outcomes of our writing should be more clearly articulated and connected with its effects” (353). Lyon doesn’t just discuss approaching research, but applies this frame to examining three models of rhetoric: the early Confucian traditions as developed in the Lunyu (􏰃􏰄) or Analects, a set of dialogues and assertions presented in small excerpts, composed or layered between 479 and 249 BCE; the Daodejing (􏰅􏰆􏰇) or Laozi (􏰈􏰉), a layered poetry series found as early as circa 300 BCE; and the argumentative essays of Legalist Han Fei (􏰊􏰋), circa 289–233 BCE (353). [Note: I left the squares intentionally as they should be Chinese characters that my Western language settings on my keyboard do not recognize). Lyon’s goal in looking at these three texts is to demonstrate how understanding one moment in one culture requires a significant investigation of earlier texts and traditions. She argues for scholars to need to know at least one culture beyond their own, to “study and teach a specific culture, recognizing its history, complexity, and diversity more fully” instead of rushing to understand through a transnational lens (through which to see/not see)—Translation between cultures is never easy or total, but it can be “more than the mirror of our minds” (qting Richards 86) (364).

You explains the attention that Analects has gotten over the last several decades, attention that is well deserved to such a text. But You brings our attention to how the text has been read by comparative rhetoricians “both within the ‘‘deficiency’’ model as well as ‘‘in its own terms,’’ thus leading to markedly divergent interpretations of the text. You questions: ” The unsettledness of the various readings makes me wonder, What can we derive about classical Western rhetoric from the complexity of reading the Analects?” (427). The goal of You’s text is to demonstrate through reconstructive reading “what kind of reading of the Analects would evidence an effective move ‘‘from the etic approach to the emic approach’’ (7), or shifting our focus from categorical concepts to materials and conditions native to the text itself” (427). In looking at both the deficiency model and the in its own terms model, You articulates “assuming the verbal suasory framework articulated by the Greeks and Romans is universally applicable to reconstructing non-Western rhetorical traditions has proved unsatisfying in the case of the Analects. On the other hand, the assumption that non-Western rhetorical traditions share different or even opposite ideological values with Western traditions seems to be a faulty impression, lacking sufficient evidence” (430).

I’m left wondering how historical texts might be differently presented so that this matters of concern are more visible/audible/discernable to how we are reading a text. What would be afforded to editions that position side by side many translations/interpretations of a text like Hofstadter’s re-reading of the poem? Or is it something afforded by being digital like Ben Fry’s visualization process “On the Origin of Species: The Preservation of Favoured Traces” in which the changes across six editions of Charles Darwin’s text are made visible/traceable?

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 2.48.03 PM



historical timevines

And in the long run, who is to say that stringing sentences together is a better way to describe an experience than vising an image? Where would we be without “trains of thought”, “lines of reasoning”, “grounds for ideas”?

Culture and Rhetorical Patterns: Mining the Rich Relations Between Aristotle’s Enthymeme and Example and India’s Nyaya Method by Keith Lloyd

Our readings for class this week continue to develop, problematize, and thwart my thinking on what is possible as historiographical work. I find myself more and more thinking of revisionist and historical research as ecological by/in design—not as a correction or return down linear past in metanoia, but in an opening, an illuminating to the otherwise shadowed off the path from past to progress. In this opening quote from Keith Lloyd’s article I found resonance and connections explored at length in Luming Mao’s “Thinking beyond Aristotle: The Turn to How in Comparative Rhetoric”. What I appreciated about all of our reading this week, but particularly in these two, was the shift from methodology to method—the how of doing the research and its affordances to how it differently structures knowledge. Mao carefully describes not just what comparative rhetoric is, but how it is done, and as importantly, how it is not done.

Mao describes comparative rhetoric as inherently interdisciplinary, and as “committed to different ways of knowing and speaking and to different forms of inquiry, investigates across time and space communicative practices that frequently originate in noncanonical contexts and are often marginalized, forgotten, or erased altogether” (448). Citing emphasis placed and propagated by Aristotle’s work to define proper and essential subject for the art of rhetoric and on the body of proof for its demonstration, Mao illuminates the emphasis on a perpetual want to claim a set of concepts for rhetoric, despite the competing meanings that have accumulated over time. Mao attributes this emphasis to the need to claim intellectual progress, and as a result, disciplinary legitimacy as study. Instead of fixating of facts if essence, Mao suggests a shift to focus on facts of usage to develop a more informed understanding of the conditions of historicity, specificity, and incongruity. Here, Mao invokes Jenny Edbauer Rice’s rhetorical ecologies as a way of envisioning history that permits and frustrates the available means and models of discourse in the “shifting and moving, grafted onto and connected with other events” and lined “to the in-between en/action of events and encounters”. This new ways of seeing matters of fact can lead to the discovery of new paradigms of knowing. In comparative rhetoric, this look in between two texts is not to see the similarities and differences across them, but to see the effects of text—what has influenced and been influenced. The move is “metadiscplinary” (Haun Saussy); the purpose is not to guarantee uniqueness or coherence, but to represent “the condition of openness to new objects and new forms of inquiry” (453).

I am fascinated by the prospects of breaking the past-progress narrative; in nit blurring the line, but leaving it as form of knowing.

Tradition(s) and History(s) of Rhetoric Reading Notes

This week for Ancient Rhetorics, we read several pieces that continue to discuss how (method/ology) to do historiography. These pieces discussed the matter of time/distance as influential to how we can conceive and account for events.

Ballif, Michelle. “Writing the Event: The Impossible Possibility for Historiography.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol. 44. No.3. (Jun. 2014). pp. 243-255.

  • “‘normative historical thinking’ elides the radical singularity of the event by subjecting the event meaning by way of categories of knowledge that cannot—by definition—include the radical singularity of ‘what happened'” (243)
  • events are only significant if they satisfy a chronological narrative of beginning, middle, and end (traditional historical thinking)
  • normative historical thought imposes temporal constraints on the happening/event and impose violence to “what was” by coopting past events as evidentiary to the guiding paradigm, argument, or hypothesis that prompted the historical work (244)
  • questioning the possibility of impossibility in historiography – to not submit it to a state of being by way of making ontological claims about the event, but merely to foreground its various appearances (245)
  • invoking Derrida and post-structuralist thought: “A Certain Impossible Impossibility of Saying the Event”, “Structure, Sign, and Play”
  • need to view events as exceptional or singular so that it is not reducible to norms or rules; events are arrivant – a radically other, a future that cannot be forseen (246)
  • shifts future from horizontal expectations of temporality to vertical—”it is always already repeatable…in that it will reappear” (246)
  • the event happens or arrives all the time but is not reducible to phenomenology; there is no grammar to it; it is beyond categorical systems of knowledge and programmatical systems of agency
  • method or considerations in writing historiography to come: reorientation of time; understand time as event  (247)—a different order, as open, as possibility, as intensity
  • break from “temporal logic of belatedness” (246) that comes from narration after the event
  • constative vs. performative instantiations of language (248-49)
    • constative: presume to state instances of fact about a referent|most histories are a narrativation of these utterances
    • performative: does not have a referent outside of itself|doesn’t say an event, but produces it in and through the utterance
    • but performative eventalness of an event as a radical singularity relies on repetition—a redoubling or reiteration (Derrida) as an act of creation
  • regard an event’s vertical nature through symptomology: something that falls; befalls us (252)
  • writing is of chance – don’t know where it’s going – destiner au hasard (Derrida)
  • ultimately, what does this look like? the text is hospitality: it sets the table but leaves an empty place setting for what will have arrived, what has not yet arrived, and for what could not be recognized as having arrived (254)
  • what does these mean for how historical texts are constructed? are they less version and re-versions and more collecting of materials for close looking/conversation? does this destabilize how we read/react to histories?

Kellner, Hans. “Is History Ever Timely?” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol. 44 No. 3 pp. 234-242.

  • practical past: versions of the past used daily to tell stories about what human experience means
  • historical past: reports what happened
  • invokes Friedrich Nietzsche’s untimely to illustrate that historians untimely come to believe backwards
  • figuralism: reversed logic to retroactively convert the past into a figure of the future (236)
  • integrates past and present in untimely way; distance between then and now is mediated by a higher order of things because this fulfillment must occur if the figure can exist as a figure or events may be stranded in time without historical meaning (236)
  • distance ascribes historical meaning
  • connection to investigate further—theoria: contemplation through spectating as a spectator/from a distance
  • how do we view untimeliness? as “catastrophic loss or as an enabling treasure”? (237)
  • chronoschism: split in time that creates distance used to make a case
  • “Between the extremes of causal verbal time markers and grand historical distances lie an innumerable variety of historical and historiographic chronoschisms, which erupt continually and disruptively. No moment of time stands or speaks for itself; it is always a figure without meaning or place until fulfilled by a later moment, itself without its own meaning since the present is never present” (240)
  • our medium of historiography is language—a disruptive medium full of chronoschisms that make any history untimely
  • all histories are untimely
  • while not explicitly stated, is this a suggestion for less narrative (language/voice) emphasis and more material focus in historical accounts? 
  • regarding a connection to theoria, are histories/historical texts meant to serve as a medium for disruption in order to see sat a different distance/scale/perspective? how does this keep its form as distance or space and not become lens (of focus or exclusion as blinder)?

Graff, Richard and Michael Leff. “Revisionist Historiography and Rhetorical Tradition(s)”. The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition. State University of New York Press.

  • “rhetorical tradition” as resonance for what was studied but also establishment in the academy: “The history was our history” (11)
  • revisionist moves have prompted traditions under pluralism and have sought to replay history with theory or system
  • explain that these revisionist moves are not always well considered because older scholarship is hardly as monolithic as it is sometimes represented (12)
  • much to commend in the study of rhetoric’s history/ies, but they also threat to destroy a sense of tradition. “The almost infinite sprawl of rhetorical practices encourages a splintering of interests, and without a tradition against which we can measure our innovations, we may lose the minimum level of coherence necessary to sustain an academic community” (12)
  • our received sense of tradition is no longer possible, but lacking a sense of tradition risks dismemberment
  • working to create a concept of tradition that serves as a via media between seamless uniformity and scattered situated cases (12)

waves of revisionism:

  • first: theory and system in the history of rhetoric
    • systems: metaphysical (Protagoras and Plato); social (Isocrates and Cicero); epistemological (Descartes, Locke, Campbell); educational-ethical (Quintilian); theological (Augustine); esthetic (Blair); logical (Whately); psychological (Winans)
    • rhetoric is a dynamic and evolving entity; tradition is not inert and reactionary, but can facilitate change by connecting “theoretical” resources to tasks (19)
    • the teaching of rhetoric offers an important site of practice where mediation can occur over time
  • second: critical historiography and rhetorical histories
    • interpretation of the cultural exigencies that encourage multiple modes of rhetorical response (23)
  • rhetorical pedagogy as the tradition of rhetoric
    • “the teaching of rhetoric as a practice offers a stable referent for a historical tradition, but it does not lock us into grand narratives or perspectives that move us outside a local context” (27)
  • the move for revision destabilizes the notion of a singular tradition (if that was ever possible – even before revisions); I found myself wondering about the minimum boundedness of disciplinarity in our dynamic discipline.

Stroud, Scott R. “Pragmatism and the Methodology of Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol.39. No.4 (Oct. 2009). pp. 353-379.

  • comparative rhetoric often conceived of as studying and arguing that postulates  fact of matter that analysis is to uncover, reflect, and get right (354)—to correctly describe a practice or text
  • pragmatism (in a Deweian sense) allows for a re-envisioning of comparative rhetoric in that it naturalizes criticism and positions criticism as subservient to an agent’s purpose in an environment. This allows for a describing of some phenomenon so that one might reconstruct some phenomenon instead of using the standards of one a priori.
  • comparative rhetoric ought to be informed by pragmatist approach, which shares a long history with psychology and social psychology, because it unites readings of habit and psychological functioning with rhetorical and critical concerns (362)