Rhetorical Theory

Note: I have reformatted the entries to work better in blog form. Don’t worry. I do know how to properly format an annotated bibliography!

Fairclough, Norman, and Isabela Fairclough. “A Procedural Approach to Ethical Critique in CDA.” Critical Discourse Studies, vol. 15, no. 2, 2018, pp. 169–185., doi:10.1080/17405904.2018.1427121. – In their 2018 article, the authors argue for a “procedural approach to ethical critique in CDA” (169). The authors believe that all argumentation should be held up for critical questioning, even the argumentation of the analyst of the discourse. The authors also push for a system that is free of bias and preconceived notions. They utilize real-world political discourse–including speeches by Tony Blair (UK) from 2003 and Angela Merkel in 2015 (Germany)–to demonstrate their approach and incorporate three ethical positions, including deontological, consequentialist, and virtue ethics (169).

This is a source that I have utilized previously in my scholarship on Open Access. It is not the only source I will be using to discuss critical discourse analysis but it is one that I find to be very helpful. Interestingly, given how long CDA has been in existence, the authors do not engage with any of the other scholars that I have been studying. Despite this, I believe that this is a reliable and valuable source. It does not appear to be biased and all indications are that it is meant simply as a means of bringing a new and deeper facet to critical discourse analysis.

This source will continue to be useful to my work as a large part of my scholarship is focused on analyzing the rhetorical arguments utilized by Open Access opponents. The conversations around Open Access are inherently political and the author’s contention that “Political activists can draw upon the critique of existing social realities that it provides, in formulating and advocating political policies and strategies” (169) will provide scholarly legitimacy to my own arguments. It is a source that has increased my knowledge of critical discourse analysis and given me a much better understanding of the topic.

Frey, Lawrence R., and Joshua S. Hanan. “Toward Social Justice Activism Critical Rhetoric Scholarship.” International Journal of Communication, vol. 14, 2020, pp. 850–869. – In their 2020 article, Frey and Hanan argue that critical rhetoric is too often used purely in a theoretical and performative sense. They suggest that this needs to be changed to a more practical application which can be used to support and conduct activism. They believe that part of this change involves “collaborative interventions” that combine the discipline of rhetoric with the lived experiences of oppressed communities (862). It is in this way that theory and praxis can work together in promoting social justice.

I find this to be a useful source, given that social justice for oppressed communities is a core element of both The Great Library series and The Gaslit Empire series. I also believe this is a reliable source, given that it was assigned in at least one of my classes. This source is comparable to others that I’ve been using in the way that the authors attempt to dismantle Raymie McKerrow’s critical rhetorical approach. Frey and Hanan believe that McKerrow’s work unwittingly reproduced “conservative values that have forestalled its commitment to critiquing and, ultimately, transforming dominant, exclusionary ideologies, social structures, and social practices” (852). Having said that, I do not believe that this source is biased. They are simply taking a more updated approach to critical rhetoric than was seen when McKerrow first established his approach in 1989. The goal of this source seems to simply be a means of updating critical rhetorical scholarship for modern social justice activism.

This source has been valuable to me in my past research and will be very valuable in my future research, given that much of my work focuses on social justice. The authors have created an approach to critical rhetoric that takes into account the voices of oppressed communities and helps to promote the lived experiences that are so necessary to our current discourse. The time that I have spent studying this source has given me a much finer understanding of critical rhetoric and the ways in which it can be used to disrupt and dismantle systems of power.

Kirkwood, William G. “Narrative and the Rhetoric of Possibility.” Communication Monographs, vol. 59, no. 1, 1992, pp. 30–47., doi:10.1080/03637759209376247. – Kirkwood’s primary argument is that disclosing and revealing possibilities is a critical part of the rhetorical enterprise; this is even more important when it comes to narrative rhetoric (31). Therefore, Kirkwood’s essay addresses the creation of a “rhetoric of possibility” and the problems that may be involved in that endeavor. In describing his theory, Kirkwood expresses the belief that rhetoricians should “acquaint people with new and unsuspected possibilities of being and acting in the world” through the use of storytelling and narrative rhetoric (31).

This is a very useful source as it helps elucidate the power of storytelling and the ways in which a narrative can sway an audience. This source will work very well with my other sources, given that it pulls both rhetoric and narrative together. Kirkwood doesn’t engage with any of my other sources except Brummett but I have no reason to believe that his work is unreliable. It is objective and unbiased and proves its goal of helping the reader to understand the power that rhetoricians wield and the responsibilities that come along with that power.

The book series that I will be dealing with are all stories that are being told about the gain/loss of power and maintenance of the status quo through narratives that have been very carefully crafted by those who are in charge. Kirkwood tells us that “The ability to depict a feat, whether factual or invented, and stipulate the precise set of narrative elements needed to exclude rival hypotheses about it is itself a performance” (43). This same argument can also be applied to the narratives that have been spun by Open Access opponents as well, which gives this article even more importance to my work.

McKerrow, Raymie E. “Critical Rhetoric: Theory and Praxis.” Communication Monographs, vol. 56, no. 2, 1989, pp. 91–111., doi:10.1080/03637758909390253. – McKerrow’s 1989 article aimed to create a “theoretical rationale” for critical rhetoric (91). In the article, McKerrow sets forth eight principles by which the critic can be oriented “towards the act of criticism” (91). McKerrow’s rationale is composed of the “critique of domination” and the “critique of freedom” (91). In McKerrow’s vision, his theoretical rationale will transform and reconceptualize the way we view rhetoric, changing it from something we talk about into something we perform.

McKerrow’s article is an incredibly useful source, given that he launched the idea of critical rhetoric with this article. His main goal was for critical rhetoric to “unmask or demystify the discourse of power” (91). His ideas were groundbreaking, however, several of the sources I am using in this bibliography seek to break away from McKerrow, finding his theory to be outdated and occasionally problematic. Of course, this doesn’t mean that McKerrow’s article is unreliable or without merit. It simply means that critical rhetoric has adapted and evolved in the years since so it will be important to understand where it started and where it is now.

While McKerrow’s article is an older one, I do still believe that it will be helpful in my research. His focus on domination and freedom resonate with the ideas that I will be analyzing in the various book series. In McKerrow’s words, “The discourse which flows from or expresses power functions to keep people ‘in their place’ as that status is defined and determined by the interest of the dominant class in maintaining its social role” (96). All of the books that I will be analyzing involve constant struggles between dominance and freedom, who should be on which side, and why. As such, I will be referring to it in my future work.

Phillips, Kendall R. “Spaces of Invention: Dissension, Freedom, and Thought in Foucault.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 35, no. 4, 2002, pp. 328–344., doi:10.1353/par.2003.0010. – This article is one that takes McKerrow to task, stating that McKerrow’s critical rhetoric “to a large extent, reproduces Foucault’s ambivalence towards political reform” (330). The heart of Phillips’s argument lies in the nature of McKerrow’s duality of dominance and freedom, given that it could leave the critic split between engaging in political discourse and critiquing one’s engagement, which will only “encourage a distrust of all positions” (330). While not aggressive, Phillips does make his feelings known about McKerrow’s work and the importance of rolling back to a Foucaltian rhetoric.

This is an incredibly useful source in that it helps to interpret not only McKerrow, but Foucault as well. I still have some trouble with the concepts that both have written about but Phillips breaks down their rhetorical theories, which will allow me to utilize them in a much more effective manner. In this way, it is comparable to several other sources in this bibliography. While it is certainly critical of McKerrow, I believe it is a reliable and unbiased source. The main goal, as the author states, seems to be purely to “revisit this relationship between Foucault and rhetoric” (329). He accomplishes this goal very well.

As mentioned, this source will be very useful in my future research, both as a means of interpreting Foucault and in interpreting the rhetoric within the book series that I will be analyzing. Given that I will be looking at three series from three different authors that take place in three vastly different worlds, I will need to utilize a number of methodologies when analyzing and critiquing the nature of the political rhetoric used in them. Thankfully, Philips’s article has given me a much more clear idea of McKerrow and Foucault.

Sullivan, Dale L. “Keeping the Rhetoric Orthodox: Forum Control in Science.” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 2, 2000, pp. 125–146., doi:10.1080/10572250009364690. – Sullivan’s 2000 article argues that scientific journals have the ability to practice a system of forum control in order to maintain orthodox views in scientific publishing and research. In Sullivan’s words, “Although techniques of forum control are necessary, they are, nevertheless, exercises of political power, and they are sometimes used in unethical ways.” (126). In order to prove his argument, Sullivan lays out the four methods by which he believes this control is being maintained: peer review, denial of forum, public correction, and published ridicule. Each of these categories includes well-reasoned and researched information about the world of scientific publishing.

Sullivan’s article is incredibly useful, given that it hits directly at the heart of my work with Open Access. Unlike the other articles in this bibliography, this article ties together rhetoric and scientific gatekeeping in one place. Sullivan describes his four methods of forum control in great detail, listing many of the arguments and scenarios that Open Access opponents use. Interestingly, this article was written at least 5 years before the debates about Open Access started to truly heat up. I can’t necessarily say that this source is unbiased, given that Sullivan is calling out the scientific community about its publishing practices, which could lead one to believe that Sullivan himself has been the victim of such forum control. Having said that, Sullivan accomplished his goal of relating the truths about academic/scientific publishing and the inherent problems in that system.

Clearly, this article fits right into my research. It has been helpful to me in the past and I know it will continue to be so in the future. The biggest argument that Open Access opponents use when discussing these kinds of journals is a perceived lack of peer-reviewing or inadequate peer-reviewing. Sullivan points out that “Despite the value of peer review in helping to secure relevancy, it can also be seen as having a coercive effect on writers. The review process drives authors toward reinforcing the dominant view of the discipline” (129). While no one is saying that peer-review is unnecessary, Sullivan makes a good point, which I will be using in my own work in the future.