Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the T-Money show. I am your host T-Money and today we have two very special guests. Please welcome rhetoric and composition!
Rhetoric and composition are two disciplines in the field of English which are multimodal and interdisciplinary. Multimodal means they use “different modes of inquiry (historical, theoretical, interpretive, critical, and observation-based)” (McComiskey 2). Interdisciplinary means “the field has always drawn on work in other disciplines (psychology, sociology, linguistics, literary theory, etc.) as part of its initiating of questions, arguments, and ways of reasoning” (McComiskey 2).
Rhetoric sounds like a scary word, but can be defined as the art of making an argument. Argument doesn’t mean a fight, an argument is the point you are trying to make and rhetoric encapsulates all of the tools at your disposal. Rhetoric has a history as old as time. In Ancient Greece, rhetoric was taught to scholars as an important foundation such as math or science. As time went on, rhetoric eventually vanished from school curriculum. This led to schools teaching composition as the foundation for English classes. Composition is like baking a cake. You take an idea, plan it out, write about it, and you have a finished product. While this sounds like a good idea, it led to writing in schools becoming formulaic, stale, and devoid of the artist in their creation.
This all changed in the 1960’s as a new decade brought new idea. “In 1964, Robert Gorrell and others convened a meeting at the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) to discuss this new interest in rhetoric and its linkage with composition (Gorrell).” (McComiskey 3). This conference had a profound effect and soon others scholars were exploring rhetoric and composition in order to generate new ideas at English studies. They focused on things such as: “topics places for discovering arguments, status finding the type of issue in dispute, kairos the right or opportune moment for certain arguments” (McComiskey 4).
Following this, rhetoric started to be taken more seriously as a discipline.
This is the part where things start to get good. In the 1960’s and 70’s rhetoric scholars starting to embrace rebellion. They (rightfully) argued that writing was being taught as a product in schools with the end result being a letter grade. Rhetoric scholars said that writing should be looked at as a process from when someone has an idea all the way to the finished work. There are many steps in the writing process and they more important to learn than how to write a paper that gets an A everytime. Janet Emig identified 2 important parts of the early writing process called prewriting and planning. Prewriting can be anything that helps start your creative process and planning is about getting your ideas in order before you start your draft.
An important part of rhetoric is considering your audience. I believe if we all look back on our education, we can see that most of the time our audience was our teacher. This is all well and good when you are writing something like a research paper, but what happens when you are writing a creative work? For example, I have a poem called “Kill the Boomers. Save the Millennials.” The title is poking fun at the fact that headlines claim millennials have killed everything. The poem talks about how the world is unfavorable to millennials and we are struggling to survive. It talks about how boomers had a lot more advantages then we had and they are living well. The poem talks about getting rid of the boomers so the millennials can ensure a future for our generation.
When I perform it to people my age, they love it. They cheer and repeat the kill the boomers line. What do you think happens when I perform it in front of boomers? They hate it! Imagine if I turned that poem in for a school assignment, most teachers would say it’s garbage. And I would never write that poem for a school assignment because I know that it would not get an A. How can academic writing prepare us for the real world? In my poems, I go against the grain of what poetry should be because I know my audience does not want to hear poetry that fits into a neat little box and plays by the rules.
Another thing that my “Kill the Boomers. Save the Millennials.” poem does is speak to the current times. Just like Bob Dylan said “The Times They Are a-Changin’”. This is a way to use rhetoric to convey an argument. A key feature of rhetoric is that it speaks to issues in society. “In the 1980s, a rhizomatic spread of theory, research, and new pedagogy occurred, called by some the “social turn.”” (McComiskey 14). This idea brought writing forward as something that was shaped by society and could be used as an agent of change. I got the idea from my poem as a direct result of the way society was for the boomers and the way society is for the millennials. I channeled the frustrations of an entire generation.
On paper, my poem isn’t all that impressive. But when performed live, it is a sight to see. It resonates so strongly with a millennial audience. The poem was written to be performed. It was written to inspire my generation to come up with ideas on how to change our shitty situation. In order to understand rhetoric as an agent of change, all we have to do is look at politics. There are people who become President who are fucking awful. Look at Trump. How could anyone vote for him? He was a master at rhetoric. He stoked the fires of hate and had the people in the palm of his hand. He wasn’t afraid to say the hateful racist things that many people in America were thinking. He used carefully coded messages to instill violent racist ideologies in his followers.
On the other side of the coin, you have people like Obama who used the power of rhetoric for good. Being the 1st Black President of America is no easy feat. Obama used powerful rhetoric that hasn’t been seen since the days of Martin Luther King. His message of hope and social change resonated with so many people. He inspired America to do the impossible through carefully crafted rhetoric.
There is much more to talk about in the field of rhetoric and composition. But we are out of time today on the T-Money show. We’ll see you next week.
Works Cited (Not properly formatted, I know >_<)
English Studies: An Introduction to the Discipline(s). CHAPTER TWO (Pp. 106-136). Rhetoric and Composition. JANICE M. LAUER Purdue University