Rhetoric


Interest (What is this for?)

Rhetoric

0.0 MARY: Considering now the function of interest – interests are the purposes participants bring to meaning, and the cross-purposes in their interaction. Interests of course can involve different roles, not just human interests, but things such as nature as well as sentient creatures in the role of animate self or other.

Interests can be expressed rhetorically, in programs that push towards sameness or difference, or in a seemingly objective world that has been constituted by a process we call reification. Patterns of sociability are expressed in antagonistic and solidary interests. And finally, the universe of interests is in a state of perpetual flux, where we can parse its movements, and on the basis of the parsing of these movements, we can make changes.

  • Reference: Kalantzis, Mary and Bill Cope, 2020, Adding Sense: Context and Interest in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 189-90, 193-94.

1.08 MARY: Considering now the function of rhetoric. Rhetoric is direct, explicit appeal. Advertising is rhetoric, political speeches are rhetoric, a conversation where a parent is trying to convince a child they should do something is rhetorical. A dog’s bark is rhetoric.

  • Reference: Kalantzis, Mary and Bill Cope, 2020, Adding Sense: Context and Interest in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 200-02.

1.25 MARY: Most theories of rhetoric are based on a transmission model of communication. Rhetoric is the business of successfully getting your message across. In this conventional view, rhetoric is a linear process, where a message goes from a rhetor who wishes to persuade to a recipient who may or may not be persuaded depending on the effectiveness of the rhetor in expressing their interest.

We have a quite different view of rhetoric. It is not about message transmission where the recipient ideally takes on board the rhetor’s persuasive views. It is about their enduring differences. It is not about successful communication in this sense. It is a dialectic where these differences play themselves through in transpositions between representation, communication and interpretation.

2.21 MARY: Here’s an advertisement. Catch this fast train, it is saying in 1938 – that is, if we look at this poster with an understanding of rhetoric that has focused on communication. Rhetor and recipient reach a shared meaning when the recipient agrees they might catch this train. This is the linear, shared-meaning view of communication.

In our view, the interests of the New York Central railroad company and the interest of the viewer are always different, and that is precisely the reason for the rhetoric. Their interests can never be aligned because they were never meant to be.

Also, there is no meaning without interpretation, and this will be as varied as interpreters and their contexts. Looking at this advertisement today, we might say, “nice train, pity it was cancelled forever in 1967.” Something about the rhetoric still works if you like the poster, but this interpretation would have been inconceivable for the poster maker.

  • Reference: Kalantzis, Mary and Bill Cope, 2020, Adding Sense: Context and Interest in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 202-04.

3.26 BILL: And now, two kinds of rhetoric, open and closed. To illustrate this, we are going to take you into two museums.

BILL: Here’s an exhibit on display at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. It’s called “Love Wheels” by Eloise Murphy, a member of a “guerilla crochet” group. She created this work at the time of a national referendum on marriage equality. She tied it to a post outside the Prime Minister’s house. In the referendum, 61% voted “yes,” 38% voted “no.”

The National Museum of Australia is heavily curated, with not too many objects, just representative samples of things it considers, to use its own words, “compelling.” Panels of text on the wall tell the museum-goer what they should be thinking. This single object was to represent the marriage equality referendum. But it is closed rhetoric in the sense that it does not leave much space for the 38%.

Not that this is a necessarily a bad thing – marriage equality is now the law, and the 38% had better get used to it. Our point here is simply that this is closed rhetoric, and at times there may be a place for that.

4.33 BILL: Now, here we are in the former Imperial Museum at Calcutta, opened in 1875 during the heyday of British colonial rule. Now it’s called the Indian Museum, but it feels like not much has changed since the museum was opened. There’s a room full of stuffed birds, all in glass cases. Then there’s a room full of minerals, a room full of fossils, a room full of Buddhas, apparently over 100,000 items by the time you’ve been the whole way through. There are tiny labels beside the objects, but not much explanatory text.

Ironically perhaps, this is more open rhetoric than the National Museum of Australian because it gives the visitor more space to make whatever sense they wish, the incredible range of native birds of India, the consistencies and changes in the representation of Buddha, striking rare minerals… whatever. And there’s just too much to find everything interesting. You have to make your own way, depending on your interest. But, like all museums, the design is rhetorical, just rhetorical in a very different way from the National Museum of Australia.

5.34 BILL: Here are just a few of the ways in which closed versus open rhetorics are expressed across the different forms of meaning. Some textual genres, for instance, are relatively closed, others more open. Realistic images leave less space for interpretation than abstract images - both are rhetorical, but in these different ways.

  • Reference: Kalantzis, Mary and Bill Cope, 2020, Adding Sense: Context and Interest in a Grammar of Multimodal Meaning, Cambridge UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 204-05.