November 23, 2016

Rhetoric in Space: Post for 12/1

Dear All:

(update on 12/6) As promised, I include an image from our whiteboard matrix last class!

[click to enlarge] photo credit: A. May

November 17, 2016

An Invitation to Contribute: Rethinking Feminists Rhetorics and Place

We would like to invite you to contribute Tallahassee Voices: A Feminist Archive. We see the archive as functioning as an important outlet of democratic citizenship and a re-exploration of what it means to live, work, and study in Tallahassee. In thinking about proposing a feminist archive for Tallahassee, there are two overarching ideas that guided my thinking. The first is Campbell’s notion that “efforts for social change are fundamentally rhetorical” (139) and Hart-Davidson et al.’s view that “it is possible to see the rhetorical tradition at work, either in the past or in the present historical moment, at points where institutions and technologies are in the process of being shaped” (129). It looks to account for the many ways in which actions have contributed to “changes in personal relationships as well as systemic changes” (Campbell 141). We found Tallahassee an important place to study and archive due to the many intersections of people, education, viewpoints, governance, and discourses that the city provides.

Social Change and Feminist Rhetorical Ecologies

For this exploratory task, Michael and I decided to propose an archive rooted in location in order to trace feminist rhetorical activity in Tallahassee. As we explain in our proposal for the archive, we would like the archive to collect and house a variety of feminist artifacts, including physical ephemera, locations of action and events, short narratives, and reports on political action. Ultimately, this archive looks to explore what it means to be a feminist and citizen in Tallahassee, and, in so doing, we are better able to show the intersections between personal and public feminist rhetorical activity, specifically as it is experienced locally.

Viewing, Participating, Contributing: A “Visual Signification”

I seem to be “stuck” in the realm of signification. On the one hand, I don’t want to stretch the concept too thin; on the other, I see value in de/constructing relationships and representations within and between language as well as other “signification” systems. Last week, I composed a creation myth using “Gloria” and “Trinh” as characters, relating their notions of Borderlands and difference to signification. I suggested that Anzaldua has complicated the signified (mestiza consciousness), and Trinh has complicated the signifier (I/me/you/we). The week before, we discussed Gates’s theory of signifyin(g) and its relationship to signifying. Now, I’d like to look at our proposed art installation as a form of signification through visual representation, and consider how this perspective provides additional means for unpacking the concepts of subjectivities and objectivities.

(Re)Defining Sisterhood: Invitational Rhetoric and Digital Communities

In considering Foss and Griffin’s definition of invitational rhetoric, we were drawn to its inclusive nature: “its communicative modes are the offering of perspectives and the creation of the external conditions of safety, value, and freedom” (2). Although the article was published in 1995, we immediately linked it to a digital community. We believed that a properly structured Tumblr page and digital archive could act in accordance with invitational rhetoric, particularly during a time when many of the internet’s avenues have become divisive, partisan spaces or echo chambers for specific views. In this regard, many online messages have become patriarchical in nature, where “communicative encounter[s]” are “an attempt at persuasion or influence, or as a struggle over power” (Foss and Griffin 2). Our intention was to create an online environment where people—the majority would likely include women but it is not strictly limited to this population, as feminism “implies an understanding of inclusion with interests beyond women”—could discuss, write, create, and work through major cultural events (Foss and Griffin 5).

Performing Feminism through Kairotic moments.

These readings were placed at the perfect time in the syllabus and created a good follow-up to our class discussion last week. I worked with Parisa on this exploratory and we went through a couple of stages when developing our overall concept. We originally were going to mix both art installation and archive but, after we decided to use Tumblr as our platform of expression, we settled solely on an art installation. Our first draft that we presented to the class focused on how the terms democracy, kairos, and invention played a role in the overarching concept of feminism. However, after presenting, we were given some great suggestions and the meaning of our project took a different turn. We ultimately decided that we would focus on the idea feminism as a performance and how each moment captured is a kairotic expression. This definitely could have been done in multiple ways, for example following kairotic moments of the suffragette movement or prominent moments in women’s rights history, however due to the constraints of the platform and resources provided we settled on capturing kairotic feminist expressions within the era of 2000-2016.

The Phantom of Rhetoric: Radically Different Approaches that Create a Metacognitive Understanding

As showcased through our archive plans, Kamila’s and my project was heavily influenced by Foss and Griffins “Beyond Persuasion: A Proposal for an Invitational Rhetoric.” The reading of this article was so timely, and, to be honest, I’m not sure if we would have had the idea we had if it were not for the presidential election. Kamila and I both felt deeply affected by it, and I know in my own life, I’ve been struggling to have open conversations with people who have different political views than me. An approach to conversation, such as the Tumblr project we created, has been stirring in my mind for the past couple months, but I didn’t have the context or the foundation for it until reading Foss and Griffin.

Conceptualizing a Movement: The Resistance of Bridging Invitational Rhetoric and the Democratic Citizen

Foss and Griffin note that, in how rhetoric is usually framed as being a process of persuasion, it demonstrates a “manifestation of the patriarchal bias” (2). Their intention is to frame feminist rhetorics into an alternative to this kind of discourse; they want to establish an “invitational rhetoric” that allows for more open and invited discussion framed against this “rhetoric of patriarchy [that reflects] its values of change, competition, and domination” (4). Hart-Davidson, et al argue for a consideration of Berlin’s shift away from rhetorical studies to that of a cultural studies focus so that we can better comprehend the “historically contingent power hierarchies” (126). The intersection of these two texts is both call for a more socially aware and accepting means of approaching (or perhaps distancing) rhetorical discourse. In imagining a hybrid of these two takes, an intersecting and interesting conceptualization of rhetoric can emerge, but because of the nature of these two approaches, it would be a strange one.

Performing (the Art of) Feminism

The most interesting aspect of this exploratory to me was how much our project changed from the first draft. Angela and I picked to pursue the route of using an art installation to provide a general overarching theme of feminism throughout the readings. To do this, we first focused on the major definitions in all four of the readings: feminism, invention, democracy and kairos. After we presented the draft of our project, we were given many helpful suggestions as to how we should focus our project, and in the end, we ended up making our “performative” art installation as a place to post “performative feminism.”

November 16, 2016

Isn't it Kairotic? Feminism, Digitality, and the (Re)Conceptualization of Rhetorical Terms

For this week’s exploratory, my group designed an art exhibition intended to be a participatory narrative from Hawhee’s concept of “in(ter)vention in the middle” to in(ter)vention in-between using mirrors and allowing viewers to invent/intervene in the space. By disabling any participants in the exhibit from standing in the center by using a multi-layered bridge with multiple entry points, we sought to de-centralize the concept of single identity or a central identity and instead create kairotic opportunities (per Hawhee) in Anzaldúan borderlands-esque locations that exist in-between entry points. The theories we include challenge concepts of invention as belonging to a powerful rhetor (Foss and Griffin 3) and destabilize the traditional binary between audience/rhetor (16; Jarrett also references this in terms of testimonio [69]) by allowing all participants a (non-obligatory) opportunity to participate.

November 13, 2016

Rhetorical Subject/ivitie/s and Object/ivitie/s: Preparation for 11/15

Hi Folks,

We will work here (again) on Tuesday as we consider some of last week's unanswered questions:
  1. What would you identify as the principal postmodern dilemma for rhetorical theory, based on our explorations of Cultural Dis/Identification, Cultural Dis/Location, and Rhetorical Subjectivities and Objectivities? Where do you think we are left, in other words?
  2. Last week I mentioned that we managed to challenge the default positioning of standpoint through the various metaphors offered by Gates, Anzaldua, and Trinh, but I postponed our discussion of how. This week, let's take up that question again. If we were to try to do the kind of research that Jarratt describes, what other ways would we have to position ourselves? What questions are we empowered to ask? What attitudes are we encouraged to transgress?
  3. Several weeks ago we surveyed notions of "ideology" for one or more notions that could fit the projects of Richards, Burke, and Crosswhite. Based on your final exploratory (and knowing that you are still very much in the process of completing it), how might you revise your stance on what you think "ideology" is in rhetorical theory or practice, or on what "ideology" should preclude or entail?
  4. What becomes feminist rhetoric? 
  5. What becomes feminist criticism?
  6. What is a feminist social epistemology? 

See you all very soon,
-Dr. Graban

November 5, 2016

Reflecting on Cultural Dis/Identification and Preparing for 11/10

Folks, by and large I think your exploratory discussions last Thursday reflected a very good understanding of Foucault's discursive event -- the idea that, in every society, the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organized, and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures -- and this was a huge impetus for our discussion. Each of you was able to articulate Muckelbauer's principal contribution: looking more carefully at resistance with/in Foucault's work opens up important re-definitions of resistance and power (Muckelbauer 72) and reveals critics' own programmatic agendas (73), freeing us up to consider the many "certain Foucaults" to whom critics think they are responding (74).

November 3, 2016

Funk and Freedom take Flight in new compositional discourses

In reading through Adam Banks 2015 CCCC Chairs Address titled ““Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby! Funk, Flight, Freedom,” our group tackled this project in two steps. The first step in our discourse analysis was to break up our five pages into individual paragraphs and even further, into single sentences. We then created specific columns for intratextual, contextual and transtextual references. Subsequently, each paragraph and sentence were broken down and examined for any of the three themes. Our second step (using the program allowed us to explore the overarching themes that we saw present within the last five pages of Banks speech. These themes included connections to culture, audience, agency, communication, and technology as we saw theme playing a big part in the creation of Banks’ argument for the use of Funk, Flight and Freedom in the evolution of contemporary composition. Through these two explorations, I was able to see connects to our readings in terms of historical contexts, which are complicated through McGee’s concept of Audience, Foucault’s discipline and Muckelbaur’s descriptions of freedom.

(Un)Folding: An Outside-In/Inside-Out Approach to Discourses of Action, Power, and Culture

“Foucault continually submits interiority to a radical critique…the inside…is merely the fold of the outside” (Muckelbauer 76).

I think our exploratory is, in many ways, an attempt to perform this sort of “radical critique,” this inside as a folding of the outside. Foucault identifies external and internal factors that influence, constrain, and reinforce discourse. (And, reciprocally, discourse influences, constrains, and reinforces reality.) From the outside, in, we attempted to show the layers of discourse as they operate through—and are operated on by—language and culture/ideology. Working through the exploratory, using Bella Abzug’s plenary speech as a grounding, revealed, at least for me, a number of connections and nuances that I am still struggling to grasp:

Power as Multiple
Muckelbauer’s unpacking of Foucault’s work on resistance helped me see that “because power is multiple, one must pay precise attention to the specificity of actions and practices in order to delineate their forces and effects” (Muckelbauer 78). I now see “action” as a connecting thread that works with, through, and between discourse/language and the powers of culture/ideology. Building a flow from language to action to culture (and back again, as I will go into more detail in a moment) forced me to look more closely at specific “actions and practices” as we deconstructed and reconstructed our understanding of Abzug’s speech. By tracing patterns of her words, we were able to see the tension between the actions and culture she (and the women of the conference) were pushing against, and the actions they were taking to manifest a new culture. I could see the tension between Abzug’s description of dominant ideological and cultural forces that created restriction and the power that she and the other women were exercising in resistance. Through these tensions, I could better grasp that “Resistance, then, is simply the convergence of multiple and conflicting powers” (Muckelbauer 79). I’m not sure about “simply,” but I can see the way multiple powers are building, clashing, restricting, and resisting across and through our visualization.

Nietzsche's Truth, Foucault's "resistance," and a Signifying Gunpowder


Parisa and I decided to apply our multilayered analysis to Nietzsche's “Preface” of Beyond Good and Evil. While we were examining it for cultural identifications as Nietzsche established the premise of his text, we also wanted to explore the concept of Truth through this lens, as well, since it was where Nietzsche seemed to place the most importance in. I was also interested in using Nietzsche to better understand Foucault, as Muckelbauer noted that Nietzsche was especially influential for Foucault's theory. Through this lens, this exploration was surprisingly difficult given Foucault's notion of reading a scholar outside the “singularity” and instead having him serve as a multiplicity (Muckelbauer 74). Trying to take our cue from Mucekbauer's text, we examined the instances of culture with an eye towards Foucault's “resistance;” or the nebulous notion of “power” opposed to resistance, and we attempted to do this with productive reading.

Finding the Funk: Rhetoric and Composition as Disciplinary Center

According to Foucault, discipline is “a principle which is itself relative and mobile; which permits construction, but within narrow confines” (1466). For my group's project, Foucault’s section on disciplinarity helped us to consider the context of Banks’ speech within academia. Banks’ funk, flight, and freedom trope is rooted in cultural identification though his call to “value other voices” within academic scholarship, pedagogy, and service (273). As a field, rhetoric and composition was “transformed” and re-created through “work” accomplished by feminist rhetorics, queer rhetorics, black rhetorics, Latino/a rhetorics, first-generation students, and people from all backgrounds (271). Accordingly, Banks believes rhetoric and composition exists in a unique, intermediary space between “disciplinary maturity and yet remains undisciplined” (270).

Funky Layers and Flight Networks: Stumbling through Discourse Analysis

This particular exploratory task pushed me, and our group, to think about rhetoric in new ways. Grappling with big ideas and a new(ish) task (I have done a discourse analysis before using Systemic Functional Linguistics) was difficult at times, but pushed us into a productive space where were able to start articulating relationships between power, language, and culture. The discourse analysis, with its multiple layers, perspectives, and connections, complicated and expanded my understanding of these texts. I found that the analysis of our text, Adam Banks’s “Ain’t No Walls behind the Sky, Baby! Funk, Flight, Freedom,” complicated our understandings of discourse, power, reading, composition, and culture. There were a number of explicit and implicit operators on the speech, such as time, audience, conventions, and content, that existed within and pushed against the disciplinary boundaries and doctrines of rhetoric and composition. Out of the analysis there were two theoretical connections that I saw emerging: Foucault’s double subjugation, especially in relationship to discipline, and Muckelbauer’s productive reading through resistance. While I feel that our work was also informed by Gates and McGee, the connections appear more tenuous.

The Status is Not Quo: Resistance with/in Power Structures

After many, many ideas for how we wanted to visually represent our discourse analysis of Bella Abzug’s Plenary Address at the Fourth World Conference on Women, delivered September 1995 in Beijing, Jessi and I settled on one that we think helps to represent the complex relationships between language, action, and culture. We wanted to demonstrate the ways in which language can be used to inspire action and produce culture. To that end, we were largely inspired in our analysis by Foucault who asserts that discourse is a form of action, rather than a conveyor of pre-existing meaning: “…we must call into question our will to truth, restore discourse its character as an event, and finally throw off the sovereignty of the signifier” (1470). For Foucault, language constructs knowledge and that knowledge shapes reality. Our representation then, moves through three planes (language, action, and culture) to show the ways in which the language that Abzug uses in her address constitute actions that, in turn, shape cultural ideologies. The three dimensional nature of our representation also allows for showing how culture, too, can influence language. While I realize that our representation is limited—the relationship between language, action, and culture is perhaps more disjointed and nonlinear that our representations suggests—I do think that our representation helps me to see two different ways in which resistance can be enacted through discourse: utilizing tropes and fostering consensus.

A Commentary on the "Melting Pot"

The United States is referred to as a “melting pot”, where a society which is divided and heterogeneous can become homogeneous, creating a sort of common, shared culture. We call this culture American. Gates’ piece on The Signifyin[g] Monkey challenges this aspect of the “melting pot” by stressing how Signifying is only taught and mastered through their own culture, how it is taught to be a second language to black adolescents. Their challenge, then, is how to be understood in both universes they are part of, what Gates’ calls linguistic masking: “the verbal sign of the mask of blackness that demarcates the boundary between the white linguistic realm and the black, two domains that exist side by side” (Gates 1571). One realm of their culture allows for them to be understood but only to a certain extent, as Gates’ displays on page 1564. He gives the example of students constructing a standardized test for McGraw Hill that ultimately proved they do not speak the same language. Though it has been said before, the students repeat what has been said already, but needs to repeat what hasn’t been noticed before. Foucault identifies this as a paradox of commentary (Foucault 1465). Foucault’s notion of societies of discourse can also play into this. He defines it as a way to “function to preserve discourses, but in order to make them circulate in a closed space, distributing them only according to strict rules” (p. 1468).

Rules of Production and Power to Create Truth[s]: Foucault Originates, Muckelbauer Complicates, and JFK Participates

As seen through Bizzell and Herzberg, Foucault argues that knowledge and truth are not discoverable, meaning that truth and knowledge do not exist in the world awaiting discovery or realization. What Foucault calls will to truth is his critique on “the desire to locate truth in something other than discourse itself” (Bizzell and Herzberg 1432). Foucault argues that knowledge and truth are produced through discourse—discourse is the object of desire (1461). He states, “discourse is not simply that which translates struggles or systems of domination, but is the thing for which and by which there is struggle, discourse is the power which is to be seized” (1461). With this perception, discourse is no longer merely a medium for which truth or knowledge is translated once discovered; discourse is the discovering (or producing) agent. Discourse is the site of production for truth and knowledge.

Stuck on Repe(a)t(ition): Signifyin(g), exclusion, and ideology in Kennedy’s “Ich bin Ein Berliner”

While performing a multilayer analysis of JFK’s “Ich bin Ein Berliner” speech, I really honed in on the semiotic repetition of certain words and structures and how those repetitions, both in terms of how they created meaning in wider contexts and how they operated on multiple levels. Our framework included three areas: the contextual positioning of the speech in West Berlin about 1.5 years after the wall was constructed that in some ways drew heavily on the memory of World War II; the transtextual references to geography, ideology (particularly patriotism and democracy), and language as a positioning tool in terms of you versus us; and finally the intratextual levels of ekphrasis, multilingualism (mostly German, with a bit of Latin), and semiotic repetitions. Although this final element—semiotic repetitions—operated primarily on an intratextual level, these repetitions in some ways work together to emphasize (or de-emphasize) cultural ideologies and attempt to create what McGee refers to as “the people.” In some ways, this ties in (although imperfectly) with this week’s readings on cultural (dis)association and demonstrates one possible interplay of exclusion, Signfiyin(g), and ideology.

October 16, 2016

Reflecting on "Epistemology" and "Genre" ... and Preparing for 10/20


As I have fallen behind in most things over the past few weeks, I will try to synthesize a few thoughts here, primarily in the spirit of acknowledging where I think our discussions have taken us (and where I think your second exploratory took you), and secondarily to mention a few things I've considered after the fact.

Before I forget: While Amy Devitt offered a comprehensive summary of "genre" -- rehearsing its definitions from work to text to situation to ecology -- there are some other terms related to last week's discussion that we never did take up in our class time (e.g., structuralism, dialogic, discourse, langue vs. parole). I include a link here to our collective whiteboard notes from the past two class sessions, with some definitions I have offered gratis and a bit off-the-cuff. For anyone still grappling with heteroglossia, I can offer you a somewhat quirky example of how I distinguish it from other polyvocal phenomena. (Really, this is one of a genre of mediated performances that demonstrate heteroglossia as a kind of rhetorical critique. You probably know of others. Enjoy.)

October 10, 2016

Partial Perspectives Situated in Epistemological Linguistic Perceptions: i.e.: What?

A recurring theme that appeared through the readings and in our exploratory this week was the psychological and rhetorical impact language had during the Enlightenment period. In Bizzell and Herzberg’s introduction to the Francis Bacon, they mention how Bacon treated “the art of communication (delivery) as the means by which knowledge is used and incorporated into social institutions” (738). In this regard, language is the foundation of communication that forms knowledge, and they argue that Bacon thought that the heuristic qualities of the writing process “are a means of investigating how our knowledge can be formulated in effective language” (739). The emphasis language has on epistemology carries into the Enlightenment period. Bizzell and Herzberg mention that many philosophers during this time “called for broad language reforms in an attempt to purify communication” (792). John Locke expanded on this connection between language and epistemology by arguing that there exists a correlation between words and ideas in which we connect words to mental perceptions and universal sensations (798). He argues the signifiers can be “culture-bound, communal, or even individual” (798). Because language acts as a signifier that produces a mental image in our minds, language should be consistent, and, according to Bizzell and Herzberg, “Locke proposed ways to purify language for philosophy” (799).

October 8, 2016

Discursive Third, Epistemology, and In/Between Minds and Bodies

As Michael and I mentioned during our presentation, the biggest connection (or tension, perhaps) that we found with our terms during the concordance activity was between “mind” and “body.” The other terms seemed to work in/between the mind and body, constructing a relationship between external reality and mental conceptions.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how the Cartesian mind-body split has carried over to certain contexts in the present (even if it has been somewhat disrupted in other contexts). For example, some classrooms, disciplines, and universities still focus on the mind and do not necessarily acknowledge embodied experience as part of intellectual activity. I also find it interesting that our psychological models have not shifted all that far from the Enlightenment conceptualization of faculties of the mind. Noticing the lack of change is what caused me to pose this question during class: How might the mind’s faculties be redivided, redistributed, and/or reconceptualized based on a different (not Enlightenment) epistemology?

Floating Ngrams and a (re)Decentering of Language

I found the task of working with the concordances in association with the texts this week fascinating and challenging. The collaboration and tools offered a different view of our texts and authors, and it was an illuminating to add a different perspective. To borrow from Kirsch and Royster’s, these tasks forced a “tacking in and out, through the use of critical imagination as a dialectical and dialogical analytical tool,” (655) to put texts into conversation with one another and broader contexts. The tools were a places to play as we “learn[ed] to look more systematically beyond our own contemporary values and assumptions” (Kirsch and Royster 652). The use of the tools had us examining the situated knowledge of the texts through a feminist objectivity (Haraway 188). This alternative close and long view, combined with the reading, illuminated a different reading of the texts and their situatedness, especially when thinking about inclusions and exclusions. Using these machine readings helped to illustrate the “politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims” (Haraway 195). The tools offered a positioning and context that broadened and deepened our views of the texts.