Saturday, April 4, 2009

As I read Victor Vitanza's "'Notes' Towards Historiographies of Rhetorics; or the Rhetorics of the Histories of Rhetorics: Traditional, Revisionary, and Sub/Versive" and his attempt to track down the history of writing, rhetoric of history, historiographies, etc., the image of a terrier chasing a rat down a garden maze comes to mind. The rat of course being writing history. Vitanza attempts to latch on to this elusive relationship, without being either a strict materialist or a waning relativist. In fact, Vitanza approaches this enterprise with a wimsical thumbing-of-the-nose towards resolution and acknowledges the impossibility of obtaining a firm grounding. Vitanza doesn't deny the existence of a grounding. He is not so naive. The whole point of his project is to recognize the various types of groundings and accept their ongoing shiftiness. Vitanza makes a turn as the class cut-up, refusing to align with either the proletariat or the petty bourgeoisie. Alignments with one academic castes or the other is beside the point for vv. The historical methods he notes are:
1.Traditional Historiography
This is where writers of history do not really acknowledge how ideology informs their historical account.
2. Revisionary Historiography
This is where the history writer is self-consciously ideologically informed. They use rhetoric so they can correct "misinformed" historical perceptions.
3. Sub/Versive Historiography
Here the traditional views of history are subverted and revisionary histories' totalizing claims to explanatory power are held suspect. Sub/versive historiography rejects authoritarianism and disciplinarity.

Tharon Howard in "Who 'Owns' Electronic Texts?" makes several important points, mainly that copyright protection and intellectual property are little understood concepts by most academics, thereby putting intellectual production at risk. This weakens research and damages ethos. Howard argues that learning the rules governing fair use is an essential project if academic production (especially in the humanities) is to thrive in new media. He asserts that practically everything has been claimed as intellectual property except "truth." This is a subversive historiography. Howard demonstrates a self-awareness of his positionality and wishes to shed light on the subject of electronic texts. Moreover, in the title of his article Howard shows how the notion of "ownership" itself is not necessarily a mutually agreed upon concept.

Edward P. J. Corbett in "What Classical Rhetoric Has to Offer the Teacher and the Student of Business and Professional Writing," the teachings of Aristotle are outlined regarding the direct appeal to the audience emotions. This historiographic method comes across as though there is a direct unproblematic relationship between the subject to the object, and approaches the historical account of Aristotle with a matter of fact "what happened happened" ethos. This is naive. Here is an example of this traditional historiographic method: "Style was never just ornament for the clasical rhetoricians, even though they might admit that an elegant style could adorn an otherwise lackluster text" (70). Corbett reports this "fact" -- actually makes an unconscious interpretation about the classical rhetoricians -- as though he were there and could actually know.

James P. Zappen in his article "Francis Bacon and the Historiography of Scientific Rhetoric" asserts that the ways the 20th century interpretations of Bacon's science and rhetoric is derived from a Puritanical world view. He (re)defines this scientific rhetoric with having a positivistic science style that is very plain, or has an extremely institutionalized science style that is very high-figured, or has a democratic scientific rhetorical style that draws upon the traditions of Puritan reformers as exemplary of plain style. This is a revisionary historiography because it is concerned with correcting misinformed ways of seeing Bacon's writings.