Berlin’s reflections on the contributions of the panelists strikes me as key to my understanding Berthoff’s relationship to the field and its orientation historically, particularly as her legacy emerges through the 80’s and 90’s.
This paragraph substantially identifies ‘tensions’ or misapprehensions occurring between Berthoff and “the mainstream” as defined by Berlin:
Ann Berthoff has justifiably gained a reputation for being an uncompromising progressive, ever open to new possibilities for rhetoric.
What a bunch of rhetoric! I think what is meant by “progressive” here echoes the pluralistic values espoused from the onset of the panel, and defines “progressive” very narrowly. She isn’t, of course, known as being “ever open” to anything! Of anyone I’ve ever read or heard, this scholar’s point of view is deep, heavy, core stuff. This line from Berlin is “being nice” and not even to Ann; she wouldn’t respect this. [must check archive for notes re: this panel!] ***AH, See Box 1 Folder 5 (by the way… this isn’t anywhere near the panel notes)
Jim Berlin once said to me that I was the first to alert the profession to Paulo Freire. I suppose that was a compliment, but the fact is that I’ve no sign that anybody has really understood how PF’s philosophy of language underpins the pedagogy of the opporessed….or how the ped of the opp is the ped of knowing. *(except Dixie Goswami & Hepsie Roskelley)
After all, it was she who introduced us to Freire at a time when Marx was still a persona non grata in the English Department, and then showed us ways to use him in the writing classroom.
So Freire is associated with Marx. Marxism is alike a door that needs to be gone through to get to Freire. Was Berthoff’s interest in Freire political in nature? Yes. But her writing about Freire’s practice was never in overtly Marxist terms.***[check on that] (unless by Marxist we mean ‘dialectical,’ ‘generative words’ functioning as ‘speculative instruments,’ and ‘critical consciousness’)***(“Freire for the classroom: A Sourcebook for Liberatory Teaching, A Review by Ann Berthoff” CCC 1998) Her point wasn’t to introduce English Departments to Marxist ideology or practice. She recognized in Freire’s pedagogy [KEY TERM: PEDAGOGY] a pedagogy that put into practice Richard’s/Pierce’s tradic conception of language (triadic hermeneutics).
In the present discussion, however, we find her taking an unexpected retrograde turn.
And thus the label “conservative”?
She rejects postructuralism unreservedly*, as if a central part of this diverse project were not implicated in Marxism in all its subervsive variety (see, for example, Michael Ryan’s Marxism and Deconstruction).
(*not exactly… A triadic hermenutics is a “structural linguistics” but it’s third posits a shifty, unquantifiable, unpredictable, uncontrollable element in the translation process: see postructuralism ala Wikipedia’s definition)
But this assertion arises from a dichotomy–structuralist/poststructuralist–characteristic of the kinds of thinking and labeling that fail to capture Berthoff’s philosophy and praxis. Knowledge and learning are two different things. When we frame discussions in terms of “knowledge” we fail discussions of pedagogy and learning in important ways. That’s what I see happening with Berlin and the exploration of Composition’s potential in the language of rhetorical tradition (in this discussion and in Major Pedagogical Theories). (Read: Freire’s Pedagogy of Knowing… Not the same as Pedagogy of Knowledge!)
What does he mean by “this diverse project”? Defining “the New Rhetorics”? This statement confounds me. Is he saying that the project is “post-structuralist” (ala Derrida, Foucault, etc.)? The logic here is thus: If Berthoff values Marxism (ala Freire), and at the heart of Marxism is subversion, and at the heart of “the New Rhetorics project” is post-structuralism, and post-structuralism is subversive, then Berthoff should embrace poststrucuralism and thus “the New Rhetorics project.” But she doesn’t seem to embrace this “new project”. She behaves subversively.
The first premise isn’t necessarily true; one can value Freire’s pedagogy as a PRACTICE, Marxist or not. The second premise…okay. The third premise seems to be something Berlin is deciding on the spot. He also is assuming that Berthoff embraces subversion no matter what. In fact, it kind of comes down to this: Dear Ann Berthoff, you like being tendentious, you value subversion, my embracing of “diversity and historical mutability of rhetorics” is subversive, so you should like my ideas, you should embrace them. Embracing them is moving forward. Not embracing them is “retrograde.”
It is equally surprising to see her then forward I.A. Richards against poststructuralism, ignoring the fact that his problematizing of language is closely related to the poststructuralist critique of positivism.
She doesn’t. I can’t find one instance in her contribution to the panel where she “forward”s Richards “against poststructuralism.” In fact just the opposite if one considers triadicity as post-structuralist… Or even better, a THIRD complicating the dichotomy of structuralist/post structuralist.
***Okay, rereading this astonishes me. At this point, Berthoff has read, practiced, written about, internalized, utilized pragmatically, the theoretical works of I.A. Richards for thirty years, most of her professional life. For Berlin to dismiss Berthoff’s use of Richards so thoroughly as he does here–Berthoff ‘ignores’, meaning doesn’t understand, how Richards’ work complicates positivism? THAT’S HER WHOLE POINT!!!!!–seems flatly demeaning. If she isn’t an expert in Richards’ works, I don’t know who is. Her whole point has been (for years at that point) THAT RICHARDS’ WORK (and Pierce’s and Sapir’s) AND THE TRIADICITY antidotes positivism (“postructuralist” be damned! The term doesn’t matter!).
Wayne Booth seems determined to avoid novelty in rhetoric, preferring instead a search for a usable past. I suspect that his response is partly an act of resistance against the commodification of ideas in the academy, education emulating the marketplace in continually packaging old products under new names in the interests of creating capital–here cultural capital rather than hard cash. But as much as I sympathize with Professor Booth’s aversion to the hucksterism that often attends the insistence on the ‘new and improved,’ I cannot imagine any of the old rhetorics–even of the last 200 years–serving us without changed.
Of Jerry Murphy, Berlin writes:
Those who know the history of rhetoric are often as guilty as the unschooled in repeating the mistakes of the past, using all of their considerable learning to convince us that all that is worth saying and thinking about rhetoric has already been done.
Of Richard Young:
…I would argue that we must be prepared to pose new problematics, to ask new questions, to interrogate our interrogations, and, as I said earlier, I think poststructrualist thought in all its diversity is enabling us to do so.
What has happened so far seems to afford considerable evidence that there are, indeed, many rhetorics, though they may have a common vocabulary.
What would that be?
Invention, of course, occurs in any rhetoric; structure always happens, and style and occasion and audience.
So rhetoric as hermeneutic = rhetoric as learning situation… In AB’s rhetoric, invention purposed for learning (Pullman & dialectic), form finding/form creating purposed for learning, style purposed for learning, occasion purposed for learning. Ann’s is a meta-rhetoric & meta-education all at once. The pedagogical imperative is meta-cognition.
Our energy wants, I think, to expand, to take over the student author’s rhetoric, to convert the student author to our rhetoric.
The problem of identifying that ‘one subject’ is vastly complicated by a shifting vocabulary…
Above all, the very use of the term new rhetoric implies that somewhere there is an ‘old’ rhetoric to be discarded. The acute inability to describe that ‘old’ rhetoric in nonpersonal terms–that is, separate from names like Cicero or Campbell–makes me wonder whether the uses of the new term have a clear idea about that which is to be discarded.
One of the motifs running through the prepared statements and the subsequent discussion has been an argument for the study of the common features in the various rhetorics that make up the rhetorical tradition and a skepticism about the value of newness in rhetorical theory.
…Murphy and Wayne Booth raise the issue repeatedly, but it has its fullest development in the prepared statement by Murphy. For example he warns us about being victimized by neologisms, speaks of ‘the basic rhetoric’ that emerged in the Renaissance, and observes that…
we ought to be finding out what is common to [what] everybody says they’re doing.
Clearly, there have to be common elements among all the rhetorics in the long history of rhetoric, or else we wouldn’t consider them to be rhetorics. That is, they all share certain generic features. That was one of the points that James Kinneavy made in his Theory of Discourse, particularly in the discussion of the relationships among author, world, audience, and word–the now famous ‘communications triangle.’
All fully developed rhetorics must address in one way or another this set of relationships; it is one of the conditions of membership in the category. But it’s not in itself sufficient to define a category…so there are additional distinctive features that distinguish rhetorical theories from literary theories. We could no doubt proceed in this way for some time, pairing rhetoric with things significantly similar and then differentiating, producing, finally a set of characteristics that all rhetorics share.
I find this interesting. If we think in terms of “rhetorical triangle,” “author” becomes “learner” via meta-cognition pedagogical mandate of the occasion. Is it still a “rhetoric”? yes. because it’s still a theory of language and communication, of understanding and meaning making, of “knowing.”
Young goes on to contradict AB:
And then if we were to push further and investigate the histories of rhetorical practice and pedagogy, we would no doubt be pleased to find that intelligent people have addressed with imagination many of the problems that preoccupy us now. Abelard, for example, has a great deal to teach those today who see the art of rhetoric as essentially problem solving; he understood cognitive dissonance and how to exploit it in the classroom as perceptively and systematically as anyone writing today.
Young ignores AB, ultimately making a distinction between “new theoretical principles” in rhetoric and “novomania.” An opportunity missed, I think…