Making and Unmaking the Prospects for Rhetoric: Selected Papers from the 1996 Rhetoric Society of America Conference

By Theresa Enos; Richard McNabb et al. | Go to book overview

both diversity and community. In this way feminist scholarship reminds us that rhetoric can be both critical and creative, both suspicious and affirming, both resistant and renewing.


Notes
1
Nearly a decade ago, Balsamo raised an important but often neglected question: What is the specific relationship between postmodernism and feminism? (64). In her ensuing discussion, she observed that feminism had already encountered many aspects of the postmodern condition such as the lack of faith in master narratives and the problems associated with theoretical universality, noted the work of especially Haraway and Jardine in attempting to grapple with that postmodem condition, and concluded by wondering if the postmodern project would be open, flexible, and self-reflexive enough to engage relevant feminist thought (70). Any serious attempt to foresee the prospect of rhetoric in an age of postmodernity must, I believe, ask a similar question. While I am aware of the risk of essentializing, I concentrate on feminist investigations of women's rhetoric. I do not mean to suggest that all women engage in all the communication practices that are reviewed later in this essay. Instead, I take my cue from standpoint theory (Wood) and identify women because some women have engaged in coping practices and some have theorized about those practices because they have experienced oppression because they are women. Their experience of oppression is analogous if not identical to the postmodern condition. As Tanno observes: All the characteristics of postmodemism have been reality for the oppressed throughout history. All oppressed groups have intimately known fragmentation and anomie. All oppressed groups have continually experienced what it means to have nothing to hold on to. All oppressed groups have historically recognized the irrationality of a 'rational' stance that has been curiously selective in determining how far its 'humanizing force' should extend, which groups it would embrace, and which behaviors it would endorse (318). Although I could examine the communication practices of any oppressed group to find coping techniques, (probably) because I am a woman, I choose to turn to women.
2
Note that I am blurring the distinction between metalanguage and object language such that a critical rhetorician may be a critic performing critique and/or a rhetor whose rhetoric functions as critique. Gaonkar argues that the dissolution of a distinction between critic and rhetor may be the most innovative thread within the project of critical rhetoric.
3
Charland suggested that the critical rhetorician be considered a bicoleur, a kind of cultural tinkerer, rather than as a guerrilla, constantly undermining the foundations of any power/knowledge structure in a continued process of negative critique (74). While McKerrow objected to the image of bricoleur, he approved the notion of tinkering ( "Critical"77). Certainly a crafter tinkers, but she also makes something (probably something softer than a brick wall).
4
Campbell questions the political and ethical impact of dismissing agency from the concept of technê ( "Biesecker"). However, Biesecker maintains that making technê a function of a system of power/knowledge rather than a function of individual agency still preserves the possibility of resistance as described by Campbell while adding a self-reflexive concern the fragmented and decentered subject ( "Negotiating").

Works Cited

Balsamo Anne. "Un-Wrapping the Postmodem: A Feminist Glance". The Journal of Communication Inquiry 11 ( 1987): 64-72.

Bauman Zygmunt. Postmodern Ethics. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

Biesecker Barbara. "Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women into the History of Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 ( 1992): 140-61.

"-----. Michel Foucault and the Question of Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 ( 1992): 351-64.

"-----. Negotiating with our Tradition: Reflecting Again (without Apologies) on the Feminization of Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric 26 ( 1993): 236-41.

Borgmann Albert. Crossing the Postmodern Divide. Chicago: U Chicago P. 1992.

Bitzer Lloyd F., and Edwin Black, eds. The Prospect of Rhetoric. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 1971.

-105-

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