Welch’s Electric Rhetoric

Kathleen E. Welch
Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Rhetoric is now electric.  Writing is now electric.
•    Oral/Aural => the oral structures of articulation
•    Electrified communication technologies have brought about a different rhetoric
•    Isocrates was screenless, not textless
•    Classical Greek rhetoric and writing practices are Isocratic/Sophistic, intersubjective, performative, and a merger of orality and literacy
•    Rhetorical Canon of Great Books ≠ Five Traditional Canons
•    Rhetoric and Writing practices must be reperformed
•    Articulation: language production; action; language behavior regarded as active because it is active in the sense; actio/delivery
7-8: “Three major issues that constitute relationships among writer-subjects, reader-subjects, cultures/ideologies, and the material texts that circulate in these three: Literacy issues arise from the fact that forms of communication technology condition how people articulate within and around their ideas, their cultures, and themselves, including their subject positions; Any current definition of literacy must account for changes in consciousness or mentalite, including the subject, brought about by electronic forms of communication and their inherent mingling with writing; Literacy (in any historical period) depends on social constructions that give value to some writing and speaking activities and that devalue others.”
8: “Electric Rhetoric attempts to argue persistently against the still-powerful idea that knowledge is a retrievable reality ‘out there in the world,’ to be owned and stored as necessary, and that literacy is a skill in the sense of an external tool that one can own and apply as necessary.
This book defines literacy as an activity of minds/bodies/intersubjectivities that are conditioned within specific cultures/ideologies, all of which have oral/aural features of discourse such as the reliance on repetition, spoken ritual, and first-language acquisition that are, in turn, merged with other deatures, almost all of which are embedded in writing as a way of knowing.”
13: Three related strands: “The redeployment of Sophistic classical rhetoric; Current literacy theories within the field of rhetoric and composition studies; The inherently rhetorical nature of television and computers and their inevitable relationship to writing and the histories of communication technologies.”
21: “It is dangerous because when students learn to hate their native tongue, to believe thar art belongs on the margins as a matter of physis and not as nomos, and to view rhetoric as inconsequential decoration, then the cultural status quo remains intact.”
27: “If we grasp this opportunity—what I will discuss later as the kairic moment, the classical concept central to rhetoric, of the timely, opportune moment for persuasion and belief to occur—then we will be able to accomplish many things, one of which is a revivification of the humanities as a series of connected activities and intersubjective performances for mass groups, rather than the commodified, unsatisfied desires of the midcultists who think themselves as more literate, more cultured, that their masscult cousins.”
Chapter 5: Technologies of Electric Rhetoric
•    Repeatability leads to the loss of aura, to overfamiliarity, and frequently to banality
•    The colonizing of memory = relegate writing to skills and drills
•    Elimination of memory/delivery in the majority of student writing handbooks constitutes the removal of student-writing form the larger public arena
•    Memory and delivery change form with the encroachment of writing
•    Memory and delivery will be refigured as works (such as Native American texts) become available online
•    Many writing textbooks only present three cannons: invention, arrangement, style
•    Oral texts’ nine characteristics:
o    Additive rather than subordinative
o    Aggregative rather than analytic
o    Redundant or copius
o    Conservative or traditionalist
o    Close to the human lifeworld
o    Agonistically toned
o    Empathetic and participatory rather than objectively distanced
o    Homeostatic
o    Situational rather than abstract
141: Sussman: “The greatest extension of literacy involves the very careful reading of the relationships that configure all organized systems, not only the linguistic and imagistic codes or artworks but also systems of production, distribution, management, communication, education, law enforcement, and social services.”
144: “U.S. pedagogy remains firmly in the grip of one wizened version of the canons.  IN the twentieth century, the canons’ enormous and largely unacknowledged power was reflected in the reliance of writing pedagogy on textbooks that truncate the five canons from five to three, so that invention, structure, and ‘style’ repeatedly colonize the last two, memory and delivery, and then eradicate them.”
147: “Digital literacy for any group does and will include reconfigurations of the canons of memory and delivery.  Perhaps the recognition of all five canons and the definitive twentieth-century erasure of memory and delivery will lead to the obliteration of the current-traditional paradigm and its twin the false binary opposition of content and form.”
153: “Work on memory and writing in our own era needs this and more rhetorical attention.  The idea of memory as shards of consciousness, or menatlite, and the connection of memory to psychology continues to be an important area in the historicizing and production of discourses.  Memory has been forgotten.”
184: “And as Derrida points out in his own drug store, like any drug, the computer screen can cure, heal, soothe, sicken, and kill.  The computer screen is, then, one of the most powerful forms of logos ever devised.”


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