The Online Tutor as
Cross-Curricular Double Agent

Three Reactions to Current Traditional Rhetoric

In his influential essay "Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories," James Berlin gathers the various strands into four main groups. Writing in 1982, Berlin asserted that the "Positivist or Current-Traditional group clearly dominates thinking about writing instruction today" (769).

Berlin states that revivals of Aristotelian rhetoric are actually quite rare and that "most textbooks that claim to be Aristotelian are operating within the category of what has come to be known as Current-Traditional Rhetoric, a category that might be called the Positivist" (768-69).

The theory of composition which Berlin calls Neo-Platonist, or Expressivist, he says "arose as a reaction to current-traditional rhetoric" (771).

Clearly Berlin favors "the New Rhetoric&emdash;or what may be called Epistemic Rhetoric" (773) as the best of the "reactions to the inadequacy of Current-Traditional Rhetoric" (777), and concludes by saying that all three reactions are united "in their efforts to establish new directions for modern rhetoric," a direction he goes on to claim is, in fact, a hermeneutical rather than epistemological approach to rhetoric.