Friday, August 15, 2008

18.0 Book Outline!

Josh gets a lot of good feedback on his writing at the JoshieJuice blog, so I present to you the product of the last two days. It mostly represents how I have reorganized hunks of text (five pages on this, ten pages on that) into what I think will be the coherent narrative of my book. With one glaring exception: see the chapter on definition, which needs a lot of work, and the conclusion, which makes the McLuhan connection I am still thinking through.

It feels good to be outlining what I have written, rather than outlining what I hope to write, if you know what I mean.

Would YOU read this book? Where is it gone astray?

. . .

Title: The Anglo-American Roots of the New Rhetoric (Subtitle: All of it through I. A. Richards, really)

Novel Claim:

The New Rhetoric is not a sloppy term referring to multiple figures in the history of rhetoric whose connections are only their status as contemporaries. (See: Fogarty, Enos, etc.)

The Anglo-American New Rhetoric is a tightly connected Anglo-American intellectual movement bound together through the common figure of I. A. Richards and the common intellectual home of Cambridge. (Really. Even Burke and Weaver.)

The Anglo-American New Rhetoric is “new” precisely because it builds its foundations in the contemporary philosophy, psychology and social theory of the time, before turning to the rhetorical tradition. The frame of the New Rhetoric was set before the classical tradition was discovered and integrated, and the classical tradition is refigured (and subordinated) in light of that frame.

Section One:
The Historical Grounds of the New Rhetoric

Chapter One:

The Cambridge Context for the Study of Language (1920s):
The centralization of “faculties” across colleges at Cambridge creates a climate for the intellectual dominance of a few scholars. The intellectual dominance of Moore, Russell, and early Wittgenstein in the study of language results. In them: study of language as primarily the problem of “denotation” and reference: the relationship between the “word” and the “thing.”

The New Rhetorical (Richards, and his Influence on Empson) Response:
The study of language must account for (a) more than just reference (tone, feeling, etc.) [Principles of Literary Criticism; Practical Criticism] (b) in a relationship between word, thing, and language user [The Meaning of Meaning; Principles]. Richards is more effective at polemical theory than at actual critical work. William Empson refines Richards’ philosophical construct into a meaningful tool for literary and rhetorical criticism.

Chapter Two:

The Cambridge Context and the Study of Epistemology (1920s): The twin pincers of a scientistic epistemology and a religious epistemology at Cambridge form. Math, Science and Philosophy reunite at Cambridge to form the basis of the scientistic claims to certainty of knowledge. Anglican belief (especially in Eliot) forms the basis of religious claims to certainty of knowledge.

The New Rhetorical (Richards and Richards’ influence on Burke) response:
Richards acknowledges that there may be some scientific and religious “ways of knowing,” but that language makes possible a third way of knowing, alternately conceived of as “poetic,” “cultural” or even “rhetorical” [Principles; Science and Poetry; various later works]. Burke finds that Richards still ceded too much to science and crafts his own, broader claims for poetic truth [Permanence and Change].

Chapter Three:

The American Dissemination of Richards’ Work (1930s):
Hunt engages a minor misreading of Practical Criticism in Speech-Communication in 1930, reading it for purposes of informing literary interpretation. Major, systematic misreading of Practical Criticism and Principles of Literary Criticism occurs in Departments of English. Particular misreading of Richards by Max Eastman in The Literary Mind in an Age of Science. Particular misreading of Richards by another New Critic (unnamed as yet). In all cases: Richards is misread to advance disciplinary aims by American scholars (for example, to legitimize the study of English in the wartime and postwar University climate). Typically, Richards view of science and poetry and his methods in Practical Criticism are read as justifying the study of literature in a university climate dominated by science and scientism.

The New Rhetorical (Richards and Sterling Leonard) response:
Richards responds to the misreadings by focusing even more strongly on the act of communication (instead of the evaluation of literary meaning and merit). Richards will not write another book on literary theory or criticism for decades. Further demonstration of this shift: Rather than reaching out to his literary followers in the US, Richards actively collaborates with American Compositionist Sterling Leonard. Richards reads Leonard on usage; that reading inflects Richards’ reading of Campbell, Kames, etc. The fruits of the collaboration: the genuine rhetorical tradition manifests in Richards in The Philosophy of Rhetoric and in Interpretation in Teaching, if in an impoverished form, as Richards moves from a model of interpretation to a model of communication.

Chapter Four:

Richards Fails to Respond to the Changing Intellectual Context of Cambridge (1930s and 1940s):

The Moore-Russell-Wittgenstein paradigm loses influence. Russell and Wittgenstein split. Richards meets Wittgenstein and insists that the correct path would be to revise the Tractatus. Wittgenstein disagrees; he dispenses with the Tractatus and rethinks the study of language, almost from the ground up (Brown and Blue Notebooks). In what would be a defining moment for the New Rhetoric, Richards could follow Wittgenstein to his new terrain, or continue to work in the old paradigm.

The New Rhetorical Response: Two Theories of Argument Enter; One Leaves
Richards tries his hands on a text on argumentation. That text begins from a kind of “corrected Tractatus” model for language use – the old paradigm. It takes as a given that valid argumentation is the product of a controlled vocabulary and a grasp of the nuance of syntax and definition. As a text on argumentation, it is flawed. Its author never left the broken foundation of 1920s Cambridge.
As a counterpoint to Richards’ failure, we see Toulmin develop a theory of argument a decade later. While Toulmin is clearly familiar with the intellectual tradition of Cambridge of the 1920s, he is not constrained by it. He works within the dialogue of Cambridge in the 1940s, building a better system for argument in The Uses of Argument. Uses is picked up by Speech and Composition scholars in the US, cementing the impact of the Cambridge intellectual climate (and so the New Rhetoric as I define it) in the US.

Chapter Six:

The Theory of Definition:
This is the last chapter that I will write. It is the least defined. The genealogy from Russell and Richards to Korzybski is clear, and again – the misreading of Richards, too, is clear. The rejection of Korzybski in Burke and Weaver is also clear. But I’m not sure how to tell this story yet.

I want to, because it demonstrates the appeal to the classical tradition. Indeed, it shows the necessity of the classical tradition to completing what we call the New Rhetoric – the Cambridge paradigm (Moore-Russell-Wittgenstein-Richards-Toulmin). It makes clear the necessity if the classical tradition in moving beyond the therapeutic impulses of the New Rhetoric, as well.

Finally, It makes clear what William Keith and I have talked about, repeatedly – that American scholars of rhetoric didn’t recover the classical tradition with a meaningful purpose until the postwar period. (They were poking, prodding and exploring in the interwar period – God bless, you, Bromley Smith.)

You can see that this chapter will be big and important. It is also least under my control, as yet, and least drafted.

Section Two:
The Continuing Implications of the New Rhetoric

Chapter Seven:

The Reception of the Theory of Metaphor:
Richards’ published theory of metaphor is considered innovative because of its vocabulary, but remains innovative because of its claim that tenor and vehicle are in a dynamic, mutually modifying relationship. Richards’ unpublished elaborations of the theory of metaphor in his writings on Dialectic Materialism make the possible depth of his theory of metaphor clear. In America, Richards’ theory of metaphor suffers gross oversimplification (and deformation as a form of predicate logic, almost) in Max Black's work. Since this deformation, we see the decline of Richards’ theory of metaphor in rhetorical and literary criticism. Lakoff’s theory of cognitive metaphor puts the final, apparent nail in the coffin.

The Current Value of the Theory of Metaphor:
We can clearly see the failings of Lakoff’s model. Cognitive theories of metaphor are predicated on a one-way transfer of features from the source domain to the target. Such a model for metaphor is partial, restrictive, and incomplete.
The model is being rethought by cognitive scientists. Johnson’s example (“If Bill Clinton were the Titanic, the iceberg would sink”) seems to validate a more complex relationship between source and target domains, and it reinvites the possibility of tenor-vehicle mutual interaction. It also invites the deeper conception of metaphor that Richards examines in the “Dialectic Materialism” essay. In the end, it is clear that the tenor-vehicle mutual interaction model has some explanatory power that the cognitive model does not. I conclude the chapter with a critical reading of an example that I have not yet generated.

Chapter Eight (Coda):

Disciplinarity and the Reception of Practical Criticism
The great irony of the New Rhetoric was the way that it justified something that none of its progenitors wanted: the institutionalization of literary and rhetorical study. In Cambridge, Practical Criticism was the lever that helped justify the creation of a Faculty in English Literature (Modern). In the US, it helped justify the Departments of English Literature that took up the New Criticism. And in the United States today, there are movements afoot to institutionalize rhetorical study in the same way. (Richards and Toulmin both would despair at the thought of their rhetorical works being read without the context of philosophy.)

Richards never wanted such disciplinarity – he wanted the study of language always to be bound up in the study of philosophy, psychology, social theory, and new technology. Richards’ polemics against disciplinarity are summarized.

Where Do We Find the New Rhetoric Today?
Is there an intellectual descendant to the Anglo-American New Rhetoric today? Perhaps. In the early 1930s, Marshall McLuhan attended the lectures on Practical Criticism at Magdalene. He claims that they inflected his own teaching of English, and there is evidence that they then inflected the teaching of his student, Walter Ong.

Like McLuhan and Ong, Richards always grappled with the theoretical implications of media (most prominently in Poetry: Its Media and Ends, but also in essays like “Literature: Oral and Optical”). And, he struggled to integrate media into his utopian visions for world literacy education. But he produced no meaningful theory of media, on his own.

It is possible that McLuhan is his heir, intellectually, in that McLuhan integrated a thorough knowledge of the classical tradition [see dissertation on Nashe] with a vivid engagement with contemporary theory. And it seems possible that contemporary scholars of new media, drawing as they do upon the widest body of theory and methods, perhaps, of all scholars in communication and English, crossing disciplinary boundaries left and right, are the heir to Richards’ restless critical imagination.

Thoughts? Feedback?


Joshie Juice said...

This looks marvelous and well-wrought. After your book, I think Richards will be re-thought and his influence better understood. I particularly like the "Richards was a proto-media ecologist" move at the end. I would read the book for that suggestion alone.

The project also better informs our understanding of "New Rhetoric" in terms of institutional/political agendas, something that few people have engaged. That's good work!

Jim Aune said...

I really really like this. I am really puzzled by the Korzybski business as well. I am old enough to have had an undergraduate major that included a course in General Semantics, and also had a unit on it in high school English. One place to look for connections might be at Northwestern. Irving Lee, of the School of Speech, taught a popular course for many years called "Language and Thought," also wrote popular books on language, and must have had some connection with Korzybski (who in turn, I'm convinced was the basis of the turn to the study of interpersonal communication in the 1960's). Thomas Pynchon also was interested in Korzybski, but I digress. . . .

Anonymous said...

I'm fascinated...