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

By Roxanne Mountford; Carolyn Miller et al. | Go to book overview

many of us working in science studies (whether cultural studies, sociology, or rhetoric) don't know how to argue. Pollitt writes in The Nation, "Indeed, the comedy of the Sokal incident is that it suggests that even the postmodernists don't really understand one another's writing and make their way through the text by moving from one familiar name or notion to the next like a frog jumping across a murky pond by way of lily pads." 7 The kind of argument- searching Sillince proposes could offer less hostile means for exploring other disciplines' argument practices, other disciplines' preferred topoi. The expansion of databases and documents from specialized disciplines available "freely" on the World Wide Web can either increase the divisiveness, exclusivity, and mean-spiritedness that seems to be perpetrated by notions of interpretive or discourse communities, or it can force us out of those comfortable communities and into a cosmopolis of multidisciplinarity. Electronically searchable topoi can make our complex differences more accessible, less threatening, and mutually enriching.


Notes
1
Although in service of oral rhetoric as well as writing, ancient memory was habitually compared to a written surface, and the process of storage and retrieval to writing and reading, by its explicators. For a discussion of ancient memory as a literate technology, see Carruthers Chapter 1, especially pp. 28- 32.
2
See Sorabji for a complete discussion of memory in Aristotle.
3
Helen Tibbo offers a book-length treatment of the complexities of indexing in a discipline (history) that reflects a variety of epistemological positions and research methods. Although no similar assessment of rhetoric and composition exists, many parallels are evident.
4
See Maron and Weinberg for more traditional IR reevaluations of these problems.
5
Sillince has published a slightly revised version of this article in Online Review, a less technical forum. All of my citations are from his Journal of Documentation article.
6
See Bolter, 185, for another critique of the semantic net problem.
7
Of course, this is essentially how Bruno Latour describes scientific argumentation -- except for the important difference that scientist-frogs work very hard to tie all those lily pads together and tow them around.

Works Cited

Aristotle. Topics. Trans. W. A. Pickard-Cambridge. The Complete Works of Aristotle. Vol. 1. Ed. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1984.

Blair D[avid] C. Language and Representation in Information Retrieval. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 1990.

Bolter Jay David. Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 1991.

Carruthers Mary J. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990.

Cicero. Topica. Trans. H. M. Hubbell. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1949.

Corbett Edward P. J. "The Topoi Revisited." Rhetoric and Praxis: The Contribution of Classical Rhetoric to Practical Reasoning. Ed. Jean Dietz Moss. Washington, DC: Catholic U of America P, 1986. 43-57.

Grimaldi William M. A. "The Aristotelian Topics". Aristotle: The Classical Heritage of Rhetoric. Ed. Keith V. Erickson. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1974. 176-93.

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