Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ontological paideia: Articulating the value of rhetorical education in composition pedagogy
by Kopp, Andrew M., Jr., Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2009, 434; 3344245
Abstract (Summary)

Operating within the "new rhetoric" that emerged during the latter half of the 20th century, proponents of the process movement saw a contradiction in the current-traditional pedagogy: teaching toward product marginalized the valuable practices embedded in the processes of writing. The field of rhetoric and composition emerged as key figures worked to draw attention to this anomaly within the educational structures that had excised rhetoric from its curricula long ago. Despite the promise of process pedagogy, attempts to codify writing processes in order to better teach them permitted an unintended consequence: process pedagogy fell back into the very structures advocates of process sought to evade. The possibility of rhetoric remained inaccessible: so goes the post-process critique, a project which has called for more rhetorically infused theoretical work. However, because it precludes any notion of resting upon a foundation, post-process grants the field a peculiar theoretical impasse: its critical direction does not allow for easy pedagogical application of its insights.

In order to navigate the post-process theoretical impasse, I argue for an approach to composition pedagogy that emphasizes a performative and sophistic aspect of topical reasoning that when practiced challenges Cartesian self-certainty and works to transform subjectivity. Through communicating judgments of similarity and difference within any given situation, the performance of topical reasoning serves to either reproduce or transform the customary understanding of the rhetor's community; the latter is the exception, the former the rule within our inherited rhetorical traditions. Derivative of the efforts of Plato and Aristotle to discipline rhetoric, and especially following the emergence of the Enlightenment project, rhetorical traditions that exclude sophistic perspectives have continued to understand topics as codified sets of rules a rhetor simply follows to invent discourse, making the topics easily dismissible because invention had become a matter of reporting on reality or of following inner inspiration. While several projects to employ topics in composition pedagogy have emerged during the late 20th century—spanning process, post-process, and new rhetorical pedagogies—the performative dimension of topical reasoning has been overlooked, or left to the realm of theory because of its radical nature vis-à-vis university composition courses. Building from a Heideggerian reading of the topics, and through an extensive analysis of the sophistic pedagogic practices employed in a weekend seminar called the Landmark Forum, I work to develop a full understanding of topical reasoning as primarily performative, where only in risky moments of performance can one undergo an experience with language and so develop a rhetorical subjectivity receptive to recalcitrance while maintaining integrity to one's commitments. I claim that to "learn" topical reasoning requires a program of rigorous dialogic exercise, an ontological paideia, which calls for performances that revise identity and the networks of rhetorical relationships that reinforce identity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Mountford, Roxanne
Commitee: Hyde, Bruce, Kimme Hea, Amy, McAllister, Ken
School: The University of Arizona
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 70/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Language arts, Communication, Rhetoric, Education philosophy
Keywords: Composition, Composition pedagogy, Controlling values, Performative, Rhetorical education, Sophistic pedagogy, Topical reasoning
Publication Number: 3344245
ISBN: 978-1-109-00057-3
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