I have an online subscription to the New York Times. For the most part, I enjoy it. But today, I’m going to cancel it. Why? Not enough coverage of Bernie Sanders. The paper is uncritically pro-Clinton to a nausea-inducing degree, and I’m sick of it. The man is winning state after state and this is not deemed newsworthy. Normally I can subtract the bias and get my news, but right now I get a better news breakdown from Facebook that I do from the Times.
One of the more interesting things that I noticed when I first started studying rhetorical theory is that some rhetorical situations are impossible tasks. Everyone, I think, at one time or another, has encountered an audience that cannot, or, rather, would not, be moved.
The distinction between ‘cannot’ and ‘would not’ is important; if an audience cannot be moved – if there is some gulf of values that somehow cannot be crossed by any conceivable method – then that is one thing, to say that rhetorical power has limits. But if an audience refuses motion – if it chooses not to move when it could have – that implies something else, that namely, the audience has all the real power, and we should speak less of rhetorical power and more about audience power. Rhetoric becomes more of a curious byproduct – a residue of an interaction – than a means to an end.
So if audiences can choose not to be moved, all rhetorical situations are impossible tasks. People cannot be persuaded – rather they choose to persuade themselves in the light of certain situations or stimuli.
Where does this place the so-called persuasive speaker, the charismatic, the leader? Obviously some people can move others and are demonstrably better at it than others, right? So I think that the power to refuse movement is present but not always used, comparatively. It would require a mechanism that is the reverse of cognitive dissonance; that is to say, instead of rationalization in the face of dissonant input, there is an resistance to information that does make sense to the listener – an unwillingness to move, to listen, to process. I may be equivocating between “dissonant input” and “makes sense”
I have a new article out, in the journal Rhetorica. It represents, oddly enough, the first time any part of my dissertation has appeared in print. It used to be Chapter 1.
The full article is available here: The Missing Rhetorical History Between Quintilian and Augustine.
I decided to try something new in the last few days. Well, something old, actually.
Remember me mentioning that I wrote a novel two summers ago? Well, I didn’t get much interest from agents back then, but I didn’t exactly do a great or comprehensive job of marketing. I pretty much suck at selling myself. Work and life get in the way quickly, and I’d nearly forgotten about it until a few days ago when I realized I have a little time to try and pitch it again.
This time the book is a little different thanks to a bit of editing, and I queried to many more agents that I didn’t even know existed. Time will tell if it piques any interest. I’m ok with it if it doesn’t; I have a career already. But it would be nice to have two!
I don’t think this summer is going to be fruitful for writing. It really needs to be devoted to vacation and stress-relieving. But it’s strange how the writing bug strikes me.
Luke continues to be awesome.
I’d almost forgotten about this site. I’ve been busy dealing with the new house, a rapidly growing baby (now almost ten months!), and work, to the point that some things have started to slide off of the radar.
I have a lot to say about the presidential race, and very little of it pleasant, so I’ll spare the reader that and instead talk about what I find positive. Namely, I favor Bernie Sanders this time around. Finally, a promising candidate that is almost as far left as I am! He just narrowly missed beating Hillary in Iowa, so he’s off to a pretty good start that would have seemed impossible six months ago. He’ll probably win New Hampshire, but South Carolina looks dicey. Time will tell.
I have started preliminary work on a new collaborative article that involves translation from the Japanese. It’s excited and new (actually, exciting and old) and that is all I will share for now.
I love the fall. Houston is ridiculously hot most of the year, and the temperature change never comes to early.
L is six months old now. He is not really crawling yet – he flips over and turns 360, though – but we’re not in a hurry for him to grow up. He is a general delight as he is.
The new house is a mess of boxes and stuff that we really don’t need but have, and with work and L to manage, it’s getting sorted very slowly. I have big plans for the garage that will probably take years to come to fruition. That’s ok.
In other news, I have gotten funding to attend RSA and CCCC next year. I have a major project to pitch to whomever will listen.
I’m also trying to decide between a PS4 and a new PC. Can’t afford both, but one may be possible. There are a lot of good games that have come out, or will soon, that my four-year-old PC can’t handle.
I haven’t written much here lately. I’ve been busy, what with L now four months old and H and I having returned to work.
We are in the process of buying a house for the first time. Like with the baby, this is occurring a little later in life for us than most folks, but it’s happening. We’re moving back to an area of Houston that we’ve lived in before, fairly far out – we’ve more or less given up on living closer in. Fortunately, we can afford a bigger house that way.
So three of my four goals for the year – baby, tenure, house, new car – are checked off. The car will have to wait a while longer, perhaps several years, while we get adjusted to home ownership.
I am running into some difficulty publishing my latest article. It may be too unabashedly argumentative in its current form to be palatable. We’ll see.
Today’s SCOTUS decision on gay marriage was long in coming, but it came at last.
A lot of people are upset about it, but more people are deliriously, definitely happy about it. And in general, with some exceptions, I think anything that increases happiness in the world is a good thing. It’s quite possible for a nation and culture to move in a negative direction, but I think, again, that this is easily a net positive.
The feelings of many social conservatives are hurt, but there is an easy cure – go out and make friends with some gay people. I think one will find that after some exposure to them one-on-one, they are like any other people, and what makes them ‘different’ is no more important than hair color.
As a biblical scholar I spend a lot of time reading the gospels in the Greek, probably more than many Christians. My impression is that Jesus, who said nothing about gay people in any of the recorded narratives, didn’t obsess himself with the private sexual lives of people he encountered. That was what Paul did – and Paul, it’s easy to forget, was not Jesus. You kinda have to take his anti-homosexual rant with a grain of salt, as he was busy makng his own, limited version of Christianity.
Why would Jesus worry about something so trivial? Witness his forgiving of the adultress in John – would a man who said the stunner ‘He who is without sin cast the first stone’ fret about homosexuality? He had bigger fish to fry. Of course, that line is a definite interpolation – 3rd century – but it’s probably the most Jesus-y saying there is.
In short, gay marriage just isn’t a big deal. The seas aren’t going to boil. The sky will not fall. My newborn son will grow up in a country that is a little more free. That’s good, I think.
Recently earned the 200 days of survival achievement in The Long Dark. I have enough rifle ammo hoarded to go for 300. Perhaps the makers of the game will add more achievements in a future build. In the meantime, I have bloody mastered your game.
Luke is growing and strong. He cries when he’s hungry and sleeps when he’s tired. These things constitute his job.
I’m settling up the grades for the spring right now. I think I did a great job in two courses and a good job in one other.
Got a promising R&R on a recent article, which is a very good sign. I may have some time to work on it later this month. June is going to busy with family activities, though. Max, my soon-to-be nephew, is imminent. I may have to do the lion’s share of the work in July, which is cutting it close.
Baby Luke Michael Duncan-Seratt is here.
He was born on April 19 at 11:45pm. He was 6 lbs 12 oz.
We are staying a little longer in the hospital to ensure him and H get a good head start before we go home.