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Mere Rhetoric

Mary Hedengren

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Mere Rhetoric

Mere Rhetoric

Mary Hedengren

0
Followers
2
Plays
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About Us

A podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that have defined the history of rhetoric.

Latest Episodes

James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

Some time ago, I was asked by listener Sarah Rumsey to do a podcast on composition theory. That’s a doozy of a topic, so I read a lot, I poked around, even pulled together a couple drafts, but couldn’t find the balance of breadth and depth to do this subject justice. So I gave up. Ah, clever listener, you know I didn’t really give up, because this is Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history and I am Mary Hedengren and instead of trying to capture the entire depth of rhetorical theory thought I could just rip off someone who did. Granted, the “did” in this case happened way back in 1982, when rhetoric and composition was still a young discipline, but the “someone” is James A Berlin, namesake of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Jim Berlin pub crawl. In addition to, I guess, being a man who could hold his liquor, Berlin was a composition historian and in 1982, he took stock of the current field of composition in an article titled “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.” Now before I dive into this major theoretical typology, let me say that the article has been accused of being a little simplistic and a little...strawman-ish. Berlin himself acknowledges his bias in the article, stating, “My reasons for presenting this analysis are not altogether disinterested. I am convinced that the pedagogical approach of the New Rhetoricians is the most intelligent and most practical alternative available, serving in every way the best interests of our students” (766). Well, in that case, why even worry about other theories? And why should Sarah be taught all of these competing pedagogical theories in her composition classes? Why not just settle down with one intelligent and practical one without holding up competing theories? Won’t that just confuse would-be instructors and, worse, muddle students who must adapt from one instructor’s theory to another as they progress through their classes: freshman comp with a classicist and advanced writing with an expressionist? Well, for starters, you might not agree with Berlin’s conclusions about which is best. And, even is so, Berlin fears that most people don’t think consciously about their overall theory of writing and learning at all “ many teachers,” he says, “(and I suspect most) look upon their vocations as the imparting of a largely mechanical skill, important only because it serves students in getting them through school and in advancing them in their professions. This essay will argue that writing teachers are perforce given a responsibility that far exceeds this merely instrumental task” (766). Okay then, what are the theories Berlin posits for how “writer, reality, audience and language--are envisioned”(765)? First are the Neo-Aristotelians or Classicists. You might suspect, they echo the philosophies of Aristotle, but Berlin claims that actually they are “opposed to his system in every sense” (767). Okay, then, what does Aristotle posit and what do these wannabes do? Aristotle, if you remember from that famous fresco by Rafael, is the one pointing down to the earth. Berlin describes Aristotle’s view that reality can be “known and communicated with language serving as the unproblematic medium os discourse. There is an uncomplicated correspondence between the sign and the thing” (767). Aristotle’s rhetorical writings are among the most complete we have from the ancient world and emphasize reasoning, but also acknowledge that sometimes it takes a little appeal to emotion, too, to get the job done. Then Berlin says, in essence, okay, but what those so-called Neo-Aristotelians actually do is Current-traditional or Positivist. [For those keeping track at home, this means that there are two terms (Neo-Aristotleian or Classicist) to describe the general theory and then two (Current traditional and positivist) to describe the way that people botch it up and someti

10 MIN2019 JUN 11
Comments
James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

Welcome to Mere R the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary H and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, like I did, then you might remember a series of posters in your school and public library. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker,A-Rod and, of course, Lavar Burton would be posed with a book, smiling, encouraging you to read. They were all readers, and so should you, because being a reader was a worthy identity. Deborah Brandt, in her decades of interviews with people of all walks of life, found that being a reader had very different connotations than being a writer. Readers were feted, writers were suspect; readers had clubs, writers had isolation; reading was receptive, writing was productive. However, in Brandt’s latest book, The Rise of Writing, she finds something changing--our definition of literacy is swinging from readers to writers. The subtitle of her book is redefining mass literacy, an...

8 MIN2019 JAN 16
Comments
The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’d like you to think a little about the types of writing you’ve done in the past, oh, let us say, year. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably written breezy email, stern syllabi, obscure academic texts and pun-based posts on Reddit that didn’t get nearly the number of upvotes as they deserve. Now what if a random, oh, say 12% of what you wrote was preserved and no one who knew you was around to testify you wrote it all? What would people think about your writing style? About your history? Would they even know you who were you? This is precisely the mystery behind today’s Other Eight Attic Orator, Antiphon of Rhamnus. Like many of us, Antiphon may have written a variety of texts. He was a logographer, one of those professional legal speechwriters, so he probably wrote dozens of defenses for the rich and powerfu...

10 MIN2018 FEB 22
Comments
The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

The Meaningful Writing Project

Welcome to MR the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history It’s the start of another semester, which, for me, means a season of wonder. I wonder about who my students will be. I wonder whether my schedule will be crushingly busy. Mostly, though, I wonder how my students will react to the syllabi and assignments that I have lovingly crafted. Will they understand the instructions? Will they learn what I hope they will? Will they find it meaningful? Many compositionists have wondered these same questions and have argued about what kinds of assignments are best for students--digital or analog? Open-ended or directed? Reflective or projective? The authors of the Meaningful Writing Project,Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, Neal Lerner , had similar questions. But instead of pontificating, they just asked the students themselves. And, boy howdy, did they! They surveyed students at a varied of schools--big state, small pri...

7 MIN2018 FEB 8
Comments
The Meaningful Writing Project

Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol this holiday season because I’m playing Mrs. Crachit in a community theatre production. And wow. There is a story behind that. But becaue I was interested in The christmas carol, so I started reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s history of Dickens’s masterpeice. I was surprised to hear how A Christmas Carol had solidified Christmas as we know it, a home-and-family holiday rather than a racacus drunken orgy of disrule. Yeah, Christmas used to be like that. In fact, there was a debate about Christmas raging over several centuries when Scrooge came on the scene. After Dickens, though, industrialists started giving their employees Christmas Day off, and everyone started sending their workers the ubiquitous Christmas turkey. Robert Louis Stevenson, upon reading Dickens...

6 MIN2017 DEC 12
Comments
Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

[intro] Welcome to MR the podcast for beginngs and insiders aboutt he ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren. This last week I graded my students’ rhetorical analyses. For many of them, this was the first time they had been asked to write a rhetorical analysis and this assignment always makes me nervous. I give them sample papers. We practice writing a rhetorical analysis together. We discuss in depth examples and abuses of ethos, logos, and pathos, but many of them struggle tremendously. I know I could write a 3-page rhetorical analysis in 20 minutes; why do my students take hours and still fail the project? David Bartholomae wondered, as I do, how students approach projects they’ve never been asked to weigh in on before. In my students’ case, they just barely learned what “ethos” is--how are they supposed to assert how it impacts a particular audience? Writing in the early 80s, Bartholomea, like a score of composition scholars like...

7 MIN2017 NOV 15
Comments
Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

Weeeeellllcommmme to Meeeeeereeee Rhetoooooric! It’s our annual Halloween episode, which means a little bit of the people, ideas and movements who have shaped rhetorical history, but mostly a ghost story. This year, we’re going with our first not-MR-James story. Don’t worry--there are still intials--but first--to business. If you’re going to talk about ghost stories and influential thinkers, you won’t dig long until you come across Freud’s contribution, a little piece called “The Uncanny.” You might not peg Sigmund Freud as a connoisseur of boogeymen, but he was capital-f freaked capital-o out by ETA Hoffmann’s story “The Sandman.” If Hoffmann’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you know him from writing the story of the Nutcracker ballet. Look at that--our annual tradition here at Mere Rhetoric just founds 3-degrees of separation to every ballet company’s annual tradition! Anyway, the Sandman is a freaky sci-fi horror tale that eventually inspired another ba...

23 MIN2017 OCT 26
Comments
Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and every semester, I feel like it’s New Year’s Day. “This semester,” I say, “everything’s going to be different.” I revise my classes, everything from switching two minor assignments to rehauling the entire curriculum. I try to create assignments that will catch my students’ attention, prepare them for their other classes, and, because I teach dozens of students, be interesting to grade. But how do I know if the assignments I find interesting are effective? Or even that the students will think they are interesting? In Engaging Writers and Dynamic Disciplines, Chris Thaiss and Terry Zawacki explore how students learn to write in their majors, and how instructors write in their disciplines. These two things are not synonyms. Disciplines are dynamic, even before you account for all of the interdisciplinary work that goes...

7 MIN2017 OCT 19
Comments
Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

The Other Eight: Andocides

Andocides (An-DOS-id-dees) Do you remember in the 90s when there was this huge “thug life” thing going on? Shady types getting money doing shady things. Andocides, the 5th century BCE rhetor, would have fit fell into that world. Even though he may have been acquainted with Socrates, he was more interested in roving with his friends of rabble-rousers. He was born to wealth and lived as what one editor called “a hot-headed young man-about-town with more money than sense” (321). His carefree life came to a hard stop after a significant act of vandalism. Andocides was accused of multition of the Herms right before an Athenian expedition against Sicily--exactly not the time that you want to get the gods mad at you. Everyone was shocked. The act was seditious and blasphemous. Athens could forgive some offences, but not parodying the most intimate religious beliefs on the eve of war. The act was seen as an affront against democracy from exactly the kind of rich snobs who would want to ...

7 MIN2017 OCT 12
Comments
The Other Eight: Andocides

College Composition and Communication

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. Uh, I guess including recent history, because today we’re going to talk about the February 2017 issue of College Composition and Communication as our “journal of the month” summary. This issue, as editor Jonathan Alexander points out, “takes up the notion of the ‘personal’ in a variety of ways” (436), departing from what we might think of as “composition as usual.” The articles in it include thinking about students who are full-time workers, students who have disablities, and indigenous methodology. College Composition and Communication, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is one of the grand old dames of composition journals. It came about way back in the 50s as a summary of the conference on college composition and communication and many of the early issues were just summaries of what happened in the conference, so that you could follow alo...

8 MIN2017 OCT 5
Comments
College Composition and Communication

Latest Episodes

James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

Some time ago, I was asked by listener Sarah Rumsey to do a podcast on composition theory. That’s a doozy of a topic, so I read a lot, I poked around, even pulled together a couple drafts, but couldn’t find the balance of breadth and depth to do this subject justice. So I gave up. Ah, clever listener, you know I didn’t really give up, because this is Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history and I am Mary Hedengren and instead of trying to capture the entire depth of rhetorical theory thought I could just rip off someone who did. Granted, the “did” in this case happened way back in 1982, when rhetoric and composition was still a young discipline, but the “someone” is James A Berlin, namesake of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Jim Berlin pub crawl. In addition to, I guess, being a man who could hold his liquor, Berlin was a composition historian and in 1982, he took stock of the current field of composition in an article titled “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.” Now before I dive into this major theoretical typology, let me say that the article has been accused of being a little simplistic and a little...strawman-ish. Berlin himself acknowledges his bias in the article, stating, “My reasons for presenting this analysis are not altogether disinterested. I am convinced that the pedagogical approach of the New Rhetoricians is the most intelligent and most practical alternative available, serving in every way the best interests of our students” (766). Well, in that case, why even worry about other theories? And why should Sarah be taught all of these competing pedagogical theories in her composition classes? Why not just settle down with one intelligent and practical one without holding up competing theories? Won’t that just confuse would-be instructors and, worse, muddle students who must adapt from one instructor’s theory to another as they progress through their classes: freshman comp with a classicist and advanced writing with an expressionist? Well, for starters, you might not agree with Berlin’s conclusions about which is best. And, even is so, Berlin fears that most people don’t think consciously about their overall theory of writing and learning at all “ many teachers,” he says, “(and I suspect most) look upon their vocations as the imparting of a largely mechanical skill, important only because it serves students in getting them through school and in advancing them in their professions. This essay will argue that writing teachers are perforce given a responsibility that far exceeds this merely instrumental task” (766). Okay then, what are the theories Berlin posits for how “writer, reality, audience and language--are envisioned”(765)? First are the Neo-Aristotelians or Classicists. You might suspect, they echo the philosophies of Aristotle, but Berlin claims that actually they are “opposed to his system in every sense” (767). Okay, then, what does Aristotle posit and what do these wannabes do? Aristotle, if you remember from that famous fresco by Rafael, is the one pointing down to the earth. Berlin describes Aristotle’s view that reality can be “known and communicated with language serving as the unproblematic medium os discourse. There is an uncomplicated correspondence between the sign and the thing” (767). Aristotle’s rhetorical writings are among the most complete we have from the ancient world and emphasize reasoning, but also acknowledge that sometimes it takes a little appeal to emotion, too, to get the job done. Then Berlin says, in essence, okay, but what those so-called Neo-Aristotelians actually do is Current-traditional or Positivist. [For those keeping track at home, this means that there are two terms (Neo-Aristotleian or Classicist) to describe the general theory and then two (Current traditional and positivist) to describe the way that people botch it up and someti

10 MIN2019 JUN 11
Comments
James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

Welcome to Mere R the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary H and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, like I did, then you might remember a series of posters in your school and public library. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker,A-Rod and, of course, Lavar Burton would be posed with a book, smiling, encouraging you to read. They were all readers, and so should you, because being a reader was a worthy identity. Deborah Brandt, in her decades of interviews with people of all walks of life, found that being a reader had very different connotations than being a writer. Readers were feted, writers were suspect; readers had clubs, writers had isolation; reading was receptive, writing was productive. However, in Brandt’s latest book, The Rise of Writing, she finds something changing--our definition of literacy is swinging from readers to writers. The subtitle of her book is redefining mass literacy, an...

8 MIN2019 JAN 16
Comments
The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’d like you to think a little about the types of writing you’ve done in the past, oh, let us say, year. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably written breezy email, stern syllabi, obscure academic texts and pun-based posts on Reddit that didn’t get nearly the number of upvotes as they deserve. Now what if a random, oh, say 12% of what you wrote was preserved and no one who knew you was around to testify you wrote it all? What would people think about your writing style? About your history? Would they even know you who were you? This is precisely the mystery behind today’s Other Eight Attic Orator, Antiphon of Rhamnus. Like many of us, Antiphon may have written a variety of texts. He was a logographer, one of those professional legal speechwriters, so he probably wrote dozens of defenses for the rich and powerfu...

10 MIN2018 FEB 22
Comments
The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

The Meaningful Writing Project

Welcome to MR the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history It’s the start of another semester, which, for me, means a season of wonder. I wonder about who my students will be. I wonder whether my schedule will be crushingly busy. Mostly, though, I wonder how my students will react to the syllabi and assignments that I have lovingly crafted. Will they understand the instructions? Will they learn what I hope they will? Will they find it meaningful? Many compositionists have wondered these same questions and have argued about what kinds of assignments are best for students--digital or analog? Open-ended or directed? Reflective or projective? The authors of the Meaningful Writing Project,Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, Neal Lerner , had similar questions. But instead of pontificating, they just asked the students themselves. And, boy howdy, did they! They surveyed students at a varied of schools--big state, small pri...

7 MIN2018 FEB 8
Comments
The Meaningful Writing Project

Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol this holiday season because I’m playing Mrs. Crachit in a community theatre production. And wow. There is a story behind that. But becaue I was interested in The christmas carol, so I started reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s history of Dickens’s masterpeice. I was surprised to hear how A Christmas Carol had solidified Christmas as we know it, a home-and-family holiday rather than a racacus drunken orgy of disrule. Yeah, Christmas used to be like that. In fact, there was a debate about Christmas raging over several centuries when Scrooge came on the scene. After Dickens, though, industrialists started giving their employees Christmas Day off, and everyone started sending their workers the ubiquitous Christmas turkey. Robert Louis Stevenson, upon reading Dickens...

6 MIN2017 DEC 12
Comments
Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

[intro] Welcome to MR the podcast for beginngs and insiders aboutt he ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren. This last week I graded my students’ rhetorical analyses. For many of them, this was the first time they had been asked to write a rhetorical analysis and this assignment always makes me nervous. I give them sample papers. We practice writing a rhetorical analysis together. We discuss in depth examples and abuses of ethos, logos, and pathos, but many of them struggle tremendously. I know I could write a 3-page rhetorical analysis in 20 minutes; why do my students take hours and still fail the project? David Bartholomae wondered, as I do, how students approach projects they’ve never been asked to weigh in on before. In my students’ case, they just barely learned what “ethos” is--how are they supposed to assert how it impacts a particular audience? Writing in the early 80s, Bartholomea, like a score of composition scholars like...

7 MIN2017 NOV 15
Comments
Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

Weeeeellllcommmme to Meeeeeereeee Rhetoooooric! It’s our annual Halloween episode, which means a little bit of the people, ideas and movements who have shaped rhetorical history, but mostly a ghost story. This year, we’re going with our first not-MR-James story. Don’t worry--there are still intials--but first--to business. If you’re going to talk about ghost stories and influential thinkers, you won’t dig long until you come across Freud’s contribution, a little piece called “The Uncanny.” You might not peg Sigmund Freud as a connoisseur of boogeymen, but he was capital-f freaked capital-o out by ETA Hoffmann’s story “The Sandman.” If Hoffmann’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you know him from writing the story of the Nutcracker ballet. Look at that--our annual tradition here at Mere Rhetoric just founds 3-degrees of separation to every ballet company’s annual tradition! Anyway, the Sandman is a freaky sci-fi horror tale that eventually inspired another ba...

23 MIN2017 OCT 26
Comments
Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and every semester, I feel like it’s New Year’s Day. “This semester,” I say, “everything’s going to be different.” I revise my classes, everything from switching two minor assignments to rehauling the entire curriculum. I try to create assignments that will catch my students’ attention, prepare them for their other classes, and, because I teach dozens of students, be interesting to grade. But how do I know if the assignments I find interesting are effective? Or even that the students will think they are interesting? In Engaging Writers and Dynamic Disciplines, Chris Thaiss and Terry Zawacki explore how students learn to write in their majors, and how instructors write in their disciplines. These two things are not synonyms. Disciplines are dynamic, even before you account for all of the interdisciplinary work that goes...

7 MIN2017 OCT 19
Comments
Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

The Other Eight: Andocides

Andocides (An-DOS-id-dees) Do you remember in the 90s when there was this huge “thug life” thing going on? Shady types getting money doing shady things. Andocides, the 5th century BCE rhetor, would have fit fell into that world. Even though he may have been acquainted with Socrates, he was more interested in roving with his friends of rabble-rousers. He was born to wealth and lived as what one editor called “a hot-headed young man-about-town with more money than sense” (321). His carefree life came to a hard stop after a significant act of vandalism. Andocides was accused of multition of the Herms right before an Athenian expedition against Sicily--exactly not the time that you want to get the gods mad at you. Everyone was shocked. The act was seditious and blasphemous. Athens could forgive some offences, but not parodying the most intimate religious beliefs on the eve of war. The act was seen as an affront against democracy from exactly the kind of rich snobs who would want to ...

7 MIN2017 OCT 12
Comments
The Other Eight: Andocides

College Composition and Communication

Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. Uh, I guess including recent history, because today we’re going to talk about the February 2017 issue of College Composition and Communication as our “journal of the month” summary. This issue, as editor Jonathan Alexander points out, “takes up the notion of the ‘personal’ in a variety of ways” (436), departing from what we might think of as “composition as usual.” The articles in it include thinking about students who are full-time workers, students who have disablities, and indigenous methodology. College Composition and Communication, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is one of the grand old dames of composition journals. It came about way back in the 50s as a summary of the conference on college composition and communication and many of the early issues were just summaries of what happened in the conference, so that you could follow alo...

8 MIN2017 OCT 5
Comments
College Composition and Communication
hmly
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