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.


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