Thursday, September 6, 2012

A rhetorical peach

During one of my ambient discussions with dear Les, it turned out that we seem to be hailing from different canons. Not the "blast things to smithereens" kind of canon, mind you, but the more academic version. The one where names may or may not convey certain meanings, depending on whether they are included in the canon or not.

For some reason beyond my internalized canonical comprehension, the name of "Vatz" didn't resonate. And thus, I felt an imperial impulse to make up for this lack.

The thing about Vatz is that it's a point of opposition to another name, Bitzer. And to get the gist of what Vatz was about, one has to start with Bitzer. It all started with Bitzer doing his thing, which Vatz then responded to - and ever since their famous back and forth, their names have become synonymous with the two standpoints on the conditions of discourse production that they put forth.

They are, by the way, still at it. A thought that makes me smile every time I think about it.

Bitzer said that the range of possible discourse is limited by the objective conditions that happens to be whenever someone has something to say. Depending on who, when, how, where and what, the rhetor has a range of rhetorical options available to pursue. It is therefore up to the rhetor to identify and adapt to these conditions and adapt accordingly - failure to do so is a failure to communicate effectively.

In short, the situation determines discourse.

Vatz, on the other hand, didn't quite fancy this proposition. He countered by saying that the conditions that the rhetor rhetorizes in is changed by the act of participating in it, and that the range of rhetorical options available depends on what the rhetor makes of the situation. By employing various tactics, the situation can be transformed in such a way as to make certain discursive actions possible.

In short, discourse determines situation.

The opposition of these two fellows is a very useful teaching tool. Firstly because people engaged in dramatic fighting engages the students to take sides - and once they're invested, the learning comes that much easier. And also because it makes them think about the set and setting of discourse - what matters when one wants to say something?

It's also useful when one wants to produce discourse in general. One can ask the question - am I doing a Bitzer or a Vatz? Do I have to adhere to the given rules, or can I freebase it and do my own thing?

I would argue that blogging is very much about doing a Vatz. But that is the topic for some future adventure. -

No comments:

Post a Comment