Should We Name the Tools? Concealing and Revealing the Art of Rhetoric
Keynote video available
Carolyn Miller 2010 CRC Keynote
Presentation slides available here
Miller talks about the notion that rhetoric must be concealed to be effective. She explores two background assumptions: 1) that human relations as adversarial (suspicion, spontaneity, and sincerity) and 2) that language is mimetic. A theory of mimesis stresses that language should not be concealed, but if it is, its concealment must be concealed. She argues that the first assumption supports the second… in order to be believed, we must hide the fact that we are using language, reducing suspicion by appearing spontaneous and therefore sincere.
Miller asks what rhetoric’s public and educational role be under these conditions, and whether “the tools” should be “named” or exposed. She argues that rhetoric has been concealed by other names, including composition, cultural studies, and public relations, and explores the potential consequences of citizens becoming more critical consumers of messages and the potential re-active more careful construction of messages/performances. Miller discusses Lanham’s bi-stable oscillation (looking through/looking at) and Schloman’s entertainment and critical modes.
Miller ends with “Rhetorica docens must name the tools, rhetorica utens must conceal them”
This presentation was based on a forthcoming book chapter: “Should We Name the Tools? Concealing and Revealing the Art of Rhetoric.” The Public Work of Rhetoric, ed. David Coogan and John Ackerman, University of South Carolina Press, in press.