Writing and Cultural Influence: Studies in Rhetorical History, Orientalist Discourse, and Post-Colonial Criticism

Writing and Cultural Influence: Studies in Rhetorical History, Orientalist Discourse, and Post-Colonial Criticism

Writing and Cultural Influence: Studies in Rhetorical History, Orientalist Discourse, and Post-Colonial Criticism

Writing and Cultural Influence: Studies in Rhetorical History, Orientalist Discourse, and Post-Colonial Criticism

Synopsis

The Near East has played an important part in the construction of the western cultural tradition from the classical period to the present. Current scholarship on cultural constructs is caught in more challenging implications of critical theory and is, therefore, becoming more and more irregular, interdisciplinary, and multicultural. Although the chapters in this book treat specific historical situations involving the Near East and the Western world, together they constitute a unifying thread that brings together a series of unique frames of a complex picture.

Excerpt

Whether or not they choose to be so, anthologies of rhetoric are histories, since they are primarily concerned with displaying a sense of order and continuity. It would be naive to consider anthologies as mere compilations of texts, without any desire to make sense of history, without any ideology behind them. Rather, they are selections guided by the structure of a master narrative that not only provides its own tools and instruments for the interpretation and production of texts, but also blocks other narratives from forming and emerging. For example, The Rhetorical Tradition, edited by Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg, is constructed in such a manner as to produce a history governed by the Arnoldian notion of what is best and most refined in western thought from classical times to the present. John Schilb quite rightly reminds us of the rhetorical nature of history, of histories of rhetoric being themselves “works of rhetoric, reflective of particular compositional choices, with alternative master-tropes and narratives available” (31). Schilb recommends that we “move beyond intellectual history” so that we can consider “a variety of sociopolitical factors” and “incorporate marginalized groups” in our attempts to historicize the discipline (31). Following Schilb's suggestion that we should move away from a unidirectional view of history, I want to propose a reading of cultural texts bringing to light contact zones and margins so far overshadowed by histories that are caught up in the ideas of order and continuity. This reading is informed by the following considerations: that the Greco-Roman world is a multicultural one; that the medieval tradition is far from being essentially European and Christian; that eighteenth- and nineteenth-century western thought is to a large measure influenced by its preoccupation with the Orient, Africa, and America; and lastly, that today more and more barriers are falling and boundaries are continually blurred among nationalities and cultures.

Most anthologies of rhetoric suggest a four-sequence division that reflects a carefully crafted transition from the classical period to the present . . .

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