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The Rhetoric of Warning: Rachel Carson - December 6 Lecture Lecture on Rachel Carson and a bit more Rhetoric

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EN 1700
Jan Rehner

Monday, December 6, 2010 Rhetoric is the art of persuasion  Using words, patterns of words, metaphors, etc.  Rebel writers  Warn us against propaganda’s  We can learn to be performers of the word and not just listeners  Ideas and controversies that they raise are really about the educated mind  Educated mind – how you know, how you think o Speculation o One that resists the faults, simplicities of black and white issues  Doesn’t shy away from doubt, maybe accepting a fault which would maybe alter everything you believe in Carson’s Calls to Action  Non-fiction writer  Environmental writer  Put environmental issues on the back  Serialized in the New Yorker  1962  Rapidly into government inquires  Triggered the first green peace mission  Lead to the creation of the environmental protection agency  Banning of worst pesticides – DDT (1972)  About pesticides, DDT, how it works, how it affects people and wildlife  Radical critique of humanities blind faith in technological progress  Arrogance involved in attempting to take over nature  Very wide range of issues  Ecologically destroyed systems  Giving away property to corporations  Blending traditions together  Nature writing  Carson is not writing a romantic narrative, she is blending with the notion of nature, really hardcore science writing  She using literature  Making scientific information understandable  “A Fable for Tomorrow” o Gives a picture of a world that has been stripped of beauty o Pesticides have killed everything o “The people had done it to themselves”  Her moral is a plea to pay attention and to action Rhetoric and Style  She takes risks  Really withstood the tests of time  Readability  Was a trained biologist  Elixirs of death  All the way through, Carson juxtaposes lives of ordinary women (housewives) with powerful men of science and business o Women are quoted individually, usually in their own words, identified their names and the towns they are from o The powerful people in the book, the chemical salesmen, are grey and faceless and anonymous and nameless o Inverting the power balance o “Moment of inattention” o The people don’t get a word in about the decision  Carson has two unlikely heroes o Song bird – Robin  Common enough that everyone can recognize it o American Eagle  Was already an endangered species  Matters of concern in the U.S. because it is their national symbol  Eagle represents the frontier spirit  Icon in American folklore  Pesticides practically killed its ability to reproduce  Shifted the way people thought about their relationship with nature  Asked people to think about what is your relationship with nature  What is the human response to nature?  Carson has multiple references to the similarity between pesticides (which are invincible) and the spreading of this poison o Lethal lawns o Shadows of sterility o Death creeping over the land and into the water  Metaphors of nature o The Web of Life o The Balance of Nature  Nature is not a passive object  She thought of it as an organic,
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