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.

On Rhetoric


Credit to St. Peter's List of 60 Philosophy Memes

Credit to St. Peter’s List of 60 Philosophy Memes

For Ancient Rhetorics this week, we read Aristotle’s On Rhetoric (one of our exam texts). I know this reading cannot account for the scope of the text (which I am curious as to how many re-readings it will take…), but I am dwelling here in a few points of interest in an attempt to discern something articulable/to connect them to our conversations in class about historiography and ways of knowing rhetoric’s history.

I was really intrigued by Chapter 7 of Book I: “The Koinon of Degree of Magnitude—Greater or Smaller—as Applicable to Questions of the Advantageous and the Good in Deliberative Rhetoric” perhaps because of an interest in scale. To explain simply, I attribute scale in part to Franco Moretti’s concept of distant reading (which I plan on applying to On Rhetoric to see what emerges as patterns…). Close and distant reading (Moretti) are not binaries or diametrically opposed on opposite ends of the spectrum:

close —————————————distant

but move along a spectrum of proximity in reading a text or collection of texts (“close” being the reading we as a human individual can do within individual text(s) and “distant” being reading humans + computation can do across text(s) ); this is differential reading. Differential reading, or reading at scales, defamiliarize texts, making them unrecognizable in a way (putting them at a distance or oppositely at a proximity) that helps identify features otherwise unseen, to make hypotheses, generate questions, and figure out patterns and how to read them (Tanya Clement, “Text Analysis, Data Mining, and Visualizations in Literary Scholarship”). I am playing with Aristotle’s koinon like differential reading scales. Aristotle identified greater and smaller as degree of magnitude of importance as a form common to all species of rhetoric in questioning possibility or fact. Koinon are degree of importance/unimportance and possible/impossible. He then outlines 41 conceptions of koinon, ranging from “things exceeding something equal to a greater entity are greater than it” (six), to “what is scarcer is greater than what is abundant, though less useful” (fourteen), to “what all people prefer [is preferable] to what all do not” (twenty eight) as all the sources of pisteis or proof, means of persuasion, belief (31). Aristotle divides pisteis (proofs) into artistic and non-artistic:

  • non-artistic: witnesses, testimonies, other proofs which do not need to be invented
  • artistic: need to be invented

I found myself wondering what type of proofs historical texts and historiographic research are categorized as—artistic or non-artistic and how this might change the way we see what is possible in doing historical work. If we see historiography as non-artistic proof, perhaps we are limiting what we can see as possible history even as we try to broaden our perspectives of history. Perhaps if we see historiography as artistic proof, needing to be invented, we might change how we look at history. Something like differentiated reading, made available through distantly reading texts with computer assistance, might bring to the surface details about history we have not focused or gaze upon.  Thus my fixation on differentiated reading with the koinon as illustrative of pisteis: historical work has ambient perspectives that have not been in the vocal spotlight. This brushed up against the idea of amplification or auxesis from Chapter 9 Book I: Epideictic Rhetoric (epideictic being demonstrative or fit for display). Auxesis is an overstatement to stress size/significance; it extends thoughts/statements to increase rhetorical effect, to add importance, or to make the most of a thought. To maximize or minimize elements through amplification seems to fit with the conceptions of koinon in proof. From limited reading about rhetorical amplification, it involves identifying parts of a text by a process of division, where each text can be amplified. Amplification is equated to inventio or systematic discovery that investigates the possible means by which profs can be discovered. Turning this thought thread back to historiography, I wonder how this might affect the ways in which historical work is done. Or perhaps, how we imagine it can be done. Which left me wondering about stasis theory (something that came up in a conversation with Collin last week—an accidental Aristotle connection) and its application to historical research. Stasis theory leads to knowledge building, or perhaps debate and re-building, through achieving stasis. Achieving stasis means that parties involved in a dialogue about a given issue have reached consensus on (or agreed upon) the information and conclusions in one or more of the stases:

  • Question of fact: did the person damage the item? (conjectural)
  • Question of definition: was the damage minor or major? (definitional)
  • Question of quality: was he justified in damaging the item? (qualitative)
  • Question of jurisdiction: should this be a civil or criminal trial? (translative)

Where does most research fall along the stases? How does this impact the ways in which we know the field (ways of reading and researching)? How might our perspectives change if we focus not on what we’re reading/researching, but how we’re reading/researching?

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)