Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera describes her struggle to find/maintain her cultural identity while it was continually being invalidated by American culture. However, at home, American culture was not valued. Hence, she could never be accepted in either or home culture or American culture. To negotiate this state of neplanta – being torn between two cultures – Anzaldua creates what she calls a new mestiza consciousness that moves back and forth between cultures and identities, allowing each to exist without negating or devaluing the other.
This text provides a revolutionary concept for negotiating identity that serves as a model for identity rhetoric. Anzaldua’s concept of neplanta and new mestiza consciousness provides a framework for the work I want to do on negotiating both Appalachian identity and academic identity. What stands out as the biggest difference between the two is that Anzaldua could refer to herself by race, while Appalachians cannot. I think this makes a huge difference in how I will approach this discussion. Appalachians can mask their identity, Anzaldua cannot. But Appalachians also don’t have the same terminology Anzaldua has to speak about her identity because they lack the terms developed for discussions of race and ethnicity. More later . . . in my Semester Project!
The first thing I notice about “The Laugh of the Medusa” is the image of the Medusa itself, which Bizzell claims is meant to resemble female genitalia. I love that the Medusa or the vagina is laughing because it reminds me of Sonia Johnson’s assertion that the best way to react to the ridiculousness of men and patriarchy is laugh — it doesn’t merit a serious reaction. However, the Medusa is a monster, much like the way females are perceived, i.e. Aristotle’s woman as a perversion of nature. Later, Cixous notes that men relate death with the feminine sex because “they need to be afraid of us” (1531). Again, I am reminded of Sonia Johnson, who believes that men hate women because 1) they are not women, 2) all “feminine” qualities that men had as babies and children are stamped out of them by society and men are incomplete without those qualities, 3) men know that if women realize their power, they will no longer participate in patriarchy, thus men lose power. In an effort to explain how to realize and reclaim that power, Cixous focuses on how women can recreate themselves and their bodies through writing them — writing her self.
Booth seems to set up an ideology that counters Derrida’s in Modern Dogma and The Rhetoric of Assent. He attacks the idea of assent. In our society, we believe things that have not been proven false instead of only believing things that have been proven true. This method is practical; for example, “we needn’t give ready credence to any report – of ghosts . . . that does not in some degree fit our own experience” (1502). To me, this echoes feminists such as Sonia Johnson’s claims that every person is an authority on themselves and their lives. We must no longer accept that women should be caretakers and stay-at-home mothers/wives and other long-established norms. We can make our own norms, and we don’t have to believe or participate in something just because it hasn’t been proven untrue. Booth specifically mentions the problem with binaries such as those in socially constructed gender definitions: “What an adult man or woman is, in all societies, is in large degree what other men and women have created through symbolic exchange. Each of us “takes in” other selves to build a self” (1506). Not only does this question the existence of only two genders, it questions the existence of gender at all, much like Judith Butler. Gender is a social construct!
Derrida takes Foucault to the next “deconstructible” level. He claims that “language does not mediate our relationship to a more or less knowable world” (1471). Instead, “our knowledge of the world is constructed from language” (1471). Thus, to deconstruct the world, or understand the whole by its parts, we must deconstruct a text and “adopt a style that resists the habit of assuming truth’s presence behind language” (1472). Unlike the new critical theorists of the past, Derrida argues that the context cannot account for meaning because we “can’t come to settld notions about the condtions of meaning” (1473). So, like Foucault, truth is ever-changing. Derrida’s theory of deconstruction also relies on the ideas of binaries: (man-woman; black-white) and as modern feminism tells us, binaries are not accurate (what about the third in-betweeen sex, the hermaphrodite) and that the idea of binaries makes us rigid in our thinking and fearful of other “third” options.
Foucault discusses power – who has the power to make certain claims and why they have that power. The excerpt here from The Archaeology of Power and The Order of Discourse provides just a preview of how he will examine those power structures, a preview that makes me want to read more.
However, the preview in these texts show that Foucault believes that author, meaning, and knowledge are a function of discourse, not the source. Thus, the death of the author. However, the author does exist in some capacity because only certain people have the authority to use language to do what they think is “making” knowledge. For Foucault, however, no one is a maker of knowledge, language is not an empty vessel waiting to be filled by an author, it carries its own meanings.
I can’t wait to see what Foucault says about what determines who is authoritative!
The excerpt from Toulmin’s The Uses of Argument mainly explains the structure of arguments. So briefly:
A claim is based on data
A warrant establishes a connection between claim and data
Backing is further support for a warrant
Claims sometimes have qualifiers such as surely, likely, perhaps
A rebuttal presents conditions that would suspend the claim
So here, I have the basic structure for what I taught in Composition II – the elements of a sound argument.
What was more interesting to me is Toulmin’s claim that “Absolutism errs in assuming there are no eternal standards of truth” and “Relativism errs in assuming there are no standards at all” (1411). Toulmin is also a proponent of truth (little t truth versus big T Truth). So there is a standard of truth, but those standards are ever changing depending on the time, situation, participants, etc. This leads into Toulmin’s thoughts on syllogisms such as Aristotle’s eternal:
Socrates is a man;
All men are mortal;
So Socrates is mortal.
While this syllogism is a standard move from a singular to a universal premise, Toulmin claims that “apparently innocent forms used in syllogistic arguments turn out to have a hidden complexity” and to understand the complexity, we must “disentangle two distinct things – the force of universal premises, when regarded as warrants and the backing on which they depend for their authority” (1423). While there was not enough explanation for this statement, I think this claim leads into the concepts of stereotyping found in all types of marginalizing practices such as racism or sexism since it takes one singular premise and moves it to a universal one. It reminds me of the ever-perpetuating:
Person A is of this race;
All persons of this race do this;
So Person A does this.
While the second premise is most likely a false one (not all people of all races do the same thing), but it is a commonly used syllogism, one that we label stereotyping.
“Rhetoric is cognate with language” -Weaver
Weaver claims it is “impossible and ridiculous that the utterances of man could be neutral”; the word “neutral” means that the utterance would have no purpose and/or is not an attempt to persuade someone to do something. I remember my professor telling me this almost two years ago, and now I am fully realizing just how true it is. I often try to explain this concept to my husband when we have discussions. Sometimes, when I am frustrated with something he says because I don’t understand what he is trying to achieve by saying it, I ask him: “what are you trying to achieve by telling me this?” Usually, he says “nothing.” But of course, every utterance has some purpose whether the utterer realizes it or not. Even just uttering a fact such as: there is a 3-car-pileupon the interstate, has a purpose — to encourage drivers not to attempt to drive on the interstate. Does it say that? No, but what other purpose could such a statement have? Well, it actually depends on the audience. If you are stating this on a radio broadcast, it probably has the purpose stated above. If you are stating this on an emergency call to 911, it has the opposite purpose.
This brings us to audience, Weaver and Perelman both bring it back to audience, where it used to be thousands of years ago. But this time, Perelman gives us a new insight: there is no such thing as a universal audience. This idea has led to a many changes in the field of composition. Because writing to a universal audience is impossible (the only true universal audience is the imaginary one we construct in our heads), compositionists insist that instructors give their students a specific audience to address in each of their assignments. This allows students to make judgments about every aspect of their writing based on expectations for their audience. Of course, those expectations are not always accurate (how could they be?), but it is better than telling a student to “write this so everyone can understand it.”
I did notice that Weaver and Perelman both seem to believe that there are certain authoritative sources, which conflicts with feminist rhetorical theory. But, at least they call into question truth. They both claim that there is no truth — they are truth instead of Truth people! There is no objectivity because every utterance has a rhetorical purpose! So at least they are on their way to being feminist.