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ENGL 104 (1)

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University of Waterloo
ENGL 104
Christine Horton

ENGL 104 Notes Introduction to Rhetorical Theory (Ch1) Rhetoric is the human use of symbols to communicate (Foss) the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to induce actions in other human agents (Burke) Many common uses have negative connotations Commonly used to mean empty, bombastic language that has no substance May mean flowery, ornamental speech laden with metaphors and other figures of speech Asks why certain words are used to create a message questions the motivation of the use of language to create a reality Rhetoric in Ancient Greece: Rhetoric was the civil art of public speaking Rhetoric was primarily an art of persuasion; it was primarily used in civil life; it was primarily oral Sophists: group of teachers who taught rhetoric; Tendency to embellish, create flowery language what is being said vs. convey actual truth Oral performance very important eloquence, arrangements of words Aristotle argued that speeches are persuasive because argumentation was built on 3 elements: (a) Logos- Appeal to reason of audience (b) Pathos- Appeal to the emotions of audience (c) Ethos- The audience trusts the speakers character ex. John Stewart Plato accused the Sophists of undermining truth; manipulating listeners, coercion through words Gorgias, Plato, Isocrates, Aristotle Roman Rhetoric: Absorbed some Greek culture, rhetorical theory Balanced between a democracy and oligarchy (government controlled by small group/sects); Senate controlled the Roman Empire middle class found it difficult to break into the Senate (whereas Greek culture was more democratic); rights of speech limited power struggle Cicero powerful with words in Roman Senate Ciceros five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery Argued that natural ability was the most important requisite The speaker must teach, please, and move in order to persuade Argued that the audience took its moral tone from the orator, therefore the orator must be educated in order to elevate audiences to move them to the right action Cicero, Quintilian, Augustine (collaboration of Bible) Rhetoric moved from being productive (Greece) to being focused on style (Roman) furthered the negative view on rhetoric (until 20 Century, when new concept of rhetoric) Rhetoric includes the following three components: 1. Humans as creators of rhetoric - Rhetoric involves symbols which are created and used by humans - Human experience changes as symbols to represent that experience change; humans have control/power over language and perception of reality through language - Therefore, humans are the originators or creators of messages, meanings - Human context, emotionalism 2. Symbols for the medium of rhetoric - Rhetoric involves symbols rather than signs - Medium- Something which is intermediate between two degrees, amounts, qualities, or classes; a middle state; An intermediate agency, instrument, or channel; a means; esp. a means or channel of communication or expression i.e. Using language as a medium to convey a message; material or spiritual reality, an emotional state - Symbol- Something that stands for or represents something else by virtue of relationship, association, or convention; A human construction connected only indirectly to its referent (ex. a Christmas tree) - Actions or objects may be given symbolic value, even though it was not intended as part of the message (ex. US deploying aircraft carrier) 3. Communication as the purpose of rhetoric - Often, rhetoric is synonymous with communication; those trained in social scientific perspectives on symbol use say communication, while those who study symbol use from a more humanistic perspective say rhetoric - Rhetoric can be used to persuade others to encourage others to change in a certain way - In some instances, rhetoric is an invitation to understanding to offer our perspectives - Rhetoric can also be used as a means of self-discovery and self-knowledge - Rhetoric tell us what reality is; reality is not fixed but changes according to the symbols we use to talk about it perception Sign- The sign is the whole that results from the association between the signified and signifier, or the abstract concept and the material concept Signs can be words, images, sounds, odours, flavours, acts, or objects The material signifier is the literal/tangible; can be a written word, a spoken word, a nod of the head, a pencil, a book, the smell of burning toast The abstract signified is the abstract mental concept of the material signifier (what you think when you read/hear tree) Connections between signifier and signified are arbitrary language does not point to an essential truth; cannot be an adequate form of reality; language is an action, not a reflection it produces the truth Things act as signs: 1. Indexically 2. Iconically 3. Symbolically Indexical Meaning- A sign whose signifier (material concept) is not arbitrary but is directly connected in some way to the signified (abstract concept); A sign which points to, or indicates, something else by way of cause or association less conventional because stronger relationship; more natural connections Ex. Smoke is an index of fire (Smoke is material because you can see/smell it Fire is abstract because you think it when you see/smell smoke) Other Examples: Indexical words: 'that', 'this', 'here', 'there' Natural signs: thunder, footprints, echoes Medical symptoms: pain, a rash, pulse-rate Measuring instruments: thermometer, clock, Signals: a knock on a door, a phone ringing Iconic Meaning- A sign whose signifier (material) resembles or imitates the signified (abstract); A sign which makes you think of something else because the sign resembles that meaning (where resembles, means the signifier is similar in possessing some of the qualities of the signified: The signifier recognizably looks, sounds, feels, tastes, or smells like the signifier) Examples: A portrait or photograph is an icon of a person: the material signifier (paint or colour on a picture) resembles, or makes you think of, a signified (a person) An impression: Tina Fey is an icon of Sarah Palin A graph or chart: a pie chart of GDP of Kazakhstan is an icon of the living conditions in Kazakhstan Onomatopoeia: The sound quack is iconic of a duck Metaphor: couch potato is iconic of a lazy person Symbolic Meaning- A sign whose signifier does not resemble the signified but which is fundamentally arbitrary or purely conventional - so that the relationship must be learnt; When you think about something purely because of agreement or convention, because people are in the habit of connecting a particular sign with a particular meaning is learned Examples: Language: words are symbolic of meaning (the signifier, the written or spoken word, does not naturally contain the meaning that we attribute to it. This meaning is assigned by humans and can change) Traffic Lights: red means stop, green means go Ring: indicates eternity, commitment Rhetorical Criticism (Ch1-2) Rhetorical Criticism- A qualitative research method that is designed for the systematic investigation and explanation of symbolic acts and artefacts for the purpose of understanding rhetorical processes Dimensions of Rhetorical Criticism: 1. Systematic Analysis as the Act of Criticism - By investigating artefacts, we can make statements about the messages in a sophisticated manner - i.e. We respond to symbols by saying I like it or I dont like it - Rhetorical criticism involves engaging in this natural process in a more conscious, systematic, and focused way - It enables us to become more sophisticated and discriminating in explaining, investigating and understanding symbols and our responses to them 2. Acts and Artefacts as the Objects of Criticism - The objects of study in rhetorical criticism are symbolic acts and artefacts - An act is executed in the presence of a rhetors intended audience (ex. musical performance intended for live audience); usually short duration - An artefact is the tangible evidence of the act that is accessible to a wider audience than the one that witnessed the rhetorical act; an artefact is a set of signs that work together to influence people: the object of rhetorical criticism - An effective artefact has a set of signs that are taken together to create an interrelated set of meanings 3. Understanding Rhetorical Processes as the Purpose of Criticism - Rhetorical critics are interested in discovering what an artefact teaches about the nature of rhetoric, and rhetorical theory - Theory- A tentative answer to a question we pose as we seek to understand the world; It is a set of general clues, generalizations, or principles that explains a process or phenomenon and thus helps to answer the question we asked - Theories about rhetorical criticism enable us to develop a cumulative body of research an
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