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Tag: Rhetoric

The Yellow Wallpaper Anaylsis

The Yellow Wallpaper

This piece was a literary analysis of the first two pages of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, published in 1892.

This piece of fiction from The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman contains aspects of the mystery and horror genre. Narrated in first person, the writing style allows the audience into the most intimate areas of the persona’s mind. Deliberately using language which is disjointed and jumbled, Gilman paints a picture of someone who is trapped within an old house and a one sided marriage. As the passage progresses, the menacing nature of the house is brought to the forefront of the story, particularly seen in the persona’s reaction to the yellow wallpaper.

The passage starts with an informal and a conversational tone, it is clear that the persona either sees the audience as non-threatening or is unaware of their presence. The abundance of rhetorical question implies that the persona is in conversation with the audience; “Else, why should it be let so cheaply?” and “… Why have [it] stood so long untenanted?” The diction used in this passage is deliberately casual, with no words added which might challenge the reading capabilities of the average person. Bubbly quotes like “The most beautiful place!… It makes me think of English places that you read about…” builds the relationship between the audience and the housewife as they are hearing the innermost personal thoughts of the housewife and thus empathise with her.

The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

– Jeremy Bentham

The conversational tone is reflected in the general sentence structure of the piece. The constant thought interruptions from the hyphens and short sentences break the glossy flow of logic and delivery which is to be expected from most fiction. Instead Gilman’s breaking of the traditional paragraph structure mimics the bumpy rhythm of a face to face conversation. This unusual structure is a visual metaphor alluding to the confused state of the mind of the persona; as sentences seem to be sporadic thoughts instead of contributing to a linear narrative plot progression.

This unexpected transition from the innocent recordings of an annoyed housewife to a tale much darker in tone is accentuated in the disarming and personable nature of Gilman’s writing at the beginning. Humour especially is used to endear her to the audience, “So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is…” her clumsiness allows the audiences to relate to her situation of powerlessness. Likewise the persona is able to subtly chip away at the authority of the husband through the repetition of exaggerated ‘resignations to his advice’; “Personally, I believe that work… would do me good. But what is one to do?” These small moments of sarcasm are used to defang John, but also paints him as a stiff and joyless individual. During a moment where she is convinced this house has a “ghostliness” to it, “[John] said [what] I felt was a draught, and shut the window.” The humourous tone in addition to the light hearted subject matter of relocating to a new holiday house portrays the persona as someone who is preserving against small inconveniences. This changes in the final sentences of the passage, the morbid and sickly descriptions of the room heralds the unexpected emergence of the Gothic in a domestic environment.

Apart from using humour in order to convey the persona’s dissatisfaction with her husband, Gilman uses the hyphen to represent her two sided thoughts about him. On one hand, John is her husband and social expectations combined with John’s delicate care for her is appreciated; on the other hand being stuck in the top floor of this building evokes comparisons to Rapunzel. Out of a total of fourteen hyphens in Gilman’s passage, eight of them are used when discussing the topic of John and his dominating influence in her life. By intertwining John’s name with a physical break in writing, the persona conveys how ‘disruptive’ his presence is, but also hints at the possibility that she is suppressing a secondary opinion of her husband. Similarly John is mentioned in a lot of short sentence; “John is practical in the extreme.” And “I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes.” These short sentences echo a tone of finality as if John’s character can simply be summed up by a single word or adjective.

Throughout the passage, John is portrayed as the stark contrast of his wife, whereas she likes to indulge in fascinations of the mind, John is (cruelly) scientific and “scoffs openly at any talk of [such] things.” Gilmore’s linguistic choices reflecst the division between the couple; John and his wife are never spoken about as a single unit. The closest the audience gets to this is in the word “marriage” to describe their relationship (it appears once). Yet this word lacks the warmth that “family” or “lovers” carry, it’s simply used to signify their type of relationship and not the feelings attached with it. There are also no inclusive pronouns in this passage, instead the audience is constantly reminded that John and “I” are two different parties with two separate outlooks on life, “John laughs at me…” and “John says the very worst thing I can do is…”

This passage from The Yellow Wallpaper is very personal as the story is not filtered through the lens of an omnipresent narrator. Instead the audience is receiving her thoughts directly; thus firmly placing us on her ‘side’ regardless of her biases. It is only near the end of the passage, when this jumbled mess of thoughts is combined with the darker descriptions of the wallpaper that elements of horror and mental instability steep out from what seemed to be an ordinary tale of family tension.

Whilst the very start of the passage foreshadows the mysterious and Gothic nature of this house; “There is something strange about the house – I can feel it.” And “… I would say a haunted house…” The final lines of this passage are drastically different and really dispel away the tone of innocence from her previous ‘trivial’ ramblings. There is a very noticeable contrast between the room the persona wants with “… roses all over the window…” compared to the wallpaper which is “… repellent, almost revolting.” The words chosen to describe the room depict it as almost a living flesh wound on the building; “… a smoulder unclean yellow [wallpaper]…” and “It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.” This sense of the room being alive is also reflected in the personification of the ‘artistically sinful’ wallpaper that “… suddenly commit suicide.” The connotations of the words “sin” and “suicide” convey that the room is not just uncomfortable to look at but that there is something inherently evil or malicious about its nature.

The literary techniques used in this passage from The Yellow Wallpaper are effectively in accomplishing the goals it sets out to meet. The use of first person, simple and familiar diction combined with the plight of a mistreated wife charms the audience into allying themselves with the persona. However, only near the end of this passage, do the audience start to peer behind the veil of banter and good faith. The combination of imagery and personification presents the room as an animate object with its own frightening agency causes the audience to suspect the terror hidden within this building, but also the possible seeds of mental instability within the persona.

 

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The Curtain Call of Rhetoric

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Is Technology indistinguishable from Magic.

Rhetoric is something which is constantly evolving, it evolved under the Humanism movement, it defined itself against the scholastic movement and during the Industrial Revolution it became less and less important as economics opened up trade and communication amongst different nations with different languages. With the spread of the internet, rhetoric has also undergone changes as communication adapts to an increasingly shrinking world.

In my opinion, the internet has allowed unknown individuals to publish their thoughts anonymously meaning that ethos is becoming less and less important and instead there is a larger focus upon the strength of one’s arguments. Likewise powerful influences like situated ethos have been nullified by the internet as the author’s physical appearance and socio-economic status are hidden from sight. I also believe that pathos is harder to effectively implement and aggressive tactics such as intimidation would be poorly received as those rhetorical strategies often require face to face communication or at the very least the use of body language to subtly convey certain emotions and feelings.

I also believe that the main purpose of modern rhetoric is not to ‘persuade’ but rather to simply communicate or pass along a certain message or theme, this is due to the widening audience which can access a speech, article, essay, comment or picture. This means persuasion is harder than ever as the audience will have a wider spectrum of values and beliefs ingrained into them by their culture, thus simple and effective communication seems to be more important than ever as language barriers become more apparent than ever on the internet.

Personally I don’t see this evolution of rhetoric as something which destroys the ‘art’ or ‘soul’ of rhetoric, which is a form of knowledge or practice which has under gone many different transitions and likewise a 16th century rhetorician might of complained about the destructive capabilities of the printing press, something which is integral to modern society.  Instead I think it is necessary that rhetoric evolves along with the world so it does not become an outdated skill left to gather dust upon a bookshelf, void of all relevance.

One Language to Rule Them All.

In today’s tutorial we examined the power imbalance of different cultures in any given society and how there is an unspoken yet widely observed hierarchy within society which determines whether an action, word, gesture or belief is correct or incorrect. This was seen in the story of the Indigenous Australian who had a dream that he meet Elvis Presley and immediately and unfortunately I categorised him as uneducated or dumb because he used Indigenous Australian slang instead of ‘official’ and accepted forms of English. I guess that’s the beauty and flaw of language, the emotional connotations attached to words gives speech an intrinsic emotional underpinning and grounds our communication in authentic feelings. However this also means that unlike scientific discourse, there can be close to no objectivity since certain words will have different meanings depending on one’s context.

The connotations surrounding a word reflects one’s true intentions and labels like men and women carry with it certain values, expectations and stereotypes which society dedicates we follow and these values are grounded into the its citizens through constant repetition. It’s interesting that labels which should be completely objective such as Asian, Lebanese or Australian are also burden with specific associations.

The Knife Edge of Acceptance.

Whilst my discussion posts have generally incorporated my perspective and opinions, I have yet to create a post dedicated solely to myself and my experiences, but for week twelve, I think this is appropriate as next week will be my presentation, something I am definitely looking forward to! I plan to speak about male rights and how feminist discourse has meant that sexism against men is now seen as appropriate or acceptable. (I support feminism and I believe it’s done some wonder things to balance up the genders; however the fact I don’t feel comfortable publishing this thread without defining my position highlights how it has influenced social discourse)

A big part of the challenge will be ensuring that I have a positive ethos as advocates of male rights are generally pierced to be women haters and sexists with outdated views, if I am not about to present my speech without respect, restraint and class then my message will neglected and dismissed. It’s important that I assure the audience that don’t support the restrictive and sexist gender roles and I plan to predict and answer a lot of their concerns within my speech. I also want to word my speech so I can subtly pull the audience ‘over to my side’ and this is done by presenting myself as a moderate armed with sophisticated and relevant statistics and arguments to forward my point.

My main aim in my speech is to change society’s perceptions that men can’t be discriminated against which is as ridiculous as saying “white people can’t be discriminated against because most first world countries are white nations!” I want to start my speech off with something along the lines of… “Men are the leaders of society…” followed by “Women are the leaders of society” and if the audience reacts like I expect them to, then I will point to the hypocrisy in their reactions.

I’m definitely going to forgo intimidation and hopefully through a combination of statistics, good will, ingratiation and moderate language I will be able to present my topic without the label of misogynist slapped onto me.

“Master has given Dobby a sock! Dobby is free!”

I’m glad that a course which was built around the concept of rhetoric did not neglect a speaking component, on a more personal level, these past week threes of presentations have been some of the most enjoyable tutorials I have ever been a part of, so kudos to the ENGL2652 tutors and teachers for assembling this syllabus.

I attended two different tutorials during the final stretch of tutorials and something I noticed within both classes was that every presentation except two was quite serious and focused on a topic which was legitimately a serious issue within society. This was the same for people’s ethnos, as most people tried to be well mannered, polite and respectable with only one speaker trying to use intimidation. I was originally considering doing a satirical and sarcastic piece on why Australia should implement the White Australia Policy or why homosexuality should be out lawed, I eventually decided to speak about discrimination against men, but it would of been interesting to see how a more ’emotional’ or ‘less standardised presentation’ would of functioned.

I also noticed that most of the topics were well suited towards the audience of young teenagers with a generally more liberal mindset, maybe it was to demonstrate good will or maybe the speakers were passionate about those certain topics, but a few I recall include banning Christmas, banning plastic water bottles and the dangers of consumerism.

It was my belief that logos seemed to be generally the most effective form of persuasion during these five minute presentations, not to discredit ethnos or pathos, but those aspects take time to build. Whilst a strong and well-timed statistic or fact only ‘required’ a short amount of time to present, meaning the speaker would of time leftover to expand upon their presentations.

Love, the Two Sided Sword

How do Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis and Walter Raleigh’s The Nymph’s Reply explore the theme of love through contrasting interpretations?

This essay heavily references Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis which you can read here and The Nymph’s Reply written by Walter Raleigh which you can also read here.

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“Thank you, I’ll say goodbye soon
Though it’s the end of the world, don’t blame yourself…Now
And if it’s true, I’ll surround you and give life to a world
That’s our own”

Love is an emotion which transcends all boundaries, since it is interwoven to the human experience and a foundation of humanity; many texts have tried to interpret the magnitude and consequences of love. Venus and Adonis twists Ovid’s classic tale to reflect the dance of love, the pushing and pulling between two parties, whilst The Nymph’s Reply emphasizes a cold and logical response to stifle a burst of passion.

In many respects Venus and Adonis could be read as a cautionary tale against resisting the natural temptations of passion and lust and the socially accepted practice of forming a stable relationship to create children. Adonis has reached the age of adolescent, the age where he can openly choose his future, whether that lies in the realm of hyper-masculinity or a reality where he embraces feminine emotions like love. Unfortunately Adonis’ obsession with the militant characteristics of masculinity such as being a soldier or hunting means his “heart stands armed in his ear.” Adonis views love in a logical and emotionless state and thus he is never able to understand its power to unite. He responds to Venus’ advances with more references to his violent and militaristic mentality “remove your siege from my unyielding heart/ to love’s alarms it will not ope the gate.” Adonis’ fixation on the unattractive elements of love ultimately leads to his demise, this epyllion warns about the dangers of forsaking love and delving too deeply into masculinity. On the other hand, The Nymph’s Reply pushes a different agenda, emphasising the benefits of choosing logic over love, believing that desires to reproduce or fall in love are foolish.

Unwilling and unable to succumb to the weakening effects of love, Adonis is consumed with slaying a boar, a symbol of uncontrolled masculinity and reckless passion during the Renaissance. Blinded by his need to prove himself, Adonis forsakes one of the foundational pillars of humanity; the ability to forge and maintain sophisticated and complex relationships. Another interpretation may view Adonis’ death as a warning against homosexuality since one is straying into a relationship deemed ‘unnatural’ since “thou art bound to breed.” This reading is reinforced by the description of the boar as the “loving swine” who had attempted to “nuzzle” with Adonis and merely wanted to plant a kiss on him, the sexual connotations hinting at a possible romance. The tusk “sheathed in his soft groin” emphaises how homosexuality can be dangerous. It symbolically destroys Adonis’ manhood; as homosexual relationships are inherently unable to create new life, necessary to maintain the human species.

The Nymph’s Reply explores the theme of from a different angle, unlike Venus and Adonis which warns about the dangers of isolation and failing to build a connection to others, the Nymph completely rejects the notion of love. Because human life is finite, promises of love and passion will only echo true in the moment, for the Nymph such rhetoric only serves to hide the suitor’s lust. This is echoed in the statement “If all the world and love were young/ and truth in every shepherd’s tongue” the hyperbole sorely contradicts the sombre reality of an imperfect world where the nymph and her suitors live in. An imperfect world where idealistic emotions fall on deaf ears, where promises of fidelity ring hollow.

The Nymph shares a similar opinion to Adonis, believing love to be an intrusive force, powerful enough to strip away one’s independence. The vast majority of the poem involves the Nymph scientifically and methodically refuting the shepherd’s words, “Times drives the flocks from field to fold… Rivers rage and rocks grow cold.”  In the Nymph’s Reply there is a clear focus upon winter imagery, purposely contradicting and countering the connotations of spring, hope and growth found in the shepherd’s response. This is also reflected in “The flowers do fade, and wanton fields/ to wayward reckoning yields.” The physical gifts like gowns, caps and a bed of roses promised by the shepherd “soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten:” the repetition of “soon” further reinforces the fragility of love and how promises of faithfulness, which were once full of joy and gratitude will deteriorate. The decay of natural objects is a metaphor for the fading feelings that humans will inevitably experience. Unlike Venus, who tries to persuade Adonis to have sexual intercourse with her because life is short, beauty will eventually fade and thus one is charged to enjoy and relish their youth. The Nymph sees love as rather pointless, a superficial and trivial feeling which cannot and will not survive the passing of time.

The Nymph stands as the traditional symbol of the Petrarchan mistress, being virtuous and beautiful in one sense but cruel and unempathetic on the other hand. But in Venus and Adonis, this role which is typically reserved for the female is filled by Adonis, highlighting how love and passion respects no boundaries like gender, age or culture. The uncontrollable desires and consequences are shown to bringing out the animal savagery within people, transforming the noble goddess into a fierce and violent eagle. Unsatisfied with Adonis, Shakespeare gives us a gorgy description of Venus’ pursuit “Tires with her beak in feathers, flesh and bone… devouring all in haste… till gorge be stuffed or prey be gone.” The morphing of characters are poetic techniques trying to capture the selfish and destructive capabilities of unchecked lust or passion. These emotions have the ability to transform a human being into whatever it wills, where that is an animal, a flower or be the catalyst for an incestuous and borderline paedophilic relationship.

It is through these animal metaphors that, Shakespeare’s presentation of love starts to match the Nymph’s Reply, “Now quick desire hath caught the yielding prey… I’ll be a park and thou shalt be my deer.” By degrading Adonis to a prey and a deer, the possessive and selfish motivators in love are revealed; Venus’ words are inspired by lust, which is inseparable from love or passion. The extended metaphor of Venus’ body as a park and Adonis as a small, insignificant animal trapped within, further reinforces the one sided nature of love, the negative qualities which the Nymph spoke off. The crippling repercussions are so strong that even the god of love and fertility has fallen victim to her own domain, as Shakespeare paradoxically writes “She’s love, she loves, yet she is not loved.”

There are many similarities and differences between the two texts, as they both try to explore the diverse topic of love from various perspectives. Venus and Adonis focuses upon the push and pull of two people. Whilst it stresses the controlling and damaging aspects of love, if Adonis embraced love, he would have been ultimately saved. The Nymph’s Reply on the other hand aims to purely point out the unreliable nature of love as it attempts to cover up lustful intentions, the Nymph’s responses pushes the belief that love is superficial in a superficial world.

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The Gusto of Dale Peterson.

[If you are interested in reading another political orientated rhetorical piece with a similar format and style on Obama’s Yes We Can Speech, then click here]

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One of America’s foundations is its democratic political system, a system where supposedly every American citizen will have equal say in their government. These unalienable rights were guaranteed in the American constitution and thus politics is heavily intertwined with the American conscious. Dale Peterson, a Republican born in the state of Georgia, is an individual who wants to run for the mayor of Georgia and is using social media to gain supporters of his cause. Whilst his video is geared towards Republican viewers and in particular southern voters, overall it is a moderately effective piece of propaganda. There some questionable choices within this video which hurt Peterson’s ethos and strained his emotional connection with the audience. Like most other short political advertisements, the main focus is on establishing a positive ethos whilst using pathos to vilify opposing parties. The small amounts of logos found within this video is both a strength and a flaw and most likely a result of the time constraints since the advertisement is approximately a minute long. Whilst watching Peterson’s video, one must remember that his message is specifically aimed towards a certain demographic. Whilst I may not connect with his context or his beliefs, this should not impact my judgment of the advertisement’s effectiveness.

Fostering a positive ethos is an essential part in creating rapport between the orator and the audience; it disarms any suspicions or concerns which they might have originally held. It is obvious that Peterson derives a large portion of his identity from his sense of American patriotism, a trait that he uses to establish a common connection between him and his primary demographic; southern Republicans. In order to build up ‘good will’ with the audience, Peterson appears in a cowboy outfit thus subtly reflecting southern values through his style of dress. He presents himself as someone who is socially adjusted to the cultural values of his target audience instead of an intruder who is ignorant about the local traditions. Further attempts to reinforce his invented ethos are reflected in the non-diegetic music playing through the advertisement, it is triumphant and heroic and it is clear that Peterson is trying to attach these qualities to his persona. Part of creating a positive ethos is understanding that one’s actions or context will be linked to one’s persona or characteristics, otherwise known as the ‘fundamental attribution error’. By starting the video with a photo of the Declaration of Independence; Peterson is building a metaphorical bridge between himself and one of the most influential documents ever, a symbol of justice, freedom and liberty. This patriotic connection to the foundation of American society portrays Peterson as a strong minded individual capable who is also heavily invested in the idealism of the American nation.

On the other hand, there are many flaws in Peterson’s propaganda video and its polarizing nature means that it basically ‘preaches to the choir’ and only appeals to a selected audience. Whilst his outfit and his southern colloquialism may create a sense of familiarity to voters with a similar context, it may repel voters who cannot connect with his invented ‘redneck’ and ‘country’ ethos. Likewise at the end of the advertisement, Peterson refers to himself in third person, “Dale Peterson says click here to check out our website” which shows an extreme level of narcissism. Personally, this was the point when his ‘confidence and charisma’ became less endearing and more annoying. The presence of Peterson’s inflated ego damages his ethos as audiences become suspicious of his motives; is political power his ultimate goal or does he sincerely wish to serve the community? Aristotle commented humans are self-interested creatures and thus audiences tend to gravitate towards people or parties where mutual trust and benefit underlines the relationship. Peterson’s condescending tone caused me to question his leadership skills and his integrity.

Part of being a skilled orator involves the manipulation of pathos in order to get the audience to emotionally invest into their message. A lot of political campaigns and advertisements choose to use pathos instead of logos since I believe that with time constraints, logos is the hardest aspect to effectively incorporate into a text. This is because ethos and pathos can be conveyed through something as simple and subtle as dress and music. Logos, however, is most effective when it is supplemented by verified facts and statistics, which can be very time consuming. Thus to some extent I understand Peterson’s inclusion of unsupported premises and cheap insults towards his political opponent; Roy ‘King’ Barnes. Statements like saying Barnes associates with “thugs and criminals” and “you know why they call him King Roy? Because he thinks he’s better than everyone!” are a quick way to smear one’s character. However most viewers will notice that Peterson’s campaign is built upon his personality and that the total lack of inartistic logos removes a lot of the creditability behind his message. Peterson also tries to create mistrust between the American public and Barnes in the statement “send King Roy back to home to his castle where he can’t do Georgia anymore harm.” Personally I think this sentence is more effective than the previously insults because it is a pun on Barnes’ nickname. Also, this sentence alludes to Barnes’ commitment to aristocracy and monarchy rule, a system which is foreign to America political culture. Personally whenever I analyse Peterson’s invented ethos in the advertisement, I see the connections between him and the ‘Walt Whitman’ archetype. There is an attempt to present himself as rugged and intelligent, grounded yet active within the larger community, all values and traits held in high regard by American society.

Rhetoric and the art of persuasion were first developed over two thousand years ago but it still remains important and relevant in today’s society. Dale Peterson understands the basics of rhetoric yet lacks the subtlety of an experienced rhetorician. Peterson’s biggest flaw was catering only towards a small and specialized demographic; southern Republicans, in particular those who associated with the ‘cowboy’ persona. This may result in a large majority of the American public rejecting his message purely because of his invented ethos. Another issue within the video was the complete lack of logos and the cheap unfounded insults on Barnes’ character, giving audiences the impression that Peterson is both childish and immature. However I understand that in some cases logos is not as effective as playing upon emotions like fear, respect and prejudice, especially in a scare campaign. However an aspect that Peterson effectively exploits is the overwhelming sense of patriotism within the video, by embellishing and almost flaunting his nationalism, he is trying to build a link between himself and the American people. Unfortunately the strengths within this piece of rhetoric couldn’t undo the flaws and Peterson is no longer an active political candidate in Georgia. Also these advertisements have been transformed into viral internet jokes because of his overly obnoxious character and his over indulgence into conveying American stereotypes.

Subtle Rhetoric. (A Dime A Dozen)

martin_luther_king

“Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”

These following submissions are part of my Rhetoric course at the University of Sydney, I’m required to submit around 80-100 words every week as a requirement to pass my course. (obviously my submissions completely broke this word ‘limit’…) Hopefully, this is an enjoyable read as it details my thoughts on rhetoric, it’s uses and how it effects society.

Friends, Romans, lend me your ears!

Intangible Consumerism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work is very similar to the lecturer who believed that fundamentally language is about quotations and paraphrasing and thus there can be no real sense of creativity since the medium used to translate the ideas are socially constructed.

This made me question the purpose and the legitimacy of copy right or patenting, is this just a method for companies to store up ideas and inventions? Are ideals like trade mark and copy right just a product of a consumeristic society? Or is it used to heighten one’s ego? Giving their words or beliefs legitimacy because of their association to an idea or item that is recognised as their ‘personal’ production? Personally I think capitalism, pride and financial gain are the three biggest contributors to a world where intelligence and ideas can licensed.

Lost in Translation.

As the world becomes more and more connected with the rise of technology, the distinction between cultures and nations have been blurred with the internet becoming a powerful medium where people can experience a wide variety of texts. There has always been critics of translated texts, personally I am a big fan of anime (Japanese animation or cartoon) and there’s a huge split down the community about the authenticity about translation animes.

However just like translation can take away from a text, it can also add meaning which may be more relevant to the audiences. In some ways translation can be compared to adaptions, such as Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann, which took a traditional text can placed it into a different cultural environment, though no one questions the validity or the purpose of those adaptions. My views on translation has been directly influenced by something my year eight English teacher talked about; The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes. Whilst this may be influenced by my relative mentality, I believe that once a text is created, the author loses their position of authority on it since different interpretations of the same event, book, and sentence etcetera will be supported by varying experiences, all of which are just as valid.

I guess it is up to individual viewers to decide whether they value complete ‘authenticity’ or the injection of a ‘foreign’ perspective.

Apples and Oranges.

In today’s tutorial the class (spear headed by Benjamin) discussed how national perceptions are social constructions within involve the participation of the said nation along with the international communities which all contribute to the final image. In some ways this could be seen as the situated ethos of the nation which is an accumulation of the perceptions and surrounding stereotypes around a nation. Despite the statistics (logos) which reflect the modern, technological society that most Australians live in, the typical belief that all Australians are Caucasian surfers with blonde curly hair who are also ironically desert dwellers exist.

Though instead of pointing how the creation of beliefs and perceptions are a joint product between multiple parties, I think it’s interesting how societies will always define themselves in comparison to other nations. Australians share a lot in common with the British, a similar language combined with a capitalistic society with democracy as its social foundation. However Australians proudly uphold the ‘Crocodile Dundee’ image whilst the English will joke about their fetish for tea and biscuits.

This is another issue I have with the media, it’s over simplistic rhetoric is both manipulative and false. It aims to present easy to consume stories and images for the busy and largely ignorant masses. These over generalisations will often reinforce the already socially accepted stereotypes and thus trapping society in a dangerous cycle of self-delusion.

Rhetoric and how we word and portray ideas is important my friends.

Is Technology indistinguishable from Magic.

Rhetoric is something which is constantly evolving, it evolved under the Humanism movement, it defined itself against the scholastic movement and during the Industrial Revolution it became less and less important as economics opened up trade and communication amongst different nations with different languages. With the spread of the internet, rhetoric has also undergone changes as communication adapts to an increasingly shrinking world.

In my opinion, the internet has allowed unknown individuals to publish their thoughts anonymously meaning that ethos is becoming less and less important and instead there is a larger focus upon the strength of one’s arguments. Likewise powerful influences like situated ethos have been nullified by the internet as the author’s physical appearance and socio-economic status are hidden from sight. I also believe that pathos is harder to effectively implement and aggressive tactics such as intimidation would be poorly received as those rhetorical strategies often require face to face communication or at the very least the use of body language to subtly convey certain emotions and feelings.

I also believe that the main purpose of modern rhetoric is not to ‘persuade’ but rather to simply communicate or pass along a certain message or theme, this is due to the widening audience which can access a speech, article, essay, comment or picture. This means persuasion is harder than ever as the audience will have a wider spectrum of values and beliefs ingrained into them by their culture, thus simple and effective communication seems to be more important than ever as language barriers become more apparent than ever on the internet.

Personally I don’t see this evolution of rhetoric as something which destroys the ‘art’ or ‘soul’ of rhetoric, which is a form of knowledge or practice which has under gone many different transitions and likewise a 16th century rhetorician might of complained about the destructive capabilities of the printing press, something which is integral to modern society.  Instead I think it is necessary that rhetoric evolves along with the world so it does not become an outdated skill left to gather dust upon a bookshelf, void of all relevance.

The Essence of Rhetoric. (A Dime A Dozen)

David_-_The_Death_of_Socrates

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis Davis.

These following submissions are part of my Rhetoric course at the University of Sydney, I’m required to submit around 80-100 words every week as a requirement to pass my course. (obviously my submissions completely broke this word ‘limit’…) Hopefully, this is an enjoyable read as it details my thoughts on rhetoric, it’s uses and how it effects society.

Friends, Romans, lend me your ears!

Has Rhetoric Sinned?

Is Rhetoric inherently bad or good? Is Rhetoric simple persuasion? A gentle nudge towards a certain stance or is it blatant manipulation where the strong orators reign supreme and unchallenged? There was a belief that rhetoric often failed to add anything of value and instead a rhetorician would just twist the truth for self-gain. However I see the study of rhetoric as a beautiful field of knowledge which like any skill or information can be used for positive or negative causes (extreme amounts of pathos incoming), much like how a bird watcher doesn’t study birds so they can shoot them down.

I feel like some of the greatest moments in history are have been blessed by rhetoric, Martin Luther King’s skillful manipulation of rhetoric to promote civil rights for citizens of colour. The spectacular and elegant writing found in the American Declaration of Independence to haunting words that Socrates uttered just before his execution are held up to the pinnacle of rhetoric. All of which have left a mark on mankind because of the elegance of the speaker or the sophistication of the chosen words.

Is manipulation really so bad? Isn’t that exactly what any text or any piece of literature does? Movies are deceptive because the audience assumes the camera to be their window into another world, so camera angles and lighting which all evoke different emotions within the audience are subconsciously accepted. One of my favourite quotes in V for Vendetta is “Artist use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up”, one could argue that the I Have a Dream speech adds no new information, but I would disagree, rhetoric unlocks the potential found within language, turning it into a tool for good or bad. The question is with any information…How will society use this tool?

How Far Can You Take Relativism? 

Context is everything. The third tutorial focused primarily upon the referent and signified and signifier and how the omnipresent context which surrounds every individual affects all interpretations. If the meaning of words and phrases can be altered based on their subjective context, then why can’t this view can be extended towards morals and beliefs?

Plato’s cave is a fantastic example of this which highlights how meaning of a word, event, action etcetera will be based on one’s position. Applying this relative position onto morals could you argue that ‘evil’ things like murder and human sacrifice are can be deemed ‘okay’ or ‘understandable.’ Unless we were to conclude that there wasn’t a single person who was moral during the Aztec empire or prior to the Thirteen Amendment. Whilst I believe theoretically you cannot claim authority on subjective matters like what is morality? What constitutes evil? I believe that relativism is impractical for building a society upon, as acts like murder, rape and thief must be punished. I guess that begs the question, if philosophy and human thinking was given a choice, should it walk down the path of pure idealistic logic or practicality?

Love, Hate Relationship.

Intimidation and integration are two rhetorical methods both with their positives and negatives and their specific uses for an orator. Both are heavily intertwined with ethos and one must consider their ethos and purpose before applying either of those tactics. Intimidation is the tactic of building up authority and using that sense of power and knowledge to belittle one’s opponent. Generally it can be said that orators who attempt to use intimidation will have to be more aggressive, and will have to actively assert their status on the argument. Thus one’s status must be considered before attempting this tactic since there are heavy consequences if implemented incorrectly. For an example, if a person with low status or with a history of being a ‘push over’ used this tactic, this will be very ineffective.

Ingratiation can be considered the opposite of intimidation, where instead of trying to actively push one’s authority onto the audience, integration is supposed to build a connection through pathos. Other ways to create a connection between the audiences include “As we all know” and “I think we’ve all felt …” Likewise ingratiation should generally not be used by people with high status, since it blurs the line between the audience and their level of ‘professionalism.’ Ingratiation can sometimes empower the audience whilst ‘dis-empowering’ the speaker since the orator aims to portray themselves as one of the majority.

Obama’s Yes We Can: Rhetorical Analysis. (A Dime A Dozen)

Question: The purpose of this exercise is to apply rhetorical analysis techniques to a published argument in any format. (1000 words)

(To all my American readers, please understand I am writing in Australian English, thus the spelling may differ slightly, this is done intentionally since I am submitting this piece to an Australian university)

If you are interested in reading another rhetorical analysis I wrote about another American politician, the click here.

Barack Obama’s election in 2008 symbolised a change in American culture and social thinking. For a nation which had prided itself on equality and freedom, Obama’s presidential victory marked the first time a non-Anglo-Saxon man had taken office. His now famous Yes We Can speech was addressed to his Democrats in Chicago, an audience who generally sided with leftist liberal thinking. This aspect he clearly uses to his advantage in his speech. In addition to building upon a very favourable ethos, the speech attempts to use pathos to connect with the audience by uniting them through a shared sense of patriotism. The celebratory nature of the speech meant that logos was rarely used, however this was a deliberate choice and arguably strengthened the speech. The Yes We Can speech is an outstanding example of a highly skilled orator’s ability to persuade, manipulate and influence an audience.

Fostering a positive ethos is an essential part in creating rapport between the orator and the audience; it disarms any suspicions or concerns which they might have originally held. Obama, a shrewd politician attempts to emphasise his American patriotism in order to establish a common connection between him and his primary demographic; liberal Americans. He does this by standing in front of American flags, dressed in a suit, a symbol of power and might particularly in the western world. In order to create trust, it is important to establish the essence of ‘good will’ in one’s character, by presenting himself or herself in a friendly and respectful manner to their audiences. In doing so Obama gives the image that he is someone who understands the culture of America’s traditions. The appearance of the Obama family on stage is also done in order to highlight his role of the ‘family man.’ By portraying the most powerful man in America as a relatable middle class man, Obama is subconsciously trying to establish an emotional connection between his projected ethos and the audience.

Obama’s efforts to maintain his American ethos is reflected within his speech as well and clearly he has a strong understanding of his target audience. Obama taps into this stream of patriotism in the quotes “who still wonders if the dreams of our founders is alive in our time” and “a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this earth” By referencing the most influential and respected men in American history, Obama is building a metaphorical bridge between himself and these men who stood for the American ideals of justice, freedom and liberty. By quoting Abraham Lincoln; a man whose roots come from the city he is speaking in, Obama is able to lend credibility to his ethos by associating himself with a past president. Obama is also connecting his presidency with the romanticized American past and ideals and gives the notion that America will continue to stand as a beacon of hope against tyranny and injustice.

A skilled orator will be able to manipulate pathos in order to get the audience to emotionally invest into their message. Whilst pathos lacks the science and reason which logos presents, the ability to inspire is an immensely powerful tool to create social change. The underlying sense of nationalism is evident in the quote “let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility” and “our stories are singular but our destiny is shared, a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.” Within both these quotes, Obama transcends the physical by giving the impression that his election victory stands as a watershed in American history. The hyperbole whips the crowd into a frenzy since human nature instinctively longs to feel like it has contributed to something that surpasses them as an individual. The allusion that Obama requires the full participation of the nation to bring about change is a nod towards the democratic foundation of America. It also builds trust between the audience and himself as now there is a feeling of mutual benefits which underlines both parties’ relationship with each other.

As a politician it is important to sustain the support and loyalty of the nation. Obama’s Yes We Can speech attempts to reach out and connect with every demographic especially the Republican voters who have yet to show allegiance towards Obama. This is seen in the quote “it’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” Understanding that the audience was mainly comprised of Democrats who usually hold a more liberal perspective, there was a huge roar of approval when Obama mentioned “gay.” By reaffirming the values of his target audience, Obama was able to reinforce the credibility and his ‘good sense.’ By specifically mentioning every demographic, Obama is attempting to create a personal relationship with all Americans and highlight the inclusive and welcoming nature of his liberal government. It should be noted this quote is strangely reminiscent of the lists within Whitman’s poetry; Whitman the quintessential American poet believed that lists was a democratic method of presenting information.

Slowly there is build-up of emotion within Obama’s speech until the energy peaks, resulting in a release of emotions as the crowd chants “yes we can.” This crescendo of emotion continues as Obama promises them that the “timeless American creed” combined with united support from his followers will overcome all external difficulties. “When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself… Yes we can” By alluding to times of crisis before quickly presenting his presidency as the solution, Obama convinces the audiences to emotionally invest into him as a symbol of hope, presenting himself as the more attractive alternative juxtaposed to famine and poverty. Obama’s word attempt to rejuvenate a nation when notions of American supremacy was rocked by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

The Yes We Can speech stands as a testament to the power a skilled orator can hold over a crowd and how the arts of persuasion and communication created in Ancient Greece still influences today’s modern society. Whilst most speeches contain elements of pathos, logos and ethos, Obama decided to largely forgo logical arguments since they were already explored in the speeches leading up to his victory. However this doesn’t weaken Obama’s message, in fact the strong themes of hope and persistence may have revitalised the nation during a bleak period of financial collapse. Personally I believe this speech stands as the crowning moment in Obama’s political career, it was beautifully constructed and delivered even more powerfully. Reflecting how a great orator can cut across the social division within a community and inspire all with their words.

Chingy out.

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