Welding as Writing Studies

Welding, the craft of uniting or fusing metals, has manifold possibilities for a figurative extension of the study of writing. Since their earliest origins in the murky forges of the Bronze Age, welders have engaged in the art of managing two often unruly and unforgiving elements of the earth. The nexus of the elements at the forge—fire—collects their properties in a soupy mixture of raw material potential. Welders are managers, both of the real and the potential of natural forces.

hephaestus Hephaestus, Greek god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire, and volcanoes.

welderModern welder at work.

Writing studies, particularly the discipline of rhetoric, often finds itself at crisis between competing cultural forces. From its sundering from poetics, to its epistemelogical underpinings, and to modern bifurcations within the field (of rhetoric and composition), rhetoric has found need to manage competing and sometimes incomensurable ideologies and agendas. Though many conceptions of writing studies as welding can be fathomed, I will take up what I see as the central concern of students of writing:

For those engaged in the study of writing, conceptions of truth—namely its place and (dis)order among nature and culture—are at the center of controversy and scholarship. They define cultural boundaries within the academy and route the development of knowledge towards one or the other avenue of epistemology. Aristotle and Plato, for instance, have rhetoric as a service to philosophical truth, while their sophistic counterparts have rhetoric as generative of truth. This playing out of "might versus right" in Plato's Gorgias embodies much of the controversy of rhetoric faced by contemporary students and practitioners. Writing studies often take as their aim the welding of such positions.

The controversy and development of "the rhetorical situation" is an apt site for this metaphor and its relation to the study of writing. The first discussion of a rhetorical situation, Bitzer's, finds reality as precedent to rhetorical discourse. The two metals, reality/situation/context and rhetoric/discourse/language are pitted in the fire—the agora—of academia's forge. In response to Bitzer's realist perspective on discourse, Vatz countered that discourse constructs meaning, and flips the two metals' order above the fire of the rhetorical situation. The third and oft accepted expression of the rhetorical situation, Consigny's, manages a weilding of the two paradigms by suggesting that rhetorical situations are constituted of both real and constructed elements. Consigny's rhetor, arguably the contemporary rhetorician, the master welder, is an artist both receptive and creative in the face of new metals at the forge of discourse.