map :: introduction :: core text :: authors :: what is CHAT? :: references


re-situating and re-mediating the canons:

a cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity

a collaborative core text


Paul Prior :: Janine Solberg :: Patrick Berry :: Hannah Bellwoar :: Bill Chewning :: Karen J. Lunsford :: Liz Rohan :: Kevin Roozen :: Mary P. Sheridan-Rabideau :: Jody Shipka :: Derek Van Ittersum :: Joyce Walker

An earlier version of this argument was presented February 6, 2005 by Paul Prior in a plenary talk at the Santa Barbara Conference, Writing Research in the Making.


Delivery problems

Re-mediating and
re-distributing delivery

The rhetorical scene

Take 1: Revising the canons

Society and socialization

Take 2: A cultural-historical remapping of rhetorical activity

Mapping literate activity

Using CHAT to form new canons

From the core text to the data nodes


map button


The rhetorical scene

Here we reach the core of the problem, the prototypical scene of rhetoric, a model grounded in a speaker and hearer, essentially in monologue (even if turn-taking creates a chain of monologues). Critics of classical rhetoric's modern redeployments are fairly united in their concern for the scope of this model. As Dilip Gaonkar (1997) argues,

Even a renovated Ciceronian/Aristotelian theory of rhetoric, so long as it remains committed to the view of the speaker/author as the origin of discourse, is severely handicapped in reading discursive formations of not only modern science, but also modern polity. (p. 344)

Science, of course, represents an extension of rhetoric, but polity is what rhetoric was designed for, should be where it has the home court advantage. Gaonkar goes on to mention things like the congressional record, legislative tracts, commission reports, radio talk shows, and television. Media, in the corporate mass sense, are not a trivial detour from the old model. Kenneth Burke (1950) noted the way modern media alter the scene and effects of rhetoric:

…a “good” rhetoric neglected by the press obviously cannot be so “communicative” as a poor rhetoric backed nation-wide by headlines. (pp. 25-26)

The continuing belief in 2006 among many U.S. citizens that Iraq had nuclear weapons and was directly involved in the 9-11-2001 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York offers us a clear illustration of Burke's point.

Goffman's (1981) phenomenological critique of modern language and communication theories for their allegiance to prototypical speaker-hearer dyads offers an incisive analysis of, and remedy to, such scenes. When Goffman discusses footings, frames, and participation structures, he explodes every term and re-scenes the site of discourse. A speaker must be decomposed into author, principal, and animator, and Goffman was explicitly offering that 3-part scheme as a generic first pass toward a diverse array of culturally-situated footings. (See also Judith Irvine's wonderful delineations [1996] of complex framings of participation.) Listeners (or viewers) are likewise decomposed into addressed or unaddressed, ratified or unratified, with variable access to the speaker's communication. Goffman rejects that idealized pair of talking heads that has entranced so many linguists, pointing instead to concrete groupings of people, say, haggling in a crowded town market. He rejects the imposition of a shared, consensual, homogeneous space and re-portrays interaction as wildly laminated and asymmetric. For Goffman, audiences are constantly active, co-producers of the configuration of footings and the discourse itself. Goffman's scenes of semiotic interaction challenge the abstract, dyadic, production-oriented bias that lies at the heart of the rhetorical canons.