30 September 2008

Response to King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail (Rhetoric and Composition)

The letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1964 was exemplar of the effective rhetorical devices discussed by Aristotle in Classical times. Making sure that everyone is on one accord, rhetoric is the ability to speak and write effectively. It is a method used to train effective communicators. Many other definitions can be applied to the term rhetoric. As rhetoric relates to King’s letter, one must explore the three rhetorical types mentioned by Aristotle: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is how the speaker’s character and credibility aid him or her in influencing the audience. The Letter from Birmingham’s Jail is believable, credible and establishes M.L. King’s character as a Christian. The letter responds to eight clergymen from Reverends to Bishops to Rabbis; it responds to Jews, Gentiles, Protestants, Catholics, Evangelicals, and Episcopals. In essence, the letter is inclusive. King begins his letter with “My Dear Fellow Clergymen.” The salutation asserts King’s status as a person in Christian leadership. He explains that he seldom responds to the criticisms that come across his “desk”, but since they were men of “genuine good will” that he had to respond. The statement asserts his status within the society. He has a desk and secretaries and much business to attend to as well. Furthermore, he explains that he is in Birmingham, Alabama because as the “president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference…with operating organizations in every southern state… [and] some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South.” In essence, he is verbalizing his ethos. He also explains that he was invited to Birmingham, he had organizational ties in Birmingham and he was there because “injustice” was in Birmingham. He references Socrates, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Reinhold Niebuhr on an intellectual level. These statements give character and credibility to the speaker’s ethos and influences the audiences’ acceptance of what is being communicated. Next, the letter uses pathos to effect the audience’s emotions. Pathos is a rhetorical device that alters the audiences’ perceptions. King’s pathos was achieved through the use of metaphor and storytelling. The letter evokes strong emotions by using Biblical references and poignant statements. On page 295, King compares the idea of “present[ing] our very bodies as a means of laying our case.” The imagery is one of Christ as He presented His Body as a living sacrifice. He also mentions the “Easter season” which is symbolic of Christ’s sacrifice to mankind. King references the plight and persecution of early Christians to the Negroes. King’s rhetorical devices were effective and compelling to his religious audience. Reverend King also appeals to the emotions of the audience by highlighting travesties in history. He mentions the mobs, lynching, bullying, discrimination, segregation and poverty of the African American. By using statements like “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” and “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” King’s pathos used the amplification of Biblical figures to appeal to his clergy audience. The emotion of historical events leads to another rhetorical tool: logos. King demonstrates that he is methodical and a man of reason. He stated “there are four basic steps” in any nonviolent campaign. Kings’ logos is obviously displayed. Logos uses reason to construct an argument. Logos appeals to logic and history. King demonstrates logos by using historical conclusions. King stated that “it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.” Furthermore, he states that “freedom…must be demanded by the oppressed.” To reiterate, King’s letter in the Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1964 displayed effective rhetorical devices discussed by Aristotle. He utilizes his social standing and professional accomplishments to gain credibility with the audience. He uses history, Biblical references, storytelling and emotion to affect a response in his audience. Finally, King appeals to reason and logic in a very methodical and systematic way. King masters rhetoric.

29 September 2008

Weekly Literary Inspiration (Scriptural Literature)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Response to Dissoi Logoi Reading (Rhetorical Theory)

The title Dissoi Logoi means "different words" or “opposing arguments.” The author presents two opposing opinions, but argues for a specifically defined side. The reader assumes that he was a male due to the historical context of the text. It seems that the author was preparing for an open and public debate in the beginning and class instruction toward the end of the text. The author of the text organizes the argument in a methodical way and seemingly is an authority on the issues mentioned, which gives way to ethos. The subject layout is very organized in structure and the arguments appeal to reason, which gives way to logos. Amplification is present, “the act and the means of extending thoughts or statements to increase rhetorical effect, to add importance, or to make the most of a thought or circumstance.” Therefore, pathos is present. The subject matter of the examples, oftentimes, evokes strong emotions. Specifically with the examples of “Massagetes cut[ting} up their parents and then eat[ing] them” and “girls…prostitut[ing] themselves.” Thus, pathos is present. Thus, the text presents all of Aristotle’s “types of proof.” The text is divided into five subjects for argument: (1) On Good and Bad is the first division. The author asserts that despite what others are thinking, he believes “the same thing is good for some but bad for others, or at one time good and at another time bad for the same person.” “Illness is bad for the sick but good for the doctors. And death is bad for those who die, but good for the undertakers and the gravediggers” demonstrates compelling examples. The author does not point out that death can be good for those who die. (I work in healthcare and I would prefer death over suffering and then death. I personally do not believe that death is bad.) The author also declares “that what is good is one thing and what is bad [is another thing]…For I think it not even clear what sort of thing would be good and what sort of thing bad …It is not the same thing which is bad and good, but that each is different from the other.” The argument is well made and poignant. (2) On Seemly and Shameful is the second division. The author affirms that “the same thing is both seemly and shameful.” Examples of the assertion includes: “It is seemly for women to wash indoors, but shameful to [wash in front of men, whereas it is acceptable for men to wash in front of other men] ”and “it is seemly to have sexual intercourse with one’s own husband, but very shameful with someone else’s.” These assertions remain true in today’s society. As seemly and shameful relates to nations and cities, the writer gives an example that “Massagetes” eating their parents as a way to show respect would be unacceptable behavior in other regions. In essence, “not everyone has the same views.” This remains true today. What is acceptable in one culture is disrespectful in another. Who is right? It is all relative. (3) On Just and Unjust is the third division. The author professes that “the same thing is just and unjust.” In certain situations, it may be just to be unjust. For instance, a child who attempts to give an unwilling, senile parent needed medication. (4) On Truth and Falsehood is the fourth division. The author explains how “truth and falsehood” are intermingled with each other. The writer declares that “the demented, the sane, the wise and the ignorant both say and do the same things…And one ought to bring up the question whether it is those who are sane or those who are demented who speak at the right moment.” (5) Finally, On Whether Wisdom and Moral Excellence are Teachable is the fifth division. The author confronts the idea that “wisdom and moral excellence can be neither taught nor learnt.” He implies that like all other things in the world it is a possibility that “wisdom and moral excellence” can be taught, but in the end of the segment he states, “I am not saying that wisdom and moral excellence are teachable.” As the reader, I am still grappling with that one. The next segment is one of “managing up” and implies that he had “knowledge” on every subject, giving way to ethos. He ends the text with a methodical technique in improving one’s memory; he stresses repetition and making connections.

20 September 2008

Dualities faced within the Chinese Culture (World Literature)

Characterized by turbulent changes in the economy, social structures, industry, and politics, the Chinese Pre-Revolutionary Era initiated a period of transition from the Ming to the Qing dynasty and then to the present day Republic of China. Subsequent and concurrent to the Chinese Post-Revolution, the state of China evolved into a new and compelled state. While reading the Introduction to Chairman Mao would not be Amused and classroom handouts on the Anthology of Chinese Literature, the reader is enabled to deduce certain aspects of Chinese poetry by examining Chinese history. The traumatic Ming-Qing dynastic transition forced the domains of history and literature into a protracted and tortuous process. The questioning how and why the Ming dynasty fell dominated early Qing Literature. This was an extraordinarily creative and vibrant time of Chinese history and literature. With exacerbated and strained socioeconomic dynamics, political and social unrest soared to commonplace status and the birth of the new Chinese era ensued, the Post-revolutionary Era. As self reflection on the loss of identity and individuality became widespread, Chinese poets began to emphasize the individual and reject the oppressive society of the state. Wu Wei-ye, Wen Yiduo and Bai Qui were poised at the forefront of the realm in poetic freedom inspired by social and political hardships through the metaphors of nature. They exemplified the Chinese literature across the ages. Their works epitomized the ideas, thoughts, and suggestions of the evolution of China as a nation. For the reader to critically and analytically explore these poets, the reader must explore the Chinese literatures as it relates to history as well investigate the dualities expressed in the literatures. These poets possessed agendas that dealt with the thoughts and feelings of the common man, social and political reform, and the rights of mankind. Wei-ye, Yiduo and Qui exemplified the poets of China because they were shaped by the turbulent times of the Chinese government and sought to use poetry to address the issues of the times. Wei-ye epitomized a pre-revolutionary Chinese poet because of his simple poetic practice and his evaluation of self and nature. Surrounding the period of the early Qing conquest, he was a well known poet. His dialogue was cross-generational, contemporary and forward-looking. During a time of war while Wei-ye and his family are fleeing from the invading Qing army, “Escaping the Fighting (fifth of six)” displayed poetic freedom in voice. Poetically, the poem displayed opposite spectrums of thought, dualities. Influenced by a reader’s awareness of social injustices, disruption of nature and an awareness of self, the poem spoke to the audience both broadly and intimately. The narrator forced the reader to view his present state analytically and methodically. The presented a sense of desire for home. “Escaping the Fighting (fifth of six)” illustrated a narrator who was traveling on a boat, with many others, at night. The narrator scorns the leaders who have allowed this war to happen. He states “Woe to you who made plans for our state / you have lost us half our rivers and hills” (ll. 7-8). Those who should protect them are “put [ting] up no fight” (l. 12). The narrator is distraught and cries “What have I done in this life / to live in such times of anguish and ruin” (ll. 15-16). Thinking on past times, the narrator states “In bygone days I roamed all the land / I have come at last to the Five Lakes’ shores / Wearing hemp sandals and used to flight / on hard times fallen, a simple common man” (ll. 16-20). The duality of freedom and restriction is prevalent. Nature provides a place of comfort but also a place that houses his torment. In the poem the imagery moves back and forth from a serene environment to the devastated village beyond his horizon. While on the river the people are free to express themselves for a moment, The narrator stated they “…lifted oars and drifted midstream / sang bravely to winds that broke up sound / Not that Nature’s Moat could not hold / but constant depravities worked this grief” (ll. 3-6). Supposing to protect the Southland against invasion, the “Nature’s Moat” symbolized the Yangzi River. By clinging to poetic freedom, Wei-ye acknowledged nature as a paradox. The river was in place to protect them and gave voyage to their destroyers. The reader surmised Wei-ye as a unique and fervent representative of the Ming dynasty who beckoned the reader to feel his exacerbated circumstance. Being born almost three hundred years later, Wen Yiduo represented a poet near the end of the pre-revolutionary period in Chinese literature. In “Dead Water” Yiduo made claims to the past. With the passage of time the consolidation of the Qing rule and censorship determined how the fall of the Ming dynasty was remembered, imagined and represented, Yiduo represented the poets of this era as they tried to base their poetry on past models and make them meaningful for the present time. The dead water was symbolic of the state of China. The people were desperate and hopeless. Realizing the lack of new ideas, the narrator stated “Here is a ditch of hopelessly dead water / No breeze can raise a single ripple on it / Might as well throw in rusty metal scraps / or even pour left-over food and soup in it” (ll. 1-4). This stanza makes a powerful statement on the times of China. Unlike Wei-ye’s poem a ray of hope had sparked the era, the narrator explains to the reader “this ditch of hopelessly dead water / may still claim a touch of something bright / [and] the dead water will croak its song of delight” (ll. 13-14, 15). Poetically, the poem displayed a duality of what was potentially dead had life and could potentially live again. The poem appealed to the use of nature and natural elements to symbolically stimulate the reader. Despite the narrator losing hope in the last stanza, the reader is stimulated to believe that a new era is approaching and a new social state is on the verge of beginning. Bai Qui epitomized a post-revolutionary Chinese poet in his poetic practice and evaluation of man and nature. “Moth” was a cautionary tale. The narrator described a silkworm eating his heart. The silkworm lived in darkness and there is where he had his most meaning in life. The silkworm was not content with his circumstances. He wanted something that he did not have and had not achieved in life. The narrator explained to the silkworm that if he went too far into the light it may burn him and not be as satisfying as the silkworm would have thought. The world was blindingly bright. The narrator argued that if one is not prepared the light hinders them from finding their way. In the end the silk worm seeks the light and is incinerated in the attempt to be free. The reader deduced the true meaning of the poem. The silkworm symbolizes the people of China. The narrator represents the Chinese state, China. The state is the narrator telling the people that freedom is not what it appears to be on the surface; but, the people begged to differ and chose freedom. The people would rather die trying to reach the light than to stay in darkness and never experience life. The duality is described in the tragedy of losing one’s life; life and freedom are gained. To reiterate, Chinese writers used nature as metaphors and dualities to describe the state of individuals in relation to the state of China. These poets thrived at a time of turbulent change. The Chinese Revolutions gave way to intense emotions that fueled the literary world. At the forefront of these changing times were poets like Wei-ye, Yiduo and Qui. They epitomized the mood of the Revolutions in their poetic practice and its use of nature as metaphors. Urging mankind to embrace self and its relation to the state, their poetic freedom has compelled readers to learn that the ultimate duality exists in finding happiness through sadness. At present, China is an emerging world power. The drive is to become the best at whatever is available. One can deduce that turbulent historical, political and socioeconomic times are the culprit for the successes of present day China. Despite the successes of China, disturbing dualities still exist. The duality of a land rich with economic opportunity still is subdivided with wide gaps in income from the urban to the rural communities; being rich but poor. Opting to keep the old elements of Confucianism as well as embracing elements of Western world, the present day Chinese government is the truest example of a duality.

Weekly Literary Inspiration

"Clear thinking becomes clear writing: one can't exist without the other. It is impossible for a muddy thinker to write good English. He may get away with it for a paragraph or two, but soon the reader will be lost, and there is no sin so grave, for he will not easily be lured back." --Wiliam Zinsser, On Writing Well

19 September 2008

Benjamin Franklin's "A Witch Trial at Mount Holly" (Early American Literature)

Benjamin Franklin used humor as a rhetorical device and swayed the reader toward the acceptance of his personal thoughts and ideas. He effectively wrote satires. Examples can be found throughout Franklin’s literary pieces. In “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly,” Franklin highlighted the hypocrisy of Puritan culture through satire. Being a master of humor in his writings, Benjamin Franklin persuaded his audience through a distinct and profound rhetorical device.

Characterized by his political ability, Benjamin Franklin highlighted the superstition and hypocrisy of the Puritan culture. In “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly,” Franklin described 300 people who were gathered to witness a trial of two people, a man and a woman, accused of witchcraft. At first they were weighed against the Holy Bible. Common knowledge allowed the reader to realize that a largest Bible would not weigh more the 50 pounds and the average weight of the smallest adult would be no less than 90 pounds. The difference in the weight would prove that the test was flawed and comical.

Also in the “A Witch Trial at Mount Holly,” the accused were tied and thrown into the water. If they floated in the water, well then, they were witches. Again, common sense allowed the reader to realize that any human being with the capacity to do so would swim in order to save his or her life. A human being would only be able to float at the point death when the equilibrium of the water and body became one. The sensible reader challenged the validity of the test and realized the dishonor in the Puritan practice.

Another dishonorable practice exposed by Franklin in the text was the dishonoring of the female body. The exposed nudity and degradation of the female body expressed by the Puritan culture was shameful. In a comical way, Franklin described that the women needed to be re-tested, fully “naked” before the masses. The female body should be revered but Franklin used the incident in a satirical sense. It was a powerful rhetorical tool to sway the meekest audience.

18 September 2008

Analysis of Robert Frost's "The Mending Wall" (American Poetry)

Characterized by popularity in the poetic circuit, usage of poetic language and humor, and an element of enlightened mastery of verse, Robert Frost initiated a distinct form of poetry in the poem “The Mending Wall” (1003). As he poised at the forefront of a new realm of poetic practice and poetic freedom, it was “The Mending Wall” that exemplified the poetry of Frost.

The poem was about human nature. A stone wall separated the speaker’s property from his neighbor’s property. In the spring, the two men would meet to walk the wall together and make the necessary repairs. The speaker questioned the validity of the wall, while the neighbor adamantly defended the need for the wall. The speaker was unconvinced but wished the neighbor to derive his own conclusion. While attempting to unfold the meaning of the poem, the reader ultimately deduced a dominant idea. The overwhelming theme of the poem asserted nature’s demand of humankind to seek social interaction with one another.

Frost epitomized a nature poet because of his simple but effective poetic practice and his evaluation of man and nature. At a time of strict organized poetic form, “The Mending Wall” displayed poetic freedom. Poetically, the poem possessed common methods of speech. Influenced by a reader’s awareness of social interaction, personal relationships and an awareness of nature, the poem spoke to the audience both broadly and intimately. The narrator forced the reader to view human social interaction analytically and methodically.

Through the lines of the poem, Frost gave his audience a new perspective on nature and human social relationships. The poem is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Concentrating on the details of the lines, blank verse is the baseline meter of the poem with a few variant exceptions of iambic pentameter.

Moreover, five stressed syllables occur in each line. There are no stanza brakes. The elements of assonance and alliteration can be found within the lines of the poem. Assonance refers to the same or similar vowel sounds while alliteration refers to the repetition of the initial sounds of stressed words. Explicating the text for alliteration, the reader noticed the repetition of initial consonant sounds through the sequence of the words “old-stone savage” (l. 40).

Attesting to the presence of assonance, the careful reader diagnosed the repetition of the vowel sounds in the sequence of the words “no one has seen them made or heard them made” (l. 10). The simple form of the poem is significant. The simplicity of speech provided ease for the common man. The word choice flowed eloquently and allowed the reader to feel the elements of commonality and familiarity.

Bringing the details of the poem to the reader, there was also playfulness and thoughtfulness in the narrator. “Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder / If I could put a notion in his head / ‘Why do they make good neighbors”’ is quite humorous (ll. 28-30). Adding another element of humor, the narrator described the activity as “just another outdoor game” (l. 21). This was an activity that required hard manual labor, but the implication that the narrator enjoyed it as a sport was comical.

The statement enlightened the reader on the narrator’s personality. It was implied the speaker enjoyed the activity of finding fault with his neighbor but made no assessment of his own actions. The narrator stated, while speaking of his neighbor, “He moves in darkness as it seems to me / Not of woods only and the shade of trees / He will not go behind his father’s saying” (ll. 41-43). The narrator failed to explore his own self analysis or obtain the self realization that he may be a significant part of the problem as well.

The meaning of the poem can be extracted from the two statements that were repeated within the lines of the poem. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good fences make good neighbors” energized the reader against maintaining the wall. (ll. 1,36,27,45). This was significant because the narrator drew attention to the statements. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall [.…] / And makes gaps even two can pass abreast [.…] / No one has seen them made or heard them made. / But at spring mending time we find them there” (ll. 1-11). Nature disliked the wall and did not like the barrier between “mankind” and attempted to destroy it [the wall] daily. The wall continued falling down but the men kept rebuilding the wall. Nature seemingly and vigorously implied its intention was to promote human interaction.

Weekly Literary Inspiration

Goodness is a special kind of truth and beauty. It is truth and beauty in human behavior. --H. A. Overstreet

17 September 2008

Phyllis Wheatley (Pre-1800s African American Poetry)

Phyllis Wheatley shows boldness and humility in her poetry. In her poem “To Maecenas,” Wheatley highlights her skill as a poet. By using heroic couplets, Wheatley masterfully asserts her knowledge. She mentions Terence, the famous black playwright of Rome. She states, “The happier Terence all the choir inspir’d, / His soul replenish’d, and his bosom fir’d; / But say, ye Muses, why this partial grace, / To one alone of Africa’s sable race.” Wheatley does not hide her ethnicity instead she exposes her race. Wheatley openly defies the societal ideas of African Americans in her time.

Phyllis Wheatley boldly addresses the University of Cambridge in her poem “to The University of Cambridge, In New England.” As a woman, she is not able to attend the university. Furthermore, as an African American she is not able to attend the university. But with profound boldness she addresses them in poetic verse. Wheatley, in a sense, preaches to the students that have the opportunity that was denied her. Wheatley states, “Students, to you ‘tis giv’n to scan the heights / …Improve your privileges while you stay, / …Or good or bad report of you to heav’n. / …Ye blooming plants of human race divine, / An Ethiop tells you ‘tis your greatest foe.” Wheatley tells them that someone from Africa is telling them what to do. She is aware of the expectations of African Americans and women in her society and uses her poetry to combat those expectations.

In contrast, in the poem “On being brought from Africa to America,” Wheatley demonstrates a sense of humility and spirituality. Wheatley addresses her spirituality within the lines of her poetry. She states, “‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, / Taught my benighted soul to understand / That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too: / Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.” The humility of spirituality exemplified in these lines is reflective of the Christian society in which she lived.

In conclusion, Phyllis Wheatley used a mixture of humility and boldness in her poems. Her accomplishments were remarkable. She was a well educated Christian and pioneer of their time. Phyllis Wheatley was the first African American to have been published. Wheatley used her poetic voice to combat the ideas, expectations and values of the society in which she lived.

16 September 2008

Response to Rhetoric Book I (Rhetoric and Composition)

In reading, The Rhetoric, I realized that Aristotle said it best over 2300 years ago. I found it difficult to summate this piece of literature because the writing was concise and effective; the layout was methodical and systematic. Overall, Aristotle listed many definitions for the term rhetoric. The text consisted of multiple parts that came together and provided a comprehensive whole. Aristotle insisted that men be able to “observe in any case the available means of persuasion…on any subject presented to [them]” (181).

The most striking feature in the text was the use of “three.” He mentioned the “three kinds of rhetoric,” “the three means of effecting persuasion,” and the “three modes of persuasion.” He also stated that “rhetoric falls into three divisions, determined by the three classes of listeners to speeches…[and] these three kinds of rhetoric refer to three different kinds of time…[and] has three distinct ends in view” (185). He continued to explain “the propositions of Rhetoric are Complete Proofs, Probabilities, and Signs” which summed to three proofs of rhetoric (186). Even today, the number three is still very important in the Christian and secular world. The only exception was the five “main matters on which all men deliberate and on which political speakers make speeches” (187).

Part I stated, “Rhetoric is the counterpart of Dialectic” (179). Rhetoric, as an art, included more than persuasion. It included enthymemes, but not “prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions. It is not right to pervert the judge by moving him to anger or envy or pity...A litigant has…nothing to do but… show [that]…the fact is so or is not so, that it has or has not happened…Rhetorical study …is concerned with the modes of persuasion. Persuasion is clearly a sort of demonstration [and the enthymeme or] orator’s demonstration [is] the most effective of the modes of persuasion [and] the business of dialectic” (180).

However, rhetoric was more than “succeed[ing] in persua[sion]” (181). It provided a greater purpose. Aristotle stated, “Men have a sufficient natural instinct for what is true, and usually do arrive at the truth…Things that are true and things that are better are…always easier to prove and easier to believe in.” Furthermore, Aristotle argued that “rhetoric is useful because things that are true and things that are just have a natural tendency to prevail over their opposites...We must be able to employ persuasion and argument [which are] notions possessed by everybody.” And we must be able to employ “strict reasoning” on both sides of the question. Being able to argue both sides allowed the person to see the facts clearly and dispute untruths (181). It was shameful for a man to be “unable to defend himself with speech and reason...Dialectic and rhetoric alone do this…A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly.”

Part II discussed the three “modes of persuasion” (181). First, in ethos, the “personal character of the speaker” was important. The audience must believe the credibility of the speaker. Secondly, in pathos, the speaker must “put the audience into a certain frame of mind” and the speech must “stir their emotions.” Finally, in logos, proof must be provided within the text of the speech. He asserted that “a truth or an apparent truth” made an effective speech (182). Although uniquely different, all are elements of persuasion.

In essence, Aristotle persuaded me as he has persuaded trillions of people for thousands of years. He was a master of rhetoric and had a keen ability to understand rhetoric in all its minute parts. The Rhetoric was, conceptually, today’s “how-to” book. Aristotle placed a great deal of emphasis on understanding and evaluating human behavior and emotion as well as establishing credibility and presenting logical, coherent arguments. Undoubtedly, the text implied that anyone who desired perfection as a speaker, through the use of rhetoric, must understand and manipulate human emotions. From political speeches to infomercials, the principles of Aristotle are still being used today.

15 September 2008

Synthesis of Fantasy (Shakespeare)

Louis Montrose’s “Shaping Fantasies”: Figurations of Gender and Power in Elizabethan Culture stated Shakespeare’s plays, like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, were meant to entertain the audience, as well as a reflection of the powerful influences of Queen Elizabeth. He recounted several instances where people were influenced by the Queen.

A consistent description of the Queen mentioned her mostly white attire, her elderly age, and slight nudity. I began to think the Queen was “touched” by senility, but apparently “Elizabeth’s display of her bosom signified her status as a maiden…and… [symbolized] a selfless and bountiful mother” (34). Another explanation was offered; the author mentioned that the acts could be “a kind of erotic provocation” (34). These views are very important socially and politically.

In order to understand the influences of Queen Elizabeth, one must understand the social and historical context of the time period. The reading stated, “With one vital exception, all forms of public and domestic authority in Elizabethan England were vested in men: in fathers, husbands, masters, teachers, magistrates, lords. It was inevitable that the rule of a woman would generate peculiar tensions” (34). Louis Montrose hoped to analyze the affect of Queen Elizabeth on English society and her effect on plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Specifically, Montrose highlighted the relationship between two men desiring the same women versus two women desiring the same man. The men “despise[d] his previous mistress in order to adore the next” (39). Whereas, the women “do not fluctuate in their desires for their young men…It should be added that the maidens remain constant to their men at the cost of inconstancy to each other” (39). Men were the dominating force; women represented subordination.

Montrose acknowledged that “Egeus effectively absolves his daughter from responsibility for her affections because he cannot acknowledge her capacity for volition” (40). Theseus defeated the “Amazonian matriarchate” and subdued her into marriage. Oberon overpowered and manipulated Titania. In essence, the men retained the true power. The women were subject to that power.

I believe the analysis made by Louis Montrose was exceptional and relevant. All literature must be viewed as it relates to the social and historical context; his analysis benefits the reader and enriches the literary experience. One is able to see that Shakespeare’s plays were a “product” of the Elizabethan experience.

12 September 2008

A Discussion: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Novel (British Literature)

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein, is a reflection of the discriminatory thoughts in Britain toward its Others, specifically the dark other. Does the monster’s eloquence and persuasiveness make it easier for the reader to sympathize with him or does his dark appearance prevent sympathy? Why do most film versions of the story present the monster as mute or inarticulate, as well as a physical horror?

One can analyze the text in relation to its visual representations of the Other. According to Malchow, Gothic novels like Frankenstein in the nineteenth-century allowed humanity to claim the responsibility for remaking and re-shaping creation itself through forced measures. This review focused on the racial interpretation of the novel in question through the historical, social and political context of the times.

The main objective was to analyze how Mary Shelley’s novel correlated with the historical aspect of the emerging industrialized society; the social aspect of views on non-whites, specifically blacks, and abolishing slavery in the West Indies; and the political aspects of the merchant class securing status and wealth. The image portrayed in a “Scene from the Extravaganza of Frankenstein: or ‘The Model Man,’ at the Adelphi Theatre,” illustrated in the London News on 12 January 1850, on page 28, was indicative of the times.

There was no proof that Mary Shelley intentionally created a monster marooned as a Jamaican slave; but, the images and descriptions of the “monster” closely paralleled the social stereotypes of non-whites in that time period. In the historical perspective of the novel being written, Britain was conquering many lands in the non-Caucasian regions of Asia and Africa. Britain was benefiting from a slave-driven economy in the West Indies.

Finally, in consideration of the social perspective of the novel being written, the English “Enlightenment” had a skewed view of people in foreign lands. It was part-fantasy and part-exoticism. During this time-frame a system of races was formed. Based only on ethnicity, men were ranked by their race. Europeans commonly referred to the dark “Other.” These concepts were politically inspired by Rousseau, but matured with mid-Victorian pseudo-scientific racism.

Mary Shelley was born and reared in this historically, socially, and politically-charged environment. Was this novel a reflection of her environment? Consider the discourse about race and slavery during the period. The term discourse can be helpful in considering how the context informed the novel.

"Strong Horse Tea" by Alice Walker (African-American Literature)

The story is about a black mother, young and single, named Rannie Toomer. Her baby boy, Snooks, is dying of double pneumonia and whooping cough. The baby is all Rannie has in the world. For five days Snooks has been sick and Rannie has not bathed in that time due to taking care of her sick baby. Rannie knows her baby boy is gravely ill and is waiting for the white doctor to come and make him better.

Sarah is an older black woman who is knowledgeable of old home remedies as well as magic. Sarah tries to convince Rannie to use the home remedies that she knows on her baby. Rannie will not allow Sarah to perform her home remedies for several reasons. Rannie doesn't believe in the power of ethnic remedies.

"Strong Horse Tea" is told in third person. The point of view at the beginning of the story is that of the baby's mother, Rannie Toomer, a young black woman placing all of her trust in the benevolence of the white mailman and white doctor and her faith in white medicine. The point of view then shifts to the white mailman and the reader can see his prejudice and disgust over Rannie's ignorance. Thus, he does not understand the direness of the situation.

The perspective once again shifts back to Rannie, who is still waiting for the doctor. Rannie realizes the doctor is not coming and finally follows Sarah's instructions for a home remedy. While Rannie is out collecting horse urine, Sarah sees that the baby has died.

The short story highlightlights the conflict between generations within the same culture.

11 September 2008

Doris Betts “The Ugliest Pilgrim” (Southern Literature)

The theme of Betts short story, “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” highlights the strength and dignity that a grotesque character gains by confronting their inadequacies and those of others and seeing the beauty that is within a person. Violet Karl was accidentally injured by her father when she was a teenager. The resulting scar was contentious for her. She travels to a televangelist to ask God to have the scar disappear. During her trip, she meets and old woman and two soldiers-one white and one black. Because Violet is able to look beyond race and age and find beauty, she gains strength and dignity in her situation.

In the end, she truly begins living her life. An example of Violet’s ability to look beyond age occurs when Violet stated that the old woman never looked at her scar. She states, “The funny thing is she’s looking past my head, though there’s nothing out that window but rock wall sliding by.” As the old woman sleeps, Violet remarks, “Now that her eyes are covered, I can study that face—china white, and worn thin as tissue…If I could wait to be eighty, even my face might grind down and look softer.”

Also with Flick, Violet changes her views and looks at the inner character. Initially, she says, “I’ll not take black skin, no offense.” Later she remarks that “Flick [let] his hand fall on [her] head and it [felt] as good as anybody’s hand.” She praised God that Flick ran after her at the bus stop.

10 September 2008

Anne Bradstreet (American Literature)

In her poem “To my Dear and Loving Husband,” Bradstreet rebels against Puritian culture by expressing her profound love toward her husband. She states, “If ever two were one, then surely we. / If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee. / If ever wife was happy in a man, / Compare with me, ye women, if you can.” Puritian culture believed the love between a man and a woman should be repressed, so not to distract from the work and devotion of God. Bradstreet defied the expectation of women in her time and defied those expectations in the lines of her poetry and uses her poetry to combat those expectations.

Despite her boldness, Bradstreet also exemplified humility in her spirituality to material wealth. In many of her poems she expressed an indifference to material wealth. Specifically in “Verses upon the Burning of our House,” Bradstreet denounced materialism and states, “Adieu, Adieu, All’s Vanity. / …There’s wealth enough; I need no more. / …My hope and Treasure lies above.” The humility of spirituality described in these poetic lines is parallel to the values of the Puritian society in which she lived.

07 September 2008

"A Good Man Is Hard To Find" by Flannery O'Connor (Southern Literature)

The “heart of the story” lies with the possible transformation of the grandmother. She has a false sense of religion. She believes that being well dressed and respectable is next to holiness. The Lord says to come as you are. She claims to be a Christian, but her actions and gestures are outside of Christian practices.

Furthermore, all the events that happen in the story are due the actions of the grandmother. She causes the accident by secretly bringing a cat. She causes the family to be on that particular road because of her suggestion to visit an old childhood house. She causes the family to be killed because of her verbal recognition of an escaped criminal. The grandmother is appalling in her actions, but transforms her false sense of religion and truly accepts God’s grace and mercy in the end. In the beginning, the grandmother is self-centered and dominating.

By the end of the story, she seems concerned with the fate of The Misfit. In the end, the grandmother tells The Misfit, “Why, you’re one of my babies!” In essence, they all lack true spirituality and religion. The Misfit proudly states, “enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can—by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him.” If one does not have a sense of responsibility to God, he will do things that are pleasing to the flesh. The covenant that Christians make with God allow them to suppress or attempt to suppress carnal sins.

06 September 2008

Discussion on Gorgias' Encomium of Helen (Rhetoric and Composition)

Giving a brief summary of the text in question, one can describe Gorgias’s Encomium of Helen as a tale of a beautiful woman who causes a ten-year war. Allegations and confusion arise within Sparta after Helen, the wife of King Menelaus, is kidnapped by Paris, the prince of Troy. In an effort to reclaim his wife, Greeks rage war on Troy and destroy the city.

After Helen returns to her husband, many issues arise concerning her character and the part she plays in the brutal war. Was she raped by Paris and forcibly kidnapped or did she leave willingly? In essence, Helen of Troy becomes a central figure in the concept and definition of Greek morality and the role of women within its society.

The object of discussion and analysis is the way that Gorgias uses rhetorical devices to “plead” Helen’s case. He asserts that Helen should not be accused and blamed for starting the war; instead she should be praised or even pitied. Gorgias’s oratorical style aids him in providing an eloquent and effective argument. He made an open claim that his purpose is to deflect blame and shame from Helen of Troy.

He begins with logical and reasonable statements. He states, “What is becoming to a city is manpower, to a body beauty…to a speech truth.” He urges that it is his duty “to refute the unrightfully spoken…those who rebuke Helen.” He continues by giving ethos to her character by stating that she is the daughter of Zeus, a god. He explains that her “god-like beauty” caused her kidnapping to take place. Furthermore, Gorgias asserts that it could have been “by [the] will of Fate [or the] decision of the gods [or the] vote of necessity [or] by force [or] by words seduced [or] by love possessed” that caused Helen to do “what she did.” He insists whatever the cause, “one must free Helen from disgrace” and sees her “misfortune.”

Moreover, Gorgias asserts the probability and possibility of Helen’s rape by Paris. If she was raped “by violence and illegally assaulted and unjustly insulted,” it becomes clear that the rapist is to blame. Not Helen. He continues to state that if rape did not occur, but speech (logos) was the culprit that “persuaded her and deceived her heart” then she is still not to be blamed. After all, “speech is a powerful lord... [and] the force of persuasion prevails.” The persuader is to be blamed. Not Helen. Finally, he likens the “effect of speech upon…the soul is comparable to the power of drugs” and in the end “remove[s] disgrace from [her].

In essence, Gorgias uses rhetoric to justify, praise and pity Helen’s actions. He achieves the effect through a style of oration that utilizes sounds and words and rhythms of words. The style brought him great notoriety and wealth, but also criticism and scorn. According to A Synoptic History of Classical Rhetoric by James Jerome Murphy, Richard A. Katula, Forbes I. Hill, and Donovan J. Ochs, Gorgias’s Encomium of Helen “was part poetry, part oratory, part literature, part entertainment…quintessential Gorgian rhetoric.”

To put it simply, Gorgias effectively captivates his audience by using several techniques. Much akin to the multi-media devices that we use today, the modern day presentation is part YouTube video, part audio, part statistics and Excel charts, part oratory and part images. Simultaneously, he systematically organizes his argument into four distinct parts: fate, force, speech, and persuasion. Several occurrences of ethos and logos are obvious in the speech, but pathos (emotional appeals, metaphor, amplification, or storytelling) is less obvious and even possibly absent.

05 September 2008

Rhetorical Advice from poet Kahil Gibran (Middle Eastern Literature)

"Say not, 'I have found the truth,' but rather, 'I have found a truth.'"

Gibran is warning the aspiring rhetorical and composition student by insisting on the realization that there are other ways of seeing and thinking. There is never one truth, but many truths, that can be explored and expanded upon in order to achieve a greater understanding.

English majors and English lovers, when researching, never forget the thoughts and truths that you bring to the text.

04 September 2008

Welcoming Post

Let Us Learn and Resource Together: The Exploration and Expansion of Rhetoric and Composition, African Literatures, American Literature, African-American Literature, British Literature, Scriptural Literature, Southern Literature, Technical and Computer Writing, Linguistics, Spanish and French.

Hello English majors and English lovers. I hope that you enjoy the research blog found on this URL. The site is a comprehensive one in which I hope your various needs are serviced. Please feel free to make recommendations and analyze various texts within the English genres. As we know, English is interactive.

Discussing different thoughts and perspectives are invaluable in gaining knowledge; English explores and expands the very concept of such interaction. Presently, I am pursuing a degree in English, French and Spanish. I hope to use this site as a resource for graduate studies as well. I am in love with the subjects and I hope to make others fall in love with these expansive worlds. Let us grow and mature as we earnestly attempt to grasp “all things English.”

English and literature are passionate discourses on intellectual and social levels. The explorations of "all things English" are wonderfully rich and rewarding. In order to follow a path of understanding and dissecting literature, we must explore literature and language in all its forms. Learning another language allows greater understanding of his or her language.

In order to truly experience literature, we must grasp culture, history, and socio-economics, to name a few. Literature is all inclusive and all exclusive. It is the Ying and the Yang. Duplicitous. So let us explore and expand these facets of literature together, with an open mind, and an open heart.