“RHETORIC” GETS A BAD RAP
Updated: Jul 30, 2019
“Rhetoric” is often seen as a dirty word, a means to manipulate or mislead, but rhetoric is not always negative. Rhetoric is about effective communication, often persuasive, but always informative on some level. Our words, our decor, our clothes, our schedules, our hugs, and even our chosen font have rhetoric–they convey meaning. When someone dismisses a point with, “That’s just a bunch of rhetoric,” we can respond, “Of course it is!” As is their protest, and their next comment, and the next, and so on. We don't need to eradicate rhetoric, but on the other hand, we need to know more than simply how to use it effectively. The goal is to use it responsibly.
That’s my aim here on this site.
Rhetoric goes back to the beginning of time, but the study of rhetoric favors the ancient Greeks. The recent revival of a focus on rhetoric informs our study not only of speech but of writing and composition. So much so that many graduate programs in English are now divided into a branch of literature and a branch of rhetoric and composition.
While I love literature, my choice of a rhetoric/composition master’s degree stems from my own fascination with the rhetoric around me. Why, I wondered, do people continue to state the same point in different ways? Why do they want to hear from only those people who support their side? (I didn’t know at a young age that this is “confirmation bias.”) Why do some arguments “work” while others left me feeling manipulated? How could I best convey what I really wanted to say? The questions only increased as I got older.
So here I am.
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