Octolog I – The Politics of Historiography.  Rhetoric Review, Autumn 1989.

This is a long, fascinating collection  of claims and counterclaims; as such, I’ll be note-taking this reading through quotes, aphorisms, and response.  Here we go!

  1. James Berlin: “This historian of rhetoric must deny pretensions to objectivity, looking upon the production of histories as a dialectical interaction between the set of conceptions (the terministic screen) brought to the materials of history and the materials themselves.”   Rhetoric should be situated in its own context (context broadly defined here as economic, social, political, etc.) and should be taken up historiographically as a heuristic to understand the present (11, 12).  Jarratt says something similar about the reason why folks are doing historiography (26).
  2. Why is composition so political? Because, as Conners says, our discipline was created to solve a social problem, not as the evolution of a body of autonomous knowledge.  Therefore, we must always take sides in everything we write!  Our disciplinary history is based in struggle.
  3. The role of historiography is to inform our pedagogical practice by revealing previous historical practices to illuminate contemporary pedagogies; however, C. is afraid of reification (Crowley).  History is consumed based on the historians ethos (21)
  4. For Enos, the process of historiography is an exercise of cultivating paideia or refining intellectual standards.  For E., the point is to determine the admissibility of the proof, openness to accept new sources of evidence.  From here, the cultivation of the paideia impacts the synthesis of new historical phenomena in academic scholarship (14).  To find new evidence, Enos recommends some “dirtying of hands” in primary research.
  5. This historian is imbricated in the process of historiography (19) and makes the writing of history a rhetorical act.
  6. Vitanza uses dissoi logoi in his response on 20.  He also invokes D&G’s notion of nomadology to describe the writing of historiographic texts.  We are a meta-discipline, 2500 years old! (31)
  7. Connors poses the question: What is the balance we try to strike between inductive research and deductive research, the degree to which we dance around closure about issues before we start to let our closure on those issues affect the research paths we take? (25).  As a complication, Crowley adds the issue of motives to research, calling attention to the possibly false binary between deductive and inductive (therefore, the political).

Octalog II – The (Continuing) Politics of Historiography

  1. Two framing questions from Atwill: 1) How does submitting to the conventions of other disciplines affect exemplar status of a text in one’s “home” field? Second, does that submission obviate the critique that I have believed is embodied, literally, in reading canonical texts as a woman/mother/teacher/citizen? (24).
  2. Primary materials should ground our work in historiography and technology should be used to increase the efficacy of research (Ferriera-Buckley).
  3. Lauer notes that, “Although our theory privileges multiple voices and heteroglossia, some stories of our field merely name drop and critique, setting up straw persons against which to authorize their own accounts instead of representing another’s work in its own time and exigencies and acknowledging its contribution” (31).
  4. Mountford’s contribution argues for the development of fieldwork/ethnography to accompany rhetorical analysis/textual analysis; futher, she also points to the importance of working across and outside rhetorical studies (especially with cultural studies) to develop new studies of rhetoric.
  5. Schiappa notes that historiography is “a thoroughly rhetorical enterprise and can be evaluated with the traditional tools of rhetorical criticis” (36).  He also notes that while we view history as subjective, some subjective creations have more weight than others; hence, the “intersubjective act of persuasion” is the key element in determining why one particular historiographic narrative prevails over another (37).
  6. Kathleen Welch argues for the 1) historicizing of television as a dominant communication technology that has been a radical transformer of rhetoric, writing, and literacy; and 2) the acknowledgment of gender constructions in historicizing all literacy technologies.”

Octalog III – The Politics of Historiography in 2010

  1. The eight contributors in this octolog ask scholars and researchers in the field to consider “our own dispositions and epistemologies” in shaping our perceptions of the past and also force us to consider new methodologies and new sites of inquiry.
  2. Dolmage: “I see rhetorical history as the study not of just a selected archive of static documents or artifacts, but a study also, always of the negotiations, valences, shifting claims and refutations, canons and revisions that orbit any history” (7).  It’s not about choosing one version of history; rather, it is about interrogating the intetrestedness of each version.
  3. Enoch identifies two ways that rhetoric has been “regendered” since Glenn’s talk at Octalog II: 1) recover work of female rhetors from numerous (classed, raced, cultured) backgrounds; and 2) rereading the historical traditions of rhetoric through the lends of gender to discover how particular rhetorics gained import while others were dismissed.  She also defines “spatial rhetorics” as “the discursive and material means used to engender spaces with value.”
  4. Mao raises some interesting points concerning the study of global rhetorics: 1) What practices in other rhetorical traditions should we focus on?  How does our own subject position affect our choice of object to study?  How do we engage rhetorical practices of other cultures without ethnocentrism or ethnic biases?  As a response, Mao offers ‘recontextualization’ or the critical reevaluation of self and other when unpacking local political, economic, and socio-cultural exigencies that undergird particular rhetorical performances.
  5. Malea Powell draws attention to the fact that when we talk about race in the discipline, we are often characterized as not talking about rhetoric – or at least not the kind of rhetoric used to teach composition or to develop theoretical frames.
  6. Citron on the “bootstraps” narrative: “The politics of social uplift, otherwise known as ‘empowerment,’ is at the core of neoliberalism, for neoliberalism can justify a disinvestment from the public sector once everyone becomes her own entrepreneur.”  Citron advocates a turn toward urban theory, economics, social theory and political economy to attend to the materiality of embodied rhetorics.

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