Friday, July 31, 2009

Rhetorical naming

I think this blog has fulfilled it's need and I'll probably be pulling it soon. Well, I'll probably wait until I finish so I can celebrate. My word count is 8615 (not including works cited), about 6500 of that is pretty solid stuff. I'm supposed to have a polished-ish draft in by tomorrow night to my advisors, and so I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't have a lot of time for revision and I've kind of realized that they aren't going to prevent me from graduating because my MA report isn't gleaming. So, one way or another, I'll be done before Jane's 1st birthday. *sigh*

In other news, I'm thinking of naming my next child Kairos. It's got a nice ring to it, no? Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Metaphors- A Real Post

The super-clever opening to the seminar paper that spawned this project began with this quote as an epigraph:

The sexual language used by Renaissance rhetoricians also makes rhetoric, at least potentially, a most sinister and troubling affair, for if the orator's performance constitutes a violent, irresistible sexual penetration of the auditor, then that performance looks uncomfortably like rape. Indeed, the discourse resonates with the word itself, which appears in barely disguised form every time a vernacular writer speaks of ravishment, and more directly in Latin texts whenever one encounters the verb rapere. That rhetoric should evoke rape should not be surprising, since rape is a crime of violence, an assault on a victim who is penetrated and possessed sexually by the attacker. (158)
Wayne A. Rebhorn The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric

Followed by this opening line:

This is not a paper about Renaissance rhetoric.

I then went on to trace this "anxiety of violence" within the rhetorical tradition. After all, Gorgias's Encomium of Helen uses the comparison of persuasion to rape as a defense of Helen of Troy's actions. And then use that to introduce Gearhart's claim that "any intent to persuade is an act of violence."

I'm fascinated by the kinds of metaphors surrounding rhetoric and the terms used to describe it. Take, for example, how we describe an argument or a position paper, it's all set up in battle language.

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have an interesting book called Metaphors We Live By in which they describe how metaphor isn't just pretty.

"Metaphor is typically viewed as a characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. [...But] metaphor is pervasive in everyday life [...] Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature" (3).

In some ways, what they are talking about is similar to Kenneth Burke's terministic screens (which is probably while I like it). Like terministic screens, our conceptual system is not something we are not normally aware of. There are metaphors that "structure how we perceive, how we think, and what we do" (4) all behind our back. You know, until we turn around.

So, you inquirers of rhetorical truth, turn around with me and lets shed some light on argument (which happens to be L&J's first example).

Your claims are indefensible.
"He attacked every weak point in my argument.
His criticisms were right on target.
I demolished his argument
I've never won an argument with him.
You disagree? Okay, shoot!
If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.
He shot down all of my arguments.

It is important to see that we don't just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguing with as an opponent. We attack his positions and we defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of things we do in arguing are partially structured by the concept of war" [...] It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT AS WAR metaphor is one we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguing (4).

Is your brain on fire yet? As I've been writing my draft, it's been so strange to find myself using the terms that connote this metaphor of war so easily, so naturally.

This is a concept and a book cited a lot by the group of feminists I'm looking at. And as peace loving feminists, they have to take action against this War. Most want to through it out or at least revision it. But here is the problem with that--L&J go on to describe another culture that has an ARGUMENT AS DANCE metaphor. "In such a culture, people would view arguments differently, experience them differently, carry them out differently, and talk about them differently. But we would probably not view them as arguing at all: they would simply be doing something different" (5). So based on that, doesn't it seem like revision is kind of undoable? I think it might be possible to argue that this is why their attempts to change argument haven't really done much. It would also strengthen an argument to just through argument out entirely and present a different metaphor, but then, is that possible?

As you can tell, I haven't completely worked in all out in my brain yet, that, and it's time for more pain meds. But, what do you think?


At about 1:30 am or so the morning of my surgery, I did submit something. It was a nearly complete draft, I had about 4 pages more to write (plus a conclusion) that were only outlined, but I pretty much know what is supposed to be in them.

I received comments back from my advisers and they were very positive. Seems I'm on the right track!! Yay! I really think I can do this! I'm on the home stretch, and now that most of the draft is there, it should be a whole lot more fun working on this thing.

So, I'm hoping to have another draft, a real complete draft, ready this weekend for any readers who feel like taking me up on it (Eric says he doesn't have to ready another draft until the pen-ultimate draft, not the pen-pen-ultimate draft).

Monday, July 13, 2009

On Fire!

So I might actually have a draft ready to go tonight ("ready" is always a meaningless word).

I put my old draft aside and did "radical revision" as the Future Dr. Jones describes it. I've been rocking out, at least comparatively. And that's DESPITE the fact that I had an eye exam this morning and they dilated my eyes (never had that before) and I could barely focus on the screen or even look at a white piece of paper (too bright) for a few hours. Thankfully, my eyes are back to normal now, so I don't have that impediment.

I've actually been enjoying myself A LITTLE today as I worked on my analysis of Gearhart. I've been surprised by how the organization seems to just be flowing (at least so far today, knock on wood), and while my butt hurts, my hips hurt, and my back hurts, my brain doesn't. It's tired, yes. But the good kind. I still have a TON of work, but the word count for "first draft ready" material is nearly 3000! Woot, woot! What's made the difference? God, probably.

So, here's hoping. It's been great to keep my mind off of surgery tomorrow, and with any luck I'll work until the wee small hours and fall into bed to tired to worry and sleep too deep to have weird dreams.

I'm sorry I have had nothing interesting to post about my actual project as of late. Please forgive me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's working!

So "starting over" has turned out to be empowering at least so far. Yesterday I wrote 750 words per hour! OK, that was just one of the hours I was writing yesterday, but still. It was the first hour, even. So that's pretty awesome. I'm hoping to keep up the momentum today and get a draft done REALLY, really soon...sigh. I've been at this too long!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dealing with Blockage

So remember when I said I had x number of words "first draft ready"? Well, I really don't have anymore than that ready. I keep getting stuck in this same part of my paper, the part where I attempt to outline and review the history and the literature about feminist approaches. It's really an altitude problem. A professor of mine describes it this way--think of a plane and the different altitudes it can fly at. The higher up, the broader the view but also the less detailed the view. I've been kind of stuck trying to figure out how high up to go.

I think my other problem is that I'm using stuff that I wrote a long time ago because I don't want to rewrite similar parts, even though my understanding of them has changed a bit. I was reading another academic blog the other day and she talked about when you start a second draft to start with a blank page and write from your brain rather than getting tangled up in your own prose. It's a very scary thing to do. But I really do feel tangled, so last night Eric helped me compromise. He pretended like he didn't know anything about my paper (he says it wasn't much of a stretch of the imagination for him ;-) and we got out a tape recorder and I talked and he took some notes, kind of trying to help me outline it.

Was this approach successful? We'll find out shortly. Stay tuned! And wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


So, when I got blocked again today while working, I paused to vent on this blog. I thought maybe by whining through it, I might find an answer to why I am having such a hard time with this project, why it's different then the last massive project I worked on (although that one was MUCH larger and theoretically so much more challenging). In the process of thinking what is harder than this, I realized something kind of spooky. I'd rather go through childbirth again than work on and finish this paper. Seriously. And we are not even saying I'd get to take a baby home. Just the grunt, sweat, and tears of childbirth and then I could have my masters. Eric thinks I'm exaggerating. I'd prefer pain at this point.