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Under the Influence: Gorgias’ Victimization of Audience
December 15, 2009, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory

Melo, Maggie

Dr. S. Wexler

ENG 651: Rhetorical and Literary Theory

12 December 2009

Helen wasn’t the only one that fell victim to the powers of logos. Through his employment of rhetoric, Gorgias subjects his audience—those reading or listening to his “Encomium of Helen”– to the same victimization that Helen experiences from Paris. In his encomium, Gorgias strives to exonerate Helen of any blame by exploring  four reasons that explain her journey to Troy: love, fate, physical force and speech; he descriptively dabbles on all four reasons, but concludes that the latter reason ultimately (and easily) relinquishes Helen of any blame: “Speech is a powerful lord, which by means of the finest and most invisible body effects the divinest works: it can stop fear and banish grief and create joy and nurture pity” (45). Speech is conveyed as a totalizing power that can ultimately debilitate a person’s autonomy by subjecting human emotion to manipulation. The power of speech is illustrated as the culprit and thus Helen is exonerated (at least on Gorgias’ terms); however, Gorgias’ motives extend further than that.

I am evaluating Gorgias’ “Encomium of Helen” on the basis of whom and how his logos is being employed within the genre of the encomium. The encomium in itself—working with the genre of the epideictic speech—will help detail the “moves” that Gorgias makes to present his argument. This research project will reveal implicit parallels between Helen’s ultimate fate with logos, to a similar fate Gorgias confronts his audience with (by means of employing the epideictic style of speech). In order to maintain a consistent “Helen”, I will be analyzing the encomium with John Poulakos’ conception of Helen: as a metaphor for rhetoric. Moreover, to bring the analysis to a present-day conversation on rhetoric, a contemporary dimension to the discourse, Susan Jarratt’s article “Beside Ourselves: Rhetoric and Representation in Postcolonial Writing” will illuminate the notion of representation in conjunction with Gorgias’ encomium. To begin with, the notion of logos needs to be expounded upon to round the argument with context.

Logos is a broad Classical term that can—at its simplest terms—be defined as speech (Porter 270).  Aside from being defined as “speech”, the features of logos vary from scholar-to scholar; yet all scholars point to a common denominator of logos: deception. A speaker’s intention underlines the moves of a speech, and in his encomium Gorgias’ intention is laced with deceptive features. When evaluated, Gorgias’ motive in the encomium is revealed as operating doubly: Gorgias’ employment of rhetoric works on a meta-level as he describes the logos the victimized Helen, he inadvertently positions himself as the rhetorician and his audience as the ones receiving the rhetorical gestures; a set-up that parallels Paris as the rhetorician and Helen as the audience. Gorgias himself acknowledges that deception is an essential component of logos, and deliberately crafted his encomium accordingly (Sheard 773).

Gorgias’ use of deception—which is inherent in the speech and logos he is utilizing—enables him to have two motives co-exist within his encomium. On a surface level Gorgias is striving to fulfill the function of the epideictic speech by praising Helen; however, on a deeper level, as the encomium closes, he deceptively reveals that an alternative motive was in place: “I wished to write a speech which would be a praise of Helen and a diversion to myself” (46). Gorgias presents his superficial motive while concurrently executing his genuine motive of using Helen to defend rhetoric. Gorgias misleads his audience until the end of the speech where he ultimately reveals his deceptive underpinnings with his closing statement. Gorgias’ is well aware of his deceptive behaviors, and within his encomium constructs an analogy between speech and witchcraft and magic: “There have been discovered two arts of witchcraft and magic: one consists of errors of soul and the other of deception of opinion” (45). The idea of “smoke and mirrors” comes into play, as Gorgias deceptively leads his audience to believe that his objective is clear: to exonerate Helen. He cleverly demonstrates the same deception of logos that befell Helen to deceive his audience: “[Gorgias’] rhetorical strategy allows [him] to portray Helen as a victim of the psychogogic power of logos, effectively shifting the blame for her behavior and the focus of his speech to the power of logos itself” (772). Gorgias’ deceptive manipulation is both intrinsic to the logos and crafted by himself.

Logos is not a “stand-alone” entity void of any interaction with the community it serves, but is ideologically charged and cultivated in the political and cultural landscape of its time. The encomium (a type of epideictic speech) is steeped in a communal ideology, accepting prejudices and communal values (778). Gorgias’ encomium is a cultural artifact that is telling of the ideology of a community. Ideologically speaking, in Classical Athens the mention of rhetoric, rhetoricians, logos, etc. became a topic of controversy.  Fully aware of the capricious sentiments felt towards rhetoric, Gorgias crafted his encomium accordingly: a speech centered on his audience. Gorgias placed his audience in his forethought, and ensured that his encomium did not instantly repel an audience (which also worked out in his argumentative methodology of leaving his deceptive intention at the end of  the encomium). Historically, the Athenian community would have threatened Gorgias with banishment, condemnations, and possibly excommunication if he were to blatantly express his opinions regarding rhetoric; Gorgias would  have ultimately challenge the status quo and would have placed himself in a threatening position (Poulakos 7). The ideology of a community is inescapable, and similar to logos reflection upon a community, so does the genre of the encomium rely on communal interaction.

Gorgias chose the genre of the encomium deliberately; in order to satisfy the needs he wanted to execute: to use a speech style that can both appeal to an audience and act as a vehicle for his self-interested agenda. Gorgias’ encomium was developed in the likeliness that it will be “accepted” for its topic—essentially a defense of rhetoric: “Mythical themes seem to have provided the poets, the playwrights, the Sophists, and the philosophers with the fertile soil in which they can plant the seeds of their message” (Poulakos 4). The fashioning of Helen in the encomium goes beyond a tactical move on Gorgias’ behalf, but illustrates an ideological representation of Classical Athens. His knowledge of the political and cultural landscape of the era has shaped his encomium to penetrate the apprehensive wall citizens have placed against rhetoric, and has in exchange placed those citizens vulnerable to his logos. Gorgias’ understanding of the Classical Athenian audience allowed him to execute his two-fold intention without blatantly challenging the hegemony.

Gorgias occupies a non-threatening position towards his audience by employing an argumentative style that values probabilities over the truth. In D.G Spatharas’ article “Patterns of Argumentation in Gorgias”, Gorgias’ argumentative techniques are revealed as being based on “probable truths” rather than the truth itself. Gorgias employs this technique, in order to establish a sense of camaraderie among himself and his audience members; he draws on a common feature that they all can reference: Helen (794). Through Helen, Gorgias is able to provide context for his audience members to follow the “moves” of his argument: “The term argument from probabilities means an argument which is not based on definitive factual reality” (394). The audience members are cognizant of Helen’s story, and begin to acknowledge Gorgias’ argument based on it; the problem: their basing their truths on Helen, who is a part of a mythical narrative. By Gorgias’ manipulation of Helen, he is able to use her to frame the probable truth that logos is a totalizing power.  Logos is a power that debilitates relinquishes a person’s autonomy. This resonates loudly in relation to Gorgias’ deceptive behavior within the encomium: “Gorgias ‘emphasis’ on truth is ‘emphatic’ because ‘deceit is only possible in relation to that which is actually true” (793).  While providing truths founded on probabilities, Gorgias argues his case to exonerate Helen but on the premise of deception.

Gorgias’ deceptive rhetoric within the encomium is inherent to the style—and possibly reputation—of the speech he is employing. The type of speech—epideictic speech–Gorgias implemented was popularly used in Classical Athens. Traditionally, the epideictic speech aimed to “strengthen shared beliefs about the present state of affairs”, which along with the deliberative and forensic speech comprised the entire sphere of rhetoric (Bizzell 3).  The encomium means to praise the character Helen, and aims to rid audience members of any incriminating preconceptions they have towards here—on the surface level.  On a different level, Gorgias used Helen as a pretext to praise rhetoric and its totalizing power. The definition of an epideictic speech is split; the encomium is split, operating on two different levels with two different motives. Along with its traditional denotation, are the connotations attributed to the encomium.

Cynthia Sheard reveals the connotative implications often associated with epideictic speeches in her article “The Public Value of Epideictic Rhetoric.” Classically speaking, the genre of the epideictic speech was perceived as less prestigious and vital to the polis than its counterparts–the deliberative and forensic speech—as a result from the perception that epideictic speeches were “show-pieces” meant to display the orator’s talent (767). In essence the epideictic speech had a bad reputation. Orators employing this style of speech often left audiences skeptical of the speaker’s true intentions: “Associated with sophism…from its very beginnings, epideictic discourse was burdened from the start by suspicions of the speaker’s self-indulgence and opportunism, his manipulation of audience sentiments, and his distance from the interests of the community” (768). The actual moves and structure of the epideictic speech did not rouse suspicion in audiences, but the skepticism was projected from the orator.

As the speaker of the encomium, Gorgias deceptively frames Helen as the medium to enact his logos. Aforementioned, Gorgias’ analogy of magic and witchcraft extends to the way he executes the encomium: “By claiming that speech acts on the psyche like a drug or witchcraft, Gorgias implicates his own speech as a capable of usurping his listeners’ reason and their will” (772). Within the encomium, Gorgias frames the character Helen in a way that distracts audience members from acknowledging that he has is deceptively employing a self-interested political agenda.  He is diminishing their ability to recognize his deceptive tactics, by means of distraction. His political agenda to defend rhetoric moves covertly alongside his surface intention to rid Helen of any blame. As the moves of his arguments progress in the encomium, so does his argument for rhetoric—or his skills as an orator—become purported. As the audience members begin to recognize the totalizing power of logos, they willingly exonerate Helen of the blame imposed onto her and inadvertently exonerate Gorgias for employing the same deceptive logos onto them.

For a full-bodied account of the implications attributed to epideictic speech, and Gorgias’ use thereof, the audience needs to be analyzed further. In James Porter’s scholarly article “The Seductions of Gorgias” the effects of logos upon the hearer is explicated. Logos is illustrated as a force outside of the speech itself, deriving from the speaker: “Thus logos is almost an independent external power which forces the hearer to do its will. Incurably deceptive, logos has an enormous power that acts upon opinion, which is easy to change” (269).  The epideictic speech thus illustrates a rhetorician, the medium of communication (logos), and the receptor. On one level, the encomium showcases Paris as the rhetorician, logos as the medium of exchange, and Helen as the receptor. But, when re-evaluating the encomium in light of Gorgias truer motive, the three positions can be re-identified as Gorgias as rhetorician, Helen as the medium of communication (logos), and—the completing factor—the audience or his listeners as receptors to the logos. The audience is perhaps the most crucial factor in the epideictic equation, because their receptivity to the rhetorician delineates the success or failure of the orator.

To amplify the audience’s receptivity to the encomium, Gorgias plays on his audience’s ideology and couples it with an inherently gendered logos: “The subordination of women, beauty, and the irrational to men, knowledge, and power, so entrenched in the classical Greek culture, is also embedded in Gorgias’ language and syntax” (76). On a syntactical level, Gorgias is able to use an intrinsically masculine language to impose his audience into a position of persuasion: a female position. The logos Gorgias employs is charged with masculine overtones reflecting the ideology of this period. The logos in the Classical era conveys masculine features (and some argue this ideology also extends today) that pervades the language and subsequently Gorgias’ encomium.

The ideology of community is present in various arenas including language, and—in terms of ideology– intrinsically the Athenian language is heavily masculine. In Andy Crockett’s scholarly article “Gorgias Encomium of Helen: Violent Rhetoric or Radical Feminism” he describes the intrinsic gendered features of language and declares that all texts are saturated with this engendered structure: “[N]o single text escapes contamination by gendering; no cleavage separates my critical position in the present moment from texts created in anitiquity” (72). The gendered biased feature of language operates by manifesting the separation of man and woman, into the syntactical structure of language. Logos thus posits men and women in different syntactical positions: “[The third reason Helen went to Troy] is ultimately speech or logos itself thereby foregrounding or showcasing the central characters at issue here: men as speaking subjects, women as objects, and language as the medium of exchange” (72). Men and women are separated into “parts of speech”, but nonetheless rely on one another to express a complete thought.

Gorgias frames Helen as completing a syntactical binary consisting of the male and female genders (75).  The power dynamics are established as women are portrayed as being vulnerable to the hyper masculine power of logos’ structure. Women are placed in both the literal and figurative object positions of the encomium: “The binary or oppositional style is the tension that structures the entire piece” (79). Gorgias encomium is inundated with phallogocentric diction and syntax that positions Helen in a compromising position that both exonerates and victimizes her: “[Gorgias] subjects her to further redemption, so to speak she is speech stylized by men; she serves as the opposite of logos” (78). Gorgias masculine command of the language allows him to craft the encomium in a syntactical level, as well as a figurative one.

The role that Helen takes on in the encomium is cultivated in the ideologically gendered logos and perceptions of the time. Many scholars have varying opinions on the role that Helen occupies within the encomium (rhetoric, female temptation, etc), but all agree that she is fulfilling the role as a metaphor. Essentially, Helen provides the framework for persons to convey their motives: “Helen qualifies as an exemplary nonbeing just by virtue of being literary and mythical, and multiply overwritten” (Porter 278). Helen is not simply the mythical woman who ventured into Troy, but is acting as a pretext within the encomium to fulfill Gorgias’ motives to defend rhetoric. Poulakos argues that Helen is a metaphor for rhetoric, and that Gorgias is using Helen as a means to his end: as a way to defend his rhetoric for rhetoric. Helen merely became the vehicle for his logos to channel through: “There is no reason to suppose that Gorgias cared much whether Helen was vindicated or not, and Helen is obviously merely a pretext for ‘his argument” (4). Helen as a pretext provides Gorgias with the medium for his political agenda.

Gorgias manipulation of Helen for his self-interested motives can be illuminated with a contemporary viewpoint of representation of the underrepresented. It is evident that women were underrepresented in the polis as blatant subordinates to their male counterparts. This is clearly visible in the Classical ideologies valuing male superiority over women, and is seen in the language and through Gorgias’ methods of subordinating his audience into a feminine subservient role. It is ideological. Gorgias representation of Helen has placed her in a position that can be best exemplified by Susan Jarratt’s understanding of subjugation in her work “Beside Ourselves: Rhetoric and Representation in Postcolonial Feminist Writing”: “Employing the figures of metaphor and metonymy… the participants are no longer disposed in the classical rhetorical position, a single subject facing an audience, but rather ‘beside themselves” (1381). Helen (and Gorgias’audience) is usurped of their autonomous capabilities, and take on a subservient role to Gorgias: being stylized by him in a way to meet his political agenda. Jarratt describes the latter statement as conveying a different dimension of a text that extends far beyond a singular subject and the audience: “In other words, when someone use power over others to represent them politically—to act for them—there is an unavoidable, concomitant symbolic process underway: the represented group is sketched, painted, described in a particular way through that process” (1382). Gorgias enacts the latter symbolic process as he aims to portray Helen in light of the masculine logos, as a way to defend rhetoric with his rhetoric.

The genre of the epideictic speech is telling of the ideological landscape that Gorgias crafted his encomium within. On various levels ranging from the word, syntax, to the overall reputation of the epideictic structure, Gorgias’ encomium has been revealed as being ideologically steeped in the male superior, female subordinate mentality. Helen as a character—even as a “non” character—has enabled writers including Gorgias to posit arguments and to convey their political agenda. As Gorgias superficially accounts for the various reasons prompting Helen to run off to Troy, he is covertly operating on a deeper level to defend rhetoric with his rhetoric. Gorgias exemplifies the totalizing power of logos—the entity that befell Helen—by imposing that same logos unbeknownst to his audience.

Works Cited

Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg “General Introduction.”The Rhetorical Tradition.

Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001. 2. Print.

Crockett, Andy.  “Gorgias Encomium of Helen: Violent Rhetoric or Radical Feminism?” Rhetoric Review 1994: 71-90. Web. 21 Oct. 2009.

Jarratt, Susan. “Beside Ourselves: Rhetoric and Representation in Postcolonial Feminist    Writing.”The Norton Book of Composition Studies.”Ed. Susan Miller. London: W.W

Norton & Company, Inc, 2009. 1381-1384. Print.

Poulakos, John. “Gorgias Encomium of Helen and Defense of Rhetoric.” Rhetorica 1983: 1-16.   Web.  21 Oct. 2009.

Porter, James. “The Seductions of Gorgias.” Classical Antiquity Oct. 1993: 267-299. Web. 21       Oct. 2009.

Sheard, Cynthia. “Public Value of Epideictic Rhetoric.” College English Nov. 1996: 765-794.      Web. 21 Oct. 2009.

Spatharas, D.G. “Patterns of Argumentation in Gorgias.” Mnemosyne Aug. 2001: 393-408. Web.             21 Oct. 2009.


Grimke: Letters on the Equality of Sexes
December 2, 2009, 8:52 am
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory

Grimke ‘s letters were powerful. Her lucid voice, coupled with her sharp sarcastic wit shakes up the masculine status quo with her interpretation of women’s entitlement. She interrogates the patriarchal hegemony by means of divine intervention: “No one can desire more earnestly than I do, that woman may move exactly in the sphere in which her Creator has assigned her; and I believe her having been displaced from that sphere has introduced confusion into the world” (1051). She isn’t arbitrarily arguing for a public space for women to interact in; her argument is that the space was already created by God! Grimke argues not on the basis of “want”, but of “entitlement.” Her arguments for female involvement in ministry, the unfettering of female dependence to males, the recognition of female morality and intelligence, etc. are supported not by women alone, but by God. (That is damn clever, because no one can argue with God!) And from this, Grimke cleverly hits the “MAN” with a low blow by continuously calling them “anti-Christian.” She is undermining the very ethos of the patriarchal hegemony, by dismantling their masculine interpretation of the Word (I loved when she said snidely remarked that “man” was a generic term for both men and women); she ostensibly inquires: “Where, in all the sacred Scriptures, is this taught? (1051). Rose: “The Language of Exclusion: Writing Instruction at the University” Rose’s piece is a true testament to Richard Vatz’s notion of the “mythical rhetorical situation.” Truly, the perception of illiteracy and the educational decay of academia is all but an imposed perception of those in power: “Is this an educational system on the decline, or is it a system attempting to honor—through wrenching change—the may demands of a pluralistic democracy?” (7) The statistics and stories Rose present contradicts the “threat” of academic decay, and also—in my opinion—showcases how anachronistic the metrics used to evaluated student performance are. The times are different, and the diversity of student culture, backgrounds, etc. etc. are different as well.

Aristotelian Underpinnings: Casablanca and Taming of the Shrew
November 20, 2009, 8:36 am
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory

Can it be possible to see Aristotelian underpinnings of his Rhetoric in Rick’s speech to Ilsa at the end of Casablanca? Delving into the Aristotelian mechanics of Rick’s persuasive speech—which many would argue could be either deliberative, epideictic, or even ceremonial in tone and structure— it becomes apparent that Aristotle’s collection of rhetorical techniques are at play.

Rick appeals to his audience—the lone woman, Ilsa– by establishing his credibility through his delivery. His delivery is directly terse and encompasses a musicality to it. His tongue rattles off alliteration and a certain cadence that is pleasing to the listener’s ear. In book III of Rhetoric, Aristotle comments on a speaker’s volume of sound, modulation of pitch, and rhythm: “It is those who do bear them in mind who usually win prizes in dramatic contests.” What better time to employ these strategies than with a panicked woman? Rick’s persona is calm yet assertive. He knows his feminine audience well, and wins the argument over—not like Ilsa had a word to say, literally—by means of character (his ethos) which Aristotle deems as the most effective means of persuasion. Rick also packs his delivery with the two other Aristotelian appeals that Ilsa couldn’t have resisted: pathos and logos.

Action-packed enthymemes are toppled with pathos and logos as Rick explains to Ilsa what would happen if she didn’t board the plane. Along with the regret that will ensue if she doesn’t go back to Victor, or the 90% chance (according to Rick’s statistic) of ending up in a concentration camp, or even the underlying factor of DEATH, Rick appeals to Ilsa by intertwining the logistics of why it is important for her to leave, with pathetic overtones.

Nonetheless, Rick is successful and Ilsa ventures off into the plane. It’s really no surprise. When you are employing the very techniques that Aristotle explicitly lays out, you are sure to reap a victory. As Rick would say: “Here’s looking at You Aristotle.”

Along with Casablanca is the Aristotelian analysis of Kate’s soliloquy from Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare utilizes Aristotelian methods of rhetoric via Kate’s sly manipulation. Kate manipulates her audience’s emotion through the three appeals and also manipulates masculine rhetorical strategies (masculine in the sense that they were developed for male implementation) by successfully executing it as a woman. Now in regards to pathos, Aristotle describes the behaviors and mentalities of older and younger males: a description meant for orators to gain a better understanding of their audience. Taking these latter characteristics into mind, Kate ensures that she doesn’t cross the men in a way that will incite their predetermined anger. Emotion is a major component in Aristotelian standards, because of its power to sway the judgment of the audience (which in classical standards were the men). Kate plays both ends of the gendered audience by appealing to the “nobler” audience (the men) by criticizing the women. Kate portrays the men as lords, protectors, and as the physically apt beings to toil and to labor. Women are soft, and weak, and not meant to toil, thus packing her soliloquy with enthymemes pointing to the fact: women need their men. Kate’s delivery also fairs well with the Aristotelian techniques due to her ability to manipulate the rhetorical maneuvers that were meant for men to employ, and implement them as a woman. Powerless woman? I think not.

Rhetorical Sovereignty: What do American Indians want from Writing?
November 16, 2009, 8:47 am
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory

“Rhetorical sovereignty is the inherent right and ability of peoples to
determine their own communicative needs and desires in this pursuit, to
decide for themselves the goals, modes, styles, and languages of public
discourse” (Lyons 1130).

Lyons definition of rhetorical sovereignty is a notion that
resonates with other marginalized and underrepresented peoples (I
immediately though about the debate in education regarding the Black
English Vernacular dialect and its role in the classroom. That is,
assuming that it has one). The first idea that came to mind was an
aphorism I heard recently: “A dialect is a language without an army or
navy.” Lyons reveals how dense the words sovereignty and people are, and
how the natives want their language, lands, and respect back.

But now I am left to think: it was mentioned that the wars
between American natives and white civilization (forgive me if I am not
being politically correct), and he stressed how the natives are not
fighting with weapons but instead with words. I couldn’t help but think:
if they are using words to “fight” in a war against white civilization,
how else can they fight but to use the white language? Do they have what
the genre theorist Anthony Pare would call a “disembodied presence?” A
presence which would require persons participating in a genre to
“reconcile” their contradictory role? Essentially what I am trying to
stab at is this idea of identity. It seems that the natives are fight
for their own identity, but how can they do so without taking on the
“white” identity to fight?

Implicit vs. Explicit Grammar
November 16, 2009, 8:44 am
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory

((From “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar”))

A true case for the Australian school of thought vs. American! It seems
that Hartwell spearheads a controversy that has been slightly touched on
by the Classical figures we’ve read: explicit vs. implicit teaching!
What role does grammar perform in composition studies? Personally, I
sadly admit—actually not so much after reading this article—that I have
never had a class where grammar was explicitly taught. I’m talking
about no drills, rote learning, worksheets, nada. I do however, recall
many 20-minute obligatory sessions of “free reading” in high school and
growing up with a mother who knew how to flip her Filipino accent off in
a snap and amend it for a grammatically sound American one. I would’ve
liked to approach this essay with an air of disinterestedness, but I
agree with Hartwell that immersion and exposure are crucial for learning
grammar (the definition she elicits as grammar 2), but I think the most
important factor isn’t actually mentioned: the person’s desire to learn
grammar. To fully understand the importance or grammar, I think an
equally important question to ask is: what is its function? Or what is
the role of grammar?

Humans are self-interested and want to figure out “what’s in it for
me?” Ideology gives or relinquishes any power that grammar has. Case in
point is the Black English Vernacular dialect. Sure, strides are being
made to embrace diversity, but all dialects aren’t treated equally. For
instance, my fiancé does not speak in
the BEV, and around his family he is constantly ridiculed as “talking
like a white person” or “stuck up with that educational kind of talking
voice.” Like I said it’s all about ideology and the function grammar
plays for a person.
Now, if I can indulge myself and slightly answer her first question:
“Why is the grammar issue so important? Why has it been the dominant
focus of composition research for the last seventy-five years?”

It’s about elitism and preserving the “sanctity” of the academic
language in order to see who’s in and who does not belong. Persons who
are proficient in speaking and writing alongside grammatical rules are
deemed “educated” and are thus accepted in the exclusive group of
academia. Grammar is a way of excluding people from an exclusively
elitist esoteric space, or in other words academia.

Literary Subliminal (Longinus) Retreat…
November 13, 2009, 3:05 am
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory | Tags: ,

((An excerpt from Thoreau’s “Walking”))
“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life whoAvebury 2008
understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a
genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully
derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the
Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte
Terre,” to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a
Sainte-Terrer,” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to
the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere
idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in
the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the
word from sans terre without land or a home, which, therefore, in
the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally
at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering.
He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant
of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than
the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the
shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is
the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade,
preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer
this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.”

((An excerpt from Howells Criticism and Fiction))

“As I said, I hope the time is coming when not only the artist, but the common, average man, who always “has the standard of the arts in his power,” will have also the courage to apply it, and will reject the ideal grasshopper wherever he finds it, in science, in literature, in art, because it is not “simple, natural, and honest,” because it is not like a real grasshopper. But I will own that I think the time is yet far off, and that the people who have been brought up on the ideal grasshopper, the heroic grasshopper, the impassioned grasshopper, the self-devoted, adventureful, good old romantic card-board grasshopper, must die out before the simple, honest, and natural grasshopper can have a fair field. I am in no haste to compass the end of these good people, whom I find in the mean time very amusing. It is delightful to meet one of them, either in print or out of it–some sweet elderly lady or excellent gentleman whose youth was pastured on the literature of thirty or forty years ago –and to witness the confidence with which they preach their favorite authors as all the law and the prophets. They have commonly read little or nothing since, or, if they have, they have judged it by a standard taken from these authors, and never dreamed of judging it by nature; they are destitute of the documents in the case of the later writers; they suppose that Balzac was the beginning of realism, and that Zola is its wicked end; they are quite ignorant, but they are ready to talk you down, if you differ from them, with an assumption of knowledge sufficient for any occasion. The horror, the resentment, with which they receive any question of their literary saints is genuine; you descend at once very far in the moral and social scale, and anything short of offensive personality is too good for you; it is expressed to you that you are one to be avoided, and put down even a little lower than you have naturally fallen.”

((Excerpt from Emerson’s “Self Reliance”))

Tintagel :)“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being. And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and not minors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, and benefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.”


…and of course from my favorite poet, artist, visionary:

ee cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

Under the Influence: Gorgias’ Victimization of Audience
November 13, 2009, 2:59 am
Filed under: Rhetoric/Literary Theory

((Rhetorical Theory Paper Proposal))Helen of Troy

Helen wasn’t the only one who fell victim to the powers of logos. Through his employment of rhetoric, Gorgias subjects his audience—those reading his encomium– to the same victimization that Helen experiences. In his “Encomium of Helen”, Gorgias strives to exonerate Helen of any blame by exploring four possible reasons explaining her journey to Troy: love, fate, physical force and speech; He descriptively dabbles on all four reasons, but concludes that the latter reason ultimately (and easily) relinquishes Helen of any blame. Gorgias purports the power of Paris’ speech to explain Helen’s decision to leave with him: “Speech is a powerful lord, which by means of the finest and most invisible body effects the divinest works: it can stop fear and banish grief and create joy and nurture pity” (45). The power of speech is illustrated and thus Helen is exonerated (at least on Gorgias’ terms), but what does that mean for Gorgias’ audience?

I propose to evaluate Gorgias’ “Encomium of Helen” on the basis of whom and how rhetoric\logos are being employed within the encomium. This research project will reveal implicit parallels between Helen’s fate with logos, to a similar fate Gorgias confronts his audience within his encomium. However, most importantly, the primary focus of the project will explore “how” Gorgias’ rhetoric manipulates his audience into a “feminine” position of vulnerability to his logos.  There are two major roles that are explicitly “gendered” and serve as parallels: Helen as victim and Paris as the rhetorician; these two roles serve as parallels to Gorgias’ audience (Helen) and Gorgias himself (Paris’ logos). Gorgias cleverly transfers the same logos imposed on Helen and transplants it to his audience. Essentially, I’m arguing that Gorgias positions his audience in the subservient role of vulnerability, or in other words, to the inferior positioning of a woman in order to make them susceptible of his logos. Many voices will be put into conversation to illuminate this argument.

Initially, the paper will provide historical context of Helen’s tale with general historical context to frame the argument. Specifically, John Polaukos’ essay, “Encomium of Helen and Defense of Rhetoric” will explain the public sentiment towards rhetoric, why Gorgias wrote the encomium in the fashion he did, and the various roles Helen is posited into. These topics will offer context as a starting point.

To catalyze the argument, Gorgias’ rhetorical moves are revealed. Structurally speaking the two articles by D.G Spatharas’ “Patterns of Argumentation in Gorgias” and Cynthia Sheard’s “Public Value of Epideictic Rhetoric” will be put into conversation. Spatharas unravels the structural components of Gorgias’ arguments, and details what she calls “probable truths.” The latter article by Sheard, discusses motives and techniques behind Gorgias’ rhetoric. She characterizes his style as opportunistic, self-promoting, and as manipulative of audience sentiments.  In addition—and interestingly enough– the article parallels Helen’s “intoxicated” state from the power of logos and assigns that sensation to an experience audience members come upon after reading the encomium.

The next—and completing– move reveals a maneuver Gorgias employs to position the audience for victimization. James Porter’s “The Seductions of Gorgias” and Andy Crockett’s “Gorgias Encomium of Helen: Violent Rhetoric of Radical Feminism?” are two articles that reveal the “feminine” subservient position that readers of the encomium are posited into. The notion of this position is supported in the male/female binaries present in the texts and also with the masculine features attributed to logos. Furthermore, Crockett’s text delves into the social engendering of positions: work men are speaking subjects, women are objects of speaking and language is the medium for this to take place. The rather masculine overtones of logos help stabilize the audience into a feminine position that is vulnerable to persuasion.

The project will explore the rhetorical moves Gorgias makes to place his audience reading his “Encomium of Helen” into a “feminine” subservient position to his logos. This positioning is transferrable to Gorgias and his audience, which directly parallels the roles of Helen and Paris.