Rough Cuts: Techne from Neoclassicism to Postmodernism

Pender, Kelly. Techne: From Neoclassicism to Postmodernism: Understanding Writing as a Useful, Teachable Art. Parlor Press 2011.

  • relationship between techne and the development of rhetoric and composition as an academic discipline in the mid-twentieth century the influence of postmodern theory on that development what we don’t often teach/don’t teach under the rubric of “writing” in contemporary comp courses (3)
  • defending techne as a way to understand and teach writing
  • from Greek tekhne – no approximate in English, so likened to art, skill, and craft – but none of these embrace the whole complex structure, so when we use any of these, it is only a part
  • art-fine art
  • craft-more utilitarian
  • created confusion in the circulation of art in the rhetoric community
  • what connects techne to art, skill, or craft?
  • all a process of making – producing
  • poeisis – the act of bringing something into being; techne is a form of poeisis that follows a course of reasoning (one that can be studied, systematized and taught), has its origin in a maker (work toward something knowable), is concerned with things that can either be or not be (to locate in a world of contingent), and locates its end outside of the process of making in the use of the thing made (in a category of activities that are meant to accomplish something in the world) (5)
  • the base techne served in establishing research and legitimacy to the growing field of rhetoric and composition – a sturdy but narrow foundation (6-7)
  • composite definitions of techne:
  • techne as a “how-to” guide or handbook: absence of theoretical discussion is primary deficiency; serves as a technique to be applied or examples to be mimicked – not addressing what causes rhetorical success and failure (17)
  • techne as a rational ability to effect a useful result – a state of capacity to make; end of techne is instrumentally valuable in the use made of its product (21)
  • techne as a means of inventing new social possibilities – capacity to challenge status quo “mark the shifting and contestable borders of what is possible” (qtd. Atwill 27). makes techne situational (agile practitioners in situation, bodily implications less strict)
  • techne as a means of producing resources –  production never ends; every product becomes means for another round of production (31); risk of mere instrumentality (utility and usefulness become standards of judgment) – technology driven (making things with tools in opposition with the natural)
  • techne as a non-instrumental mode of bringing-forth – bringing forth of something from concealment to unconcealment; doesn’t fall on opposite end of the spectrum as fine art (35)
  • techne’s prominent and problematic features: its association with instrumentality and its emphasis on teachability – “And what happened once they began pointing out how theories of writing that privilege it teachable dimensions, which is to say its rational dimensions, often ignore its non-rational, material dimensions? (10)
  • “After all, if I want to establish techne’s value as theory and pedagogy of writing, then I need to demonstrate that it is not the semantic equivalent of an inkblot” rhetoric rorschach test (14)
  • definitions of techne exist on two continua: epistemological – definitions of techne establish different criteria for what kinds of knowledge can count as technical knowledge and axiological – the end of a particular techne always resides in the use of its products, not in the activity of producing them (15)
  • techne as a decontextualizing form of knowledge (20)
  • techne | knack (22-24)
  • “the artist’s ability to make universal judgments that allows her to take a specific situation into account” (25)
  • results as valuable as products (stable materials) or conditions (unstable materials)
  • taking the situation into account requires the ability to modify one’s plans for achieving a part. end, but also the ability to redefine that ed as the situation dictates (26)
  • maker | user exchange (bottom of 27)
  • new social possibilities from an exchange of power or of cultural critique (27)
  • techne as delusion or deception
  • subversion
  • experiential knowledge in terms of street smarts (not embodied knowledge) – lived experience that allows you to get around in the world how it circulates, what we value, economy of knowledge
  • techne as dangerous to social order (28, Greeks)
  • dolie techne “trap art” (28)
  • embodied knowledge to respond to kairos (29) –  ability to recoginize oprtune moment ingrained in being and body
  • techne creates opportunities for cultural critique by making tacit social practices explicit (qtd. Atwill and Lauer 30)
  • “when a boundary between insider and outsider is marked-when agents who have not been socialized into the practices of certain rhetorical situations must learn by art what those who have been in those situations have done by habit” (qtd. Atwill 30)
  • only when practices are made explicit to teachable strategies can values, subjectivities, and ideologies that operate within them can be examined/critiqued and then revised or replaced to better (30) – otherwise conditions continue to appear natural “immutable structures of reality and truth” instead of particular constructions (31)
  • frankfurt school: issues of reproducibility
  • “man the user” (33): solution to problem by shifting attention from utility to user (but problem: maker is lost; gets swept up in capitalism) – at industrial scale
  • techne ussually pitted against nature/ntural world
  • telos: predetermined end (other three cause: material, efficient, and formal)
  • coresponsibility of four causes ditinguishes techne from instrumentality
  • post-techne (Hawk): writers are embedded elements of complex situations who work through the power of embeddeness to work with nature (not independently working on it) (37)

 From Derek’s blog on Bogost’s “Carpentry” and our reading discussion series:

“[W]hy do you write instead of doing something else, like filmmaking or macrame or sumi-e or welding or papercraft or gardening?” In this context (and in this contrastive framing), writing is something of an attention or activity hog. It gets overplayed in the liberal arts; it gets over-valued in exceedingly strict economies for tenure and promotion. According to the chapter, these are cause for concern because 1) “academics aren’t even good writers” (89), and 2) writing, “because it is only one form of being” (90) is too monolithic a way of relating to the world. I generally agree with Bogost’s argument that scholarly activity should be (carefully!) opened up to include other kinds of making, but I’m less convinced that the widespread privileging of writing is the culprit here. It’s fine to say that academics aren’t good writers (though I’m reminded that we should never talk about writing as poor or problematic without looking at a specific text/unit in hand), but why would they be any better at “filmmaking or macrame or sumi-e or welding or papercraft or gardening” or coding APIs? So while I’m interested in the call for an expansion of what can be considered scholarly activity, it remains unclear to me why writing should be at odds or brushed aside with that expansion. Instead of “Why do you write instead of doing something else?”, I would rather consider “How is your writing and making and doing entangled?

  • Is this where Hawk’s post-techne (post-humanism) comes into vision – the entanglement? Hawk isn’t OOO (is he?), so what does it mean for invention to view people at he level of other materials for techne?
  • what is available as material?
  • that the materials may lead to invention (working in an opposite direction to a traditional approach of writing in which writer defines and responds to situation systematically/accordingly)
  • closing down vs. opening up
  • sophistry (122)
  • narrow view of techne reduces it to teachability too narrowly and ignores some of its most important defining features – dependence on time, circumstance, experience, the contingencies of human interaction, and the situational potential of rhetorical ecologies (123)
  • offical aritsotle: meand and ends are distinct, and its the end that’s valuable – not the means
  • “The official version of techne we are left with then is one in which the artist devises, initiates, and controls the changes that will turn the presumably inert materials into a predictable final product”
  • product of art happen in their own accord (130) – collapses divide between art and nature
  • activity a strategic detour (131) – diminishes impact on the process of making (131)
  • does techne not work because of its history? what would be the consequence of reterming? same impact as techne? – Pender is defending the term: instrumentality and teachability it posesses
  • closing down vs. opening up (140)
  • teaching writing as writing (140) as a techne, which is a form of poesis – productive knowledge that engages its user in the process of making
  • “writing both locates us on the threshold between the known and unknown and intensifies our experience of being here” (141)
  • creative writing, invention as “archeological topos” – a course in metawriting
  • “Historically, we have valued techne because it focuses our attention to external goals; or to put it more precisely, we have valued techne because it allows us to align writing with particular external goals” – techne as a bringing forth allows students to write as writing to achieve an external goal
  • a focus on external goals overlooks the thingness of writing

Rough Cut: Arts, Crafts, Gifts, Knacks

Young, Richard. “Arts, Crafts, Gifts, Knacks: Some Disharmonies in the New Rhetoric”. Visible Language (14)4 341-350.

  • “new rhetoricians” divided over rhetorical art as a vitalist theory of art and composing: a technical theory (theories and pedagogical successes of both groups suggest in some sense that both are right in their approach)
  • glamour and grammar were originally the same word – combining the magical and rationalistic aspects of speech (341)
  • qtd. John Genung (The Practical Elements of Rhetoric, 1892) wrote that it concerns itself with the entire process of making literature, in being/embodying, but that in practical application, creatives acts must be excluded – particularly those of the composing process
  • practical = can be taught
  • which turns into the conventions and mechanics of discourse
  • creative = cannot be taught, of a person (342)
  • for Genung, “rhetoric was a body of information about the forms and norms of competent prose and their uses in the later stages of the composing process – the rhetoric of the finished word” (342)
  • longstanding argument = dynamic of conceptualizing vs. creative discovery
  • “traditional rhetoric” skill in expressing preconceived arguments or points of view
  • “new rhetoric” exploration of ideas: the process of composition is discovery
  • new rhetoric is not homogeneous however…almost as divided as new and traditional rhetoric
  • “new romanticism” (Frank D’Angelo): vitalist philosophy with modern psychology blended approach that stresses the composing process should be relatively free of deliberate control (primacy of imagination) – how is mystery taught?
  • art contrasts with craft: art is magic/mystery (cannot be taught) while craft is skill (can be taught)
  • “the teaching of writing as writing is the teaching of writing as art” (qting. William Coles 343)
  • art cannot be taught: when writing is not taught as art, it is being taught as something else — we must make possible what is impossible to do
  • change the role of the teacher (344): designer of occasions that stimulate the creative process
  • The “new classicists” considered the “art” of teaching writing a little differently.  Young claims that they see art as “the knowledge necessary for producing preconceived results by conscious directed action” (344).  In this sense, the new classicists see the teaching of writing as a “knack” or a habit acquired through repeated practice and experience.
  • art contrasts with craft and knack
  • art: knowledge to produce preconceived results by conscious action
  • craft: experiential
  • knack: habit through repeated experience
  • but knacks can turn into arts when they are isolated and generalized as successful
  • “technical theory of art” – art as grammar (R.G. Collingwood, 1958)
  • new classists teach “heuristics” – strategies for effective guessing (345), not rule governed procedures
  • “heuristic”: series of questions or operations whose results are provisional; not wholly conscisous or mechanical; intuition, relevant knowledge, and skill are necessary
  • each situation isn’t unique, but a kind of situation encountered before
  • some phases can be carried out deliberately and rationally
  • nice distinction between heuristic and rule governed in application/execution (345)
  • “If the creative process has generic features, if some of its phases can be consciously directed, and if heuristic procedures can be developed as aids, then it can be taught. Or to be more precise, certain aspects of the creative process can be taught…” (345-6)
  • tagmemic rhetoric informs rhetoric as heuristic application of principles characteristic of tagmemic linguistics (12 principles) – recognizing, knowing features, understanding variance (346)
  • “we do tricks in order to know” (William Stafford, 1962) – coaxing intuitions of reasonable solutions (347)
  • “But I am concerned here not only with what we do when engaged in intellectual exploration, I am also concerned with what we can do to increase our control over the activity, to make it more effective than it might otherwise be” (347)
  • danger of technical theory of art is the over-rationalization of the composing process (348); heuristics can become rule-goverened procedures by ignoring our non-rational powers
  • balancing reason and imagination: “both-and” or “either-or”

technical Googlism

After seeing my professor and friend/fellow scholar incorporate Googlism lists (Googlists) in their latest blog entries, I was curious to see what came up for the term technical as I begin to work with (the pairing of terms) technical composition.

a “what” list for technical:

technical is as technical does
technical is a type of improvised fighting vehicle
technical is political
technical is the single source for all your fluid handling needs
technical is no difficult by the tritorium
technical is no difficult by the tritorium puguh kribo
technical is not difficult by the tritorium
technical is not difficult by the tritorium puguh kribo
technical is a knife
technical is now neutral
technical is fantastic
technical is
technical is woman
technical is a leading installer of high quality voice & data
technical is the recruitment partner of choice for businesses all over the world
technical is always a great word to know
technical is the third largest secondary school in vancouver after churchill and killarney and is attended by over 1700 students
technical is locally owned and independently operated
technical is now eco
technical is technology research?
technical is technology research? acquiring and deploying technical knowledge in social research projects christian sandvig
technical is helping both clients and people seeking employment to meet
technical is the only choice for outfitting the audio/visual and presentation equipment needs for any trade show
technical is seeking an onsite contract
technical is here to help keep you ahead of the curve
technical is the best source for the it professional who isn’t satisfied with just a job
technical is an affirmative action/equal opportunity educator and employer
technical is hiring
technical is explained in words

A what (?) list of immediate reaction:

  • What the heck is tritorium? ->Tritorium: n. Same as Tritirium. ->Triturium: n. A vessel for separating liquids of different densities.
  • What does it mean that the top result defines technical as a famous quote from Forrest Gump?
  • What does it mean to answer a question with a question? To explain in words?
  • What does it mean that technical can be a place (thing), a skill (thing), a human being (thing), an anthropomorphic thing, a semiotic thing, a thing, neither this thing nor that thing (see: neutral)…
  • What does this illuminate in my considerations of technical? For now, I’ll be content with this catalist to spark my sleepy summer brain.