Berlin, James. “Richard Whately and Current-Traditional Rhetoric.” College English 42  (1980): 10-17. Print. YES

  • In this article Berlin argues that Whately was the primary force for shaping the teaching of writing during the 20th century.
  • Relying on Richard Young, Berlin identified C-T rhetoric as the primary paradigm of writing instruction during the 20th century.  C-T places an emphasis on product, grammar, style, New Critical considerations of specific words, sentences, and paragraphs, and classification of discourse as description, narration, exposition, and argument (11).  Argument becomes equivalent to these other forms of discourse because C-T rhetoric assumes a rational agent engaging in rational communication with a rational audience in a rational world (17).
  • B. notes that invention is not included as part of rhetoric in the C-T paradigm; further, style and arrangement are applied to the written product . . . and aren’t part of a process of its composition (how is this possible?) (11).
  • In addition to Whately, Berlin identifies the influence of Hugh Blair and George Campbell as seminal in the development of college classroom rhetorics for written composition.
  • B. looks to Whately’s Elements of Rhetoric as a prototype text that provided a model for the textbooks of 19th century rhetoric pedagogues Genung and Hill.  Berlin argues that Whately was more suited for use by a college textbook because his rhetoric is more classroom driven and pedagogically oriented (12).
  • Berlin wants to be sure to draw attention to the ways that Whately, Genung, and Hill weren’t able to see how their own rhetoric texts were a rhetoric, not the rhetoric.  Berlin makes this move in order to argue to teachers of writing that being rigid/unwilling to change pedagogically is unwise and short-sighted . . . fundamentally arhetorical.
  • B. relies on Ehninger’s introduction to Whately to argue that Whatelian rhetoric was a response to three movements of the 18th century:  1) the elocutionary movement (an emphasis on delivery that Whately criticized); 2) the rhetoric of belles-lettres (Blair’s movement.  Belletristic rhetoric sought to bring literature and rhetoric together.  Rhetoric could be used for criticism; however, in the composing process, the emphasis fell almost exclusively on style and arrangement); and 3) psychological-epistemological rhetoric (Coming from Campbell, this rhetorical orientation rejected classical rhetoric in the interest of creating a rhetoric with the operation of the human mind as a base.  Using a Humean inductive approach – tempered with skepticism of inductive reasoning – Campbell developed a rhetoric that drew perfect parallels between the external world and the faculties of the mind.  Campbell’s epistemological orientation was much akin to the empiricism of 18th century science and the main goal of rhetoric for Campbell was the moving of the mind via understanding, imagination, passions, or the will.  The audience is the center/focus of Campbellian rhetoric and, as such, style and arrangement also figure as the most prominent rhetorical canons)(12).
  • Whately rejected the unification of the rhetorical and the poetical (no Blair!); however, he did accept genius in the composing process and looked to rhetoric as a place where arrangement and style provide ornamentation on novel/genius compositions (13).
  • According to B., Whately is responsible for developing a managerial inventio that replaced classical inventio as discovery.  Invention becomes the management of the things discovered in a “substantive science” or philosophy . . . it isn’t the domain of the rhetorician.
  • How do we see C-T rhetoric at work in the contemporary (then) composition textbook?  Well, instead of establishing a real exigence for the writing moment, teachers instead assign “themes” or subjects that the students already know a lot about so they can practice their arrangement and style (14).
  • Most important part of Whately’s Elements: “Of the Address to the Understanding, with a View to Produce Conviction (Including Instruction).”  What’s of so much use?  Well, “the application of the concepts of presumption and burden of proof to rhetorical situations outside the classroom” (15).
  • According to B., Whately subscribed to the “linear adjunct theory of persuasion” – a perspective that says that “for action to be produced, both the understanding and the will must be address” (15).  This theory of persuasion locates the audience at the center of the composing act (15).  These concerns didn’t transfer over to C-T rhetoric as it developed a skepticism toward persuasion and rarely addressed the issue of audience.

A write up of Berlin, Jim.  Writing Instruction in Nineteenth-Century American Colleges. Studies in Writing & Rhetoric;. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984. Print. can be found on Tim’s wonderful blog here.

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