Monday, November 15, 2010

Response to Reading Seventeen

The Rhetorical Tradition describes the meaning of Modern and Post-Modern Rhetoric. I found it quite interesting to compare these contemporary understandings of rhetoric with more classic approaches. I came to realize that there are far more similarities than differences. Whereas the mediums in which rhetoric is displayed are quite varied from one period to the next, the content and delivery is not all that unique. Though I tend to think that society wants rhetoric to have progressed dramatically since the ages of Classical Rhetoric, I really do not think that it has. What worked in the fourth-century B.C.E. -- including the five classical elements and three rhetorical appeals -- are still applicable, perhaps with a slightly modern twist.

I was quite fascinated between classical themes of oration and those of modern politicians who often utilize oratory methods. Press releases a far cry from textbook-based rhetoric that plagued post-Gutenberg printing press eras. After this advancement, the tradition of oration was somewhat lost because it was no longer necessary. Rhetoric developed an audience of readers rather than listeners; rhetoric was first for text, then – only maybe – for speech. However, required business skills of the 20th century ignited newfound interest in teaching speech and presentation skills. “The speech course [continues] to be quite popular with students for whom the ability to speak confidently, both on the job and in community life, may be as important as the ability to write well” (“Modern” 1186). Such education has persisted into present day and has dramatically influenced modern rhetoric. Speech is now a commonplace in academic, political, and professional arenas. Press announcements are highly reflective of a society that encourages oration, specifically in the realm of politics. Academia has helped to solidify the penchant for beautifully delivered speeches as society’s marker for success.

Whereas the earliest forms of rhetoric depended on group involvement and collaboration, modern rhetoric values individual ethos. Political upheaval in 1960s and 1970s America effectively worked to prioritize personal thoughts over popular opinion. “Personal writing, the individual’s search for an ‘authentic voice,’ was regarded as a form of opposition to the impersonal and oppressive Establishment…” (“Modern” 1185). This trend is still echoed in modern politics as personal statements of opposition are those most loudly heard and appreciated by citizens. Contemporary society is far more individual-centric than existed in Aristotelian times. Personal expression is a prominent marker of modern rhetoric, as it was only dubbed acceptable within recent decades.

Whereas statements of opposition are best relayed through individual testimonials, audience applicability is equally important in modern rhetoric. In modern rhetoric, personal statements rouse groups of people in resistance to or defense of something while embracement and connection actually motivate people to take action of these assertions. Unity is necessary in modern rhetoric to affirm community support. Society demands not only a strong leader, but also one with a collaborative, inclusive cause.

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