Notes on Herndl and Licona, and Perelman and Olberechts-tyteca

Herndl & Licona reconceptualize the term “agency”, “authority” from the perspectives of post- structuralism.

Herndl & Licona trace the evolution of the term “agency” from the lens of culture study to the post-modern vision and argue that the “agency exists at the intersection of a network of semiotic, material and intentional elements and relational practices. (P137)” When we cease thinking of the agent as the origin of the agency, we can move the agency to the agent. Then “the postmodern subject becomes an agent when she occupies the agentive intersection of the semiotic and the material through a rhetorical performance.”(141)

Herndl & Licona use the example of the emergence of feminist to articulate the relationship between agency and authority. Agency is the outcome of wresting between the notion of subject (relational practice) and the power dynamics (power of authority). Both agency and authority are generated by material practice (P145), whereby to a certain degree, authority and agency overlaps and complements each other.

Actually until now what I got from this piece are some fragments and some initial impression and I need time to string these fragments together. I think the key to understanding this piece is to distinguish and connect the author function and the agent function. As far as I understanding this piece, I think author function related to the authority, who have possess the dynamic power and the agent function lies only on the interaction between consciousness of the subject, authority and the context. Herndl & Licona extend the context to a larger scale, which compasses the conjunction of society and argue the “mobility across space and time is an important part of authoritative acts, agentive opportunities and relational practices.”(P146)Since the social space changes through time, we can return the agency to the rhetoric notion of Karios.

Perelman’s educational and academic background shed a light on his core of the new rhetoric theory, which is how speakers deliver his own axiology to the audience. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca think the method by rhetoric is better than by logic. In order to elaborate this belief, they distinguished the argumentation and demonstration first. The whole new rhetoric is the art of argumentation.

The distinction between argumentation and demonstration

As far as I read the Contemporary textbook, it is my understanding that the most significant distinction between argumentation and demonstration is subjective verse objective. I think argumentation is the personal process that the speakers aim at striking a chord with the audiences by using some reasonable human language. The reasonable means some common sense and practical argumentation. On the other hand, the demonstration is pure reasoning, and the aim of which doesn’t lie in the interaction with the audiences but using some rational and logical techniques or mathematical languages.

Perelman’s claim on argumentation and Burke’s theory on identification have something in common; both of them stress the interaction between the audiences and the speaker. Burke argues the effect of argumentation will strengthen by certain tie by sharing the commons. Argumentation from Perelman’s theory highlights speakers sharing the common premise with the audience.

By distinguishing the argumentation and demonstration, Fosses continue their argument that the aim of argumentation is not “to prove truth of the conclusion from premise, but to transfer to the conclusion the adherence accorded to the premise.” (P90) Speakers tried to persuade the audience accept the premise and then give the nod to the conclusion.

Then as we have discussed in the class, clear and precise techniques of argumentation are put forward.


1. Perelman and Olberechts-Tyteca’s method is followed German logician Gottlob Frege. (PP85)

2. Aristotle divided rhetoric into forensic, deliberative, and epideictic oratory. (P85) Deliberative and forensic speaking is concerned with matters of policy and fact, epideictic oratory is concerned with matters of value. (P86) How can we evaluate the epideictic oratory?

Although on the class discussion, my peers talked about it is hard to summarize Burke’s motion and theory in 30 pages, the 30 pages are useful for me, a new visitor to the territory of contemporary rhetoric. Foss and Trapp gave me a great overview of Burke’s theory; however, since his theory varies from this early time to the last period; I don’t know which period his theory of Rhetoric, dramatism and logology belongs to. I also like the introduction of Burke’s life because his life helps me to understand well how he saw the world and his interaction with the society and other people. And his vision of world influenced his theory consequently.

Burke’s definition of human being shows his notion of philosophy which is reflected to his notions of rhetoric, dramatism and logology.

Being bodies that learn language, thereby becoming wordlings

Human are the symbol-making, symbol-using, symbol-misusing animal. Inventor of the negative separated from our natural condition by instruments of our own making goaded by the spirit of hierarchy acquiring foreknowledge of death and rotten with perfection. (pp212, Foss)

 Burke defines human being as symbol using animal, which can be connected to the essence of language from the perspectives of structural linguists. Ferdinand de Saussure claims language is a symbolic system. He distinguished the sound image (signified) and the concept of object (significant) and concluded that the connection between sound image and the concept is arbitrary. People called a book “book” because it is conventional. I think it is in common with Burke’s identification. Individuals share substances and associate together, the process of which called consubstantiality. And I think language a kind of lower level consubstantiality. Sharing the same language is the precondition of rhetoric, and it’s also the fundamental sense of the same identity.

Some notes I took from Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric:

1. The definition of rhetoric: “the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to introduce actions in other human agents. (p191) The function of rhetoric is name a situation aiming at solving it.

2. Pentad is a tool to discover the motivation in symbolic action. Five factors constitute the pentad: act, agent, agency, scene and purpose. Burke put the five terms to a drama stage of human, by using pentad to analyze the motivation of human act.

3. Dramatism VS Logology

Dramatism can be taken as a subcollection of Logology because the Dramatism is corresponding to drama, whereas the Logology reflects words. Logoology, then, might be seen as a theory and methodology about words at a higher level of generalization than Dramatism. (p204) Actually I don’t understand this sentence. But I would like to remember it in my note; hopefully someday I will understand it.

The Reason/Passion Binary Unbound: Condit’s Views Toward Chaïm Perelman’s Egalitarian Rhetoric

Both Western and Eastern philosophy embrace dialectic binaries concerning human understanding and experience. Sometimes I think this is the root reason that all human beings are equal and think the same. I did little investigation on Eastern criticism of the binary opposites, but I know from what I read that there is not so much reevaluation of that issue. However, I saw more and more people criticizing this standard in their papers in our field. In my humble opinion, I think Western syllogism really helps a lot in Western train of thoughts and the Western logic, which we do not have traditionally but are increasingly using owing to the learning of Western science and democracy.

Condit’s piece reminds of so much about the differences and similarities between traditional Chinese and Western philosophies, for we have a relatively emotional rather than rational logic or rhetorical system. This is probably why traditionally, we tend to perceive the world more by experience than by epistemology. Nevertheless, since we started to learn from science and democracy from the West, the situation changed a lot, if not from the root.

Condit thinks that Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca prefer to transcend the reason/passion binary into an integrated combination of rhetoric that would seek for the good of all human beings(102, 103, 109). I really love this idea of seeking for common ground although intersubjectivities (100) exist. Perelman’s ideal is even close to Heidegger’s views of existentialism and phenomenology. Condit’s suggestion that we “remind ourselves that no social construction is ‘objective’ or ‘certain’ or founded unassailable, unchangeable verities”(108) is reasonable to follow from the perspective of ethics. From a classical rhetorical view, only upright rhetoricians are good rhetoricians because they can bring good to the society. However, human beings have both good and bad emotions, and that’s why reason is needed to enforce laws and regulations. Condit’s idea that we need not  “the highest capacity”—”formal logic”(109), but positive emotion—love and care(106), to improve the entire human condition further illustrates why we have to take both into consideration in a genuine and effective rhetoric.

After writing all this stuff, I just remembered some of the works I read and watched. Everything seems the same, people are making efforts to break away from some old and maybe false ideas, and are indeed advancing to a better rhetoric that is more considerable, democratic, and even humane.

This is my first impression on the Condit piece. Hope I can get some inspirations on his ideas on argumentation tomorrow. I am still thinking about it. And, I have to go back to Burke again! See you tomorrow everyone!

Rhetorical Listening, the Inauguration Speech, and Luming Mao’s “Rhetoric of Responsibility”

Fuss says that “identification names the entry of history and culture into the subject” and that this “subject must bear the traces of each and every encounter with the external world” (Rhetorical Listening 47). She also emphasizes the inside outside dialect of the subject and the object(Rhetorical Listening 47).  I immediately thought of my own identity crisis in regard to the definition of identification, and I think maybe everyone who goes to another country will encounter such a crisis or dilemma. Harlow says that identification is a political choice (Rhetorical Listening 47), which is such a true assertion to me, yet I think there might be occasions that even a choice is hard to make from political and ethical perspectives. I think in comparative rhetorical studies, such “troubled identifications” should be studied indeed. You can interview me if you want my dear classmates.

For a while, I had thought that maybe leaving China and all the complex feelings I have toward it will render myself a new perspective. But I was wrong, once you leave your own country, that subtle emotion that is rooted in your heart will grow stronger because you cannot find any other form that is strong or big enough to define your primary identity. Maybe I can say that I am a Christian, that I found myself unbound to a communist fallacy that have disillusioned just as many Western philosophers as Chinese people. Maybe I can say that I am always on the road to pursue my childhood dream of living in an exotic world like in the novels. I just cannot imagine what my future identity will be like, and who I will become. I am currently experiencing this strange life that I had never thought of. Maybe everyone in this hustle and bustle era is experiencing all kinds of strange stuff like me.

I have always loved Obama’s speeches and his power of rhetoric. To me, his rhetoric is an example for us to follow. Arousing emotions, using symbols to seek for common ground, relying on logic to encourage actions, his rhetoric in the second inauguration speech can be analyzed in the perfect rhetorical triangle, just like any other big and formal speeches he gave in public. In this inauguration speech I see why  the Americans are proud of being American and why the non-Americans trying so hard and paying prices to become Americans. This is how rhetoric works, and how the thinking motions transcend into actions. Too many times, I met Vietnam friends, Mexican friends, Indian friends, who really paid a lot for becoming Americans. And I believe that there must have been quite a strong rhetoric inside themselves to keep waiting and stick to their dream.

Luming Mao, whose writings I have come across for several times, represents the main stream Chinese rhetoric studies, comparative rhetorical studies, Asian-American rhetoric studies, and many other related field. His assertions in the Octalog III, which seeks another way out instead of the self-other binary, gives a new direction in comparative studies. I totally agree with his definition of recontextualization—ceaseless negotiation with logic between two ideological systems, and the heterogeneity that actually bare some likeliness of human experience. However, his idea to use “the other for transformative agendas and resisting methods and logic that continue to silence or make invisible the same other” troubles me a little. Did he mean that even by using indigeous logic and mind set, one can understand a different or similar context? Or, did he mean that by using a different rhetorical logic, one can understand this different culture and ideology by setting him or herself into the context of this different culture?  I see both difficult as tasks before the internet can blur more on geographic borders. The “place” Butcher views as a linkage to identification (Rhetoric Listening 49).

But what if the borders disappear one day?  Does the epistemological problems of a different rhetorical system still exist? Or, people still have to fight against each other on the same, converged rhetorical system? Because as long as different language exist, people cannot communicate smoothly. Then, can the new media studies solve the problem once for all? Sometimes, this kind of ideas turn me into a pathetic fatalist, for even the lingua franca used by the “Western world,” which include the Middle East, does not embrace the lingua franca used by Eastern Asians. I cannot probably live to the day that ideological barriers disappear and people are truly friendly toward each other. The God has dead, the Author has dead, everything in the postmodern world is sort of ok because everything is under certain legitimate interpretation.

Burke’s “consubstantiality” is pretty much marxist because there is a common cause to fight for and people can still seeking for common ground while remain differences (Rhetorical Listening 55). I see this again in the transcended new Sisyphus who will always try to seek meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. Yet, even this action of trying to find one’s own identity, to me, is troublesome. Because I see a multi-identified me strangely transforming to a different other from time to time. But I know that for me, I am an old fashioned advocator of great causes and one who is willing to be “an agent of change” (58). I have always been a listener and learner of the Western logic, now I hope I can become a clear and righteous (Rhetorical Listening 77) interpreter and an upright rhetor who not only acts properly in a Chinese context, but also an American context.

Reflections on Reading Burke

The Kenneth Burke reading did not attracts me until I read the lines that highlight his resolution to work hard for his ideal—mountains of words, the place where Burke wanted to work like Sisyphus(188). I love Camus’ absurd philosophy and how it was applied by writers such as Doris Lessing, and here by Burke in the postmodern sense.

Reading Burke in Chinese translation made me think of Ezra Pound because both lived in an era where symbolism permeated. May be the hallow men in that era who had lived through WWI and WWII really needed something concrete to save their disillusions brought by various trauma. Maybe they were trying hard to enshrine in Sisyphus a meaning in their seemingly meaningless or absurd life. Or, simply maybe they were like all the other artists, trying to pick the “fleur du mal” in order to get inspiration from their ecstasy.

This time, reading Burke in English, his ideas on rhetoric, human beings, and the society reminds me of Heidegger’s “Being and Time,” of the structuralist Althusser and the ideological literary criticism, of Sigmend Freud, of Gadmer’s subjectivity and intersubjectivity, of Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge, of Derrida’s deconstructionism, and of Husserl’s phenomenology. However, when some of you had the discussion in class, and Robert mentioned Hegel, I immediately thought that it could go further back. For Adammontology and Evepistemology have long, long stories to tell.

Reading Burke makes me feel both comfortable and uncomfortable. On the one hand, his rhetoric touches upon the most fundamental philosophical, literary, political, and social concern, which makes it easy for me to relax and relate freely to any book or any paper that I have read. On the other, his individual talent, which I know I definitely do not have an equal level with, moves freely and deeply toward any subject under his concern.

I cannot find his reference to any of the philosophers that I think he might have drawn ideas from, and this annoys me. I remember that during my lit study days, one of the readings is about how literary theory has remained the same in essence whereas terminology changes all the time. That was exactly how it was like in the field of rhetoric and composition, I think. Some of us have felt this gentle breeze of sameness in Dr. Harker’s composition theory course. Whoever in our classroom can think of really smart theories, you are going to be as famous as Burke in the future.

Fortunately, we have some pig potatoes who can always write new theories and enlighten our field, even the world a little bit so that common people know where they should go and how things are happening. Burke’s ideas are easier than Ulysses, but ready enough for our generation to consume for a while. At least I know there is a strong wind of Burke study and reference there in China. One of my friend is working on his dissertation and I know he will use Burke as his fundamental theory base.

What I love Burke most is the way he transcends the old philosophical tradition into his time, and even ours. I think he really succeeded in becoming a genius because he saw the truth and he gave us a theoretical legacy to interpret and make full use of. I suddenly remembered the American idiom engraved on The Korean War Veteran’s Memorial: “Freedom is not free.” This idiom emphasizes military significance, but I really want to relate it to Burke’s idea of freedom. I totally agree with his idea that human beings never can be completely free because they never know the full consequences of their acts(198). It is not that I do not think human beings can be temporary free, but that I agree with Rousseau’s idea of social contract. I think that human beings are social existence who are “born free, and is everywhere in chains.” This is also how Burke’s idea of hierarchy(205-206), perfection(206-207), mystery(207-209), and redemption(209-212) works. However, here I agree with Robert that Burke is obviously drawing heavily from classical philosophy. I really think the idea of seeking perfection is similar to Nietzsche’s idea of human beings making efforts to become supermen. I even doubt whether or not he drew from Nietzsche’s ideas on drama.

I think Burke’s views on identification and self as audience is marvelous although I frequently have trouble with identification and self as audience in real life. Identity is just too important for each one of us to be discussed. If you have your superman dream, you’ll know how it feels like even in your most secret thoughts. Like many fictional and real characters, I have to persuade my mother frequently and if I fail, I turned to persuade myself. That is how monologue and soliloquy works, I guess.

Burke is really heavy stuff for me, and I have to read him again and again. Hopefully, I’ll have a better understanding. And, I’ll write something on our first reading in my next response.

Tisha Savannah

"Tomorrow may be hell, but today was a good writing day, and on the good writing days nothing else matters." - Neil Gaiman

Foundations of Literary Studies: Reading Frankenstein Two Hundred Years Later

English 010 | University of California, Merced | Fall 2018



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