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Nothstine, Blair, and Copeland.  “Invention in Media and Rhetorical Criticism: A General Orientation”

The authors note that invention includes “the fundamental choices of subject matter and approach” involved in making any sort of decision with respect to the creation of a rhetorical production.  Considering the goal of media criticism, the authors note that they believe media and rhetorical criticism is socially embedded and dependent; hence, conducting rhetorical media criticism forces the invention work of identifying the audience to whom the media is deployed and conducting criticism that draws attention to aspects of the media artifact in socially responsible ways or for socially just imperatives.  What this means is that every time a critic chooses a particular media artifact, the community whom the critic is addressing should pay special attention because that artifact – as opposed to innumerable others – was chosen as an object of study (hmmmmm, is this making mountains out of molehills?).

Working from the social nature and definition of criticism (for an audience to whom it matters for some reason), the authors note that the work of invention if also socially dependent and not manageable in some sort of staid, static heuristic.  Rather, invention is “highly resistant to formalized, methodological prescriptions” and operates against “some monolithic system imposed on critics from above or outside” (8).  From this idea of invention, the authors provide four maxims that describe practical and moral advice when considering the process of coming to something to say:

  1. Criticism requires understanding and pursuing one’s own interests: self-reflection is a fundamental step in the critical process as critics must engage topics/ideas they are genuinely interesting in studying (and that will sustain them).
  2. Criticism is written to and for an audience:  an idea about audience is important as this will invariably bear pressures on the work of criticism (think kairos and prepon here).
  3. Criticism is both served and confined by theory and method:  Theoretical frameworks and methodological questions offer potentialities that have histories; however, they also preclude some subject matter from the site of invention at all.
  4. Criticism rarely travels a straight line to its end: The process of accommodating new research toward criticism must be central to the invention work of critical writing.  An inability to accommodate will result in flawed criticism.

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