Personal and Public

In Turning Composition Toward Sovereignty, John Schilb discusses the lack of publicly-oriented rhetorical scholarship in the English and Rhet/Comp journals (as editor of College English he would have some sense of what’s going on out there). He theorizes that our use of Foucault’s shift of the discussion of power from sovereignty allows us to place our emphasis on agency instead.

I think he’s spot on regarding the lack of attention to the use of rhetoric in the public sphere, but this is ground I believe we long ago ceded (through passivity, I would wager) to our colleagues in communications in favor of focusing our resources on the first-year composition enterprise, an endeavor that is much more greatly helped by considering agency as a fundamental concern. I find his use of “Composition” in the title interesting as it suggests the producing, not analyzing, side of the discipline.

I’m energized as I consider Schilb’s piece, though, because the use of rhetoric in public discourse is of interest to me, so much so that I wandered over to the Communication department at UGA to audit a doctoral seminar on Kenneth Burke during my doctoral studies; I was hungry for a discussion of the frameworks governing conversations. The more I think about it, the more I wonder whether it would be good for me to dip my toes into that water professionally.

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