Takin' it to the streets: culture war, rhetorical education, and democratic virtue

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2002-01-01
Authors
Jorgensen, Beth
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Abstract

The author analyzes the history of rational liberalism, connecting this paradigm with the rhetoric of the culture wars, posing postmodernism as the re-emergence of Classical sophism, and offering a rhetoric pedagogy which draws from neo-Protagorean argumentation and Paolo Freire. Chapter One examines the broad debate as it applies to English Studies, as well as the debate within English Studies, contrasting the epistemological and moral assumptions of rational elitism with those postmodern. The author argues that, as democracy is embodied in rhetorical practice rather than foundational truths, the composition classroom is a natural site for education in the virtues of phronesis . Chapter Two employs an Aristotelian vocabulary to identify the central concern as a tension between moral excellence and political effectiveness. The author argues that the liberal self-concept identifies the individual apart from and in conflict with others and the community and that liberal thinking is undercut by marketplace assumptions which discourage civic participation and provide an inadequate model of inequality, domination, and oppression. Chapter Three examines the assumptions of Euro-western rationalism which underlie liberalism and their implications for democratic practice. The author argues that the dominant paradigm of inquiry misconstrues the Good as an abstract, timeless, and unitary form; misrepresents the practices of reasoning as transcending "the oral, the particular, the local, and the timely" (Toulmin Cosmopolis 30); and mishandles social institutions by according the "misrepresented" rationality of individuals. She concludes by raising the specter of the fragmented self, a passive subject, citizen of nowhere, who conflates material acquisition and the right to personal privacy with self-determination and ethical social progress. Chapter Four illustrates the way in which contemporary constructions of the Platonic cardinal virtues are used to silence dissenting voices. The author then proposes a rhetorical way of looking at these virtues which draws its force from the teachings of Protagoras, provisionally resolving the somewhat artificial binary drawn between episteme and doxai , so providing a more democratic vision of rhetorical ethics. Chapter Five offers a view of the classroom in the aftermath of September 11, linking neo-Protagorean argumentation with Freirean pedagogy.

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English, Rhetoric and professional communication
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