ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Arguments On Display: Conceptualizing The Museum As A Discursive Text

logo  2002-11. Introduction
Museums recently have come to be seen as particularly important sites for the examination of cultural values and knowledge (e. g., Bal, 1996; Bennett, 1995; Haraway, 1989). Through display and commentary, museums depict certain truths about the artwork, history, or artifacts they house; yet, such truths always are incomplete. Museums purport to reveal facts about people and places, culture and experience, but their truths are bound by the specific values of the era in which the museum is founded, influenced by the selective choices made by the curators, and structured by the museum’s architecture and design.
This paper builds upon recent inquiries in the fields of rhetorical and cultural studies into the communicative dimensions of museums by analyzing the discursive messages in a relatively new and different project: The Women’s Museum in Dallas, Texas. This privately funded museum opened in 2000, and significantly is the first national endeavor to tell the story of women in the United States. Hence, its means of establishing arguments about women’s activities, social roles, and cultural contributions are important to examine for what they reveal about how topics, themes, and events are articulated as significant in the public consciousness.
The rhetorical analysis in this paper focuses on describing and analyzing the communicative aspects of the museum. In essence, I conceptualize how the museum argues through visual and experiential means of presentation and interaction. The museum architecture, exhibits, and promotional materials are analyzed to reveal the patterns of language, imagery, and persuasive strategies embedded within them, especially as revealed by choices that include and exclude particular topics regarding women’s experience and history. The methodology employed is developed from several critical models, including those used in recent cultural studies critiques of museums (Bal, 1996; Bennett, 1995; Ferguson, 1996; McLean, 1999). The paper concludes with an evaluation of the social and political implications of the museum’s messages.

2. What is a museum?
In recent U.S. history, several museums have become sites of controversy. Of particular note are two incidents of public outcry in response to exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution, one about the Enola Gay warplane and the other a reinterpretation of art depicting the American west (Boyd, 1999; Dubin, 1999; Harris, 1999, Lubar, 1997; Yeingst & Burch, 1997). Both exhibits drew responses to what some segments of the audience perceived as anti-patriotic, revisionist, or liberal interpretations of the historical record. Such controversies indicate a deeper set of questions regarding the definition, purpose, and role of a museum. Two explanations can be gleaned from the literature of museum professionals and from that of critical and cultural studies. Both understandings of the museum are relevant to developing a critical analysis of the discursive dimensions of The Women’s Museum and similar public institutions. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – The Rhetorical Shift In Interviews: New Features In Russian Political Discourse

logo  2002-1The result of modern dynamic global changes in the world has created special interest in the communicative process as a means for overcoming certain prejudices and transgressing boundaries in modern societies. This transgression is connected with the development of new paradigms in discourse analysis, which allow seeing the meaning of words, public speeches and interviews in relation to the overall global context part of which they are. This becomes especially important when the speeches political leaders make and interviews they give become part of virtual communication via the Internet. Their speedy translations into English expand the audience to global size and we believe that the functional rhetorical impact is not limited to direct actors of the interview situation.
We chose the genre of the interview as a subject of our paper because of its great potential in disclosing the interactive strategies of the participants and pragma-dialectical features of the resulting texts, the study of which, as we’ll attempt to demonstrate, can further develop the argumentation theory. Besides, this type of communication is connected with the what is known as source approach (McNair, 1995, XIII).
In the Oxford English Dictionary, the interview is defined as a “face to face meeting for the purpose of a formal conference, between a representative of the press and someone from  whom he wishes to obtain statements for publication”. The genre of the interview appeared in the US in the middle of the 19th century. Two eminent figures are credited for having invented the interview: Horace Greely, editor of The New York Tribune, and James Gordon Bennett Sr, the proprietor of The New York Herald.
The rapid development of this genre in mid-nineteenth century came as a result of many factors, the most significant of which was the new perception of public figures. According to Christopher Silvester, the editor of The Norton Book of Interviews, “The interview created for the reader an illusion of intimacy with celebrities” (Silvester, 1996, 5). He calls the interview “a broken-backed form of discourse which is necessarily partial” (op. cit., 3).

At the same time, “the interview technique grew from the familiarity of journalists and readers with verbatim court reports” (op. cit., 4). Therefore, from early on the form of interview has been earmarked by its connection to the court procedure. As will be shown below, its rhetorical structure still retains the idea of the two competing parties in a situation similar to the one in the courtroom. The difference lying in the fact that there are has two “consistent isotopies in legal discourse: its legislative level and its referential level” (Greimas, 1990, 102-106) whereas we have in the interview one referential level.
Rhetorical approach is connected with the pragma-dialectics as a theory and we follow the idea that the Aristotelian norm of successful persuasion is not necessarily in contradiction with the idea of reasonableness. Thus formal (a-rhetorical) approach is not necessarily looked upon as contradictory to anti-formal – functional, contextual one. Frans van Eemeren and Peter Houtlosser write of three levels of manoevering. “Rhetorical manoevering can consist of making a choice from the options constituting the topical potential associated with a particular discussion stage, in deciding on a certain adaptation to auditorial demand, and in taking policy  in the exploitation of presentational devices” (Eemeren, Houtlosser, 1999, 165). Topical maneuvering in confrontation stage is conducive to the most effective choice among potential issues for discussion by restricting the disagreement space. Auditorial demand is creating a “communion” and by presentational devices following Perelman and Olbrecht-Tyteca new rhetoric concept, we believe that rhetorical figures attract attention and bring the change of perspective (Op. cit. 167). This changing perspective is of special importance to present-daypublic speaking in Russia. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Legitimizing Public Discourse: Civility As Gatekeeper

logo  2002-1[I]f there are times when dissent is appropriate and justified, [then] public deliberation cannot proceed strictly under the banner of mutual understanding. When the public’s form is fixed by a presupposition of consensus, the creative and generative elements of opposition are squandered before they ever appear. The citizen wakes up in a public, but has nothing to say (Erik W. Doxtader).

1. Introduction
The contestation of voices in contemporary public discourse has reached an impasse of a special type. While discourses themselves continue to foment, fragment, and reconstitute at a deceptively healthy pace, the conceptual grounds upon which they do so, the discursive sites of their activity, have stagnated. In so doing, these sites have inadvertently come to undermine the political efficacy of
1. the discourses they serve; and
2. speakers’ efforts to enact those discourses in local, productive spheres of influence. Uprooted from formerly fertile, now dessicated, soil, public discourse writ large has lost much of its rhetorical purchase and an equal measure of its practical strength. With both the sites of speech and speech itself compromised in this way, what remain to us are fractious, diluted schemas of “the public sphere(s)” or “civil society,” any or all of which are poor conceptual substitutes for vigorous and inclusive public deliberation among active citizens speaking in spheres of fruitful civic association.

So goes the line of argument we seek to explore in this essay, an essay which responds to widespread reports of theoretical dead-ends reached by theorists and critics who were once hopeful of framing spheres of public discourse in ways that might encourage inclusive forms of deliberation among engaged private citizens. Though we do not presume ourselves able to gerrymander the conceptual terrain of public speech in a way that would afford ideal breathing room for all, we do think it crucial to ask why it is that the most obvious and, in recent years, most lauded corrective to disintegrative public discourse, civility, has failed to make the difference that so many parties from so many quarters have expected it to make. In the interests of rhetorical pragmatism, we question civility at the scene of the proverbial crime: at sites of its application as the argumentative crown jewel of contemporary rhetorical theorizing’s pet project, civil society.
Contending as we do that efforts to promote civility as an ameliorative agent in civil sphere deliberation have failed in some crucial respects, we offer an alternative perspective on the problem, in hopes of establishing two claims. First, we seek to show how civility is intentionally or unintentionally wielded so as to silence oppositional or counterpublical voices in public contexts, thereby removing the very possibility of real “argument” from the equation. We find that this is most often accomplished by default, as efforts to apply “civility” directly in the service of real citizens’ real speech frequently fail. Second, and relatedly, we argue that civility’s sub rosa gatekeeping of what counts or does not count as “legitimate” speech in the civil sphere is both dangerous and deeply misguided. As we hope to make evident, our second claim is the unintended outcome of the failure of the efforts described in our first claim. That is, failing to apply itself to the meat of the deliberative problem in question, “civility” instead tends broadly to bracket one set of argumentative possibilities in favor of a simple but weak reinscription of another. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – A Prologue To The Pedagogy Of Judgment

logo  2002-1My title is the pedagogy of judgment, a subject I hope is of interest since reasonable judgments represent the desired outcome of most argument. And yet, the pedagogy of judgment is seldom addressed, either in textbooks or scholarship. Indeed, I may not make much progress toward the promised pedagogy myself, at least not in this paper. But I will try to give you some sense of what is at issue, and why I believe the topic merits attention.
This paper, then, is actually a prologue to the pedagogy of judgment. That is, like the prologue to a drama, I will introduce the major actors and a bit at their history; forecast the plot and its conflicts; but, at the risk of frustrating the natural desire for catharsis, I will stop short of resolution, or even of predicting if this drama ends in consummation or defeat. Of course, to end so abruptly is to admit to uncertainty about the very possibility of instruction in judgment, especially in a post-modern world rife with incommensurate paradigms and unsure about shared standards for adjudicating controversy. As a result, this particular episode ends with the lead players in the wings, and with no Prospero to point the way to an eventual dénouement. Whether or not my own uncertainty is a sign of a more general aporia remains to be seen.
The first task of a prologue is to set the stage, which, in this case, means introducing Judgment itself, the hero of the drama, whose credits are impressive, but whose recent accomplishments may not be generally familiar.

Let’s begin, then, with the division of Judgment into three kinds:
1. a human faculty that enables sound decisions,
2. the process or procedures that result in such decisions, and,
3. the outcome or objective of the process, the actual verdict rendered.
My guide here is Edwin Black, who develops this trio through a review of the term krisis or judgment in Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Along the way, Black works to distinguish krisis from opinion and belief by arguing that Aristotle might have posited either of these alternatives as the goal of rhetoric; but instead, he explicitly states that the end or telos of rhetoric is to make it possible for an audience to render sound judgment. In turn, Black argues that such judgments issue from systematic practices that can be identified, whereas opinions and beliefs are too obscure to influence. Consequently, our initial distinction is that Judgment (at least in its classroom role) is first of all a process by which we deliberate controversial claims and arrive at sound decisions. If this process is, in fact, systematic and identifiable, then it should be teachable. But this also remains to be seen. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – Pragmatic Functions Of Korean Proverbs As Topoi In Critical Discussion

logo  2002-11. Proverbs and critical discussion 
Proverbs have many practical functions in every day conversations. According to the dictionary, a proverb usually expresses simply and concretely, though often metaphorically, a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of mankind. This description, of course, explains the meaningful characteristics of proverbs, but it is not sufficient for our purpose. We are going to focus on more practical uses that a proverb has especially in critical discussion.
Critical discussion is a type of discourse that purposes to resolve the differences of opinions about issues. In the process of critical discussion, argumentation is needed that is a verbal and social activity of reason aimed at increasing (or decreasing) the acceptability of a controversial standpoint for the listener or reader, by putting forward a constellation of propositions intended to justify (or refute) the standpoint before a rational judgment (van Eemeren, et al. 1996: 5). A proverb in critical discussion does not only express a truth but also justify the standpoint advanced by the participants.
One of the major precedent studies on proverbs as patterns of argument is Goodwin and Wenzel (1979). They turned their eyes to the strategic values of the proverbs in coping with some relatively common human problem or situation like Burke (1957). The proverbs and patterns of argument that they suggested are substantive argument (sign, cause, parallel case, analogy, generalization, classification, statistics), authorative argument, and motivational argument. Their classification is really invaluable in understanding the function of proverbs as kind of argumentative schemes, but they lacked the dialectical perspectives, which we can find plainly through the data they used, you know, they depended their research on a proverb dictionary.
In order to understand the move of argumentation, I analyzed the real television discussion transcripts. Television discussion is a sort of argumentative discourse, which deals with current issues to be resolved by the participants who have differences of opinions with each other. They sometimes use proverbs to justify their standpoints or persuade the opposites. I expect that the uses of proverbs can explain some practical and cultural aspects of critical discussion.

2. Pragma-dialectical approach to a critical discussion and topos
A topos is the “place” from which the attacker can get his arguments. Some translations of the word topos stress its “topographic” nature: “places,” “argument place,” “location,” “search formula.” A topos, however, is also a rule, law, or procedure, and this is what is stressed in other translations of the word ‘topos’: “argumentation scheme,” “argumentation schema,” “argumentation technique,” “procedure” (van Eemeren, et al. 1996: 38). They use the term “move” instead of topos including these two aspects. In this paper, however, I am going to use the term topos as having similar meaning with “places” and “move” in order to highlight the fact that they are kind of idioms registered on dictionary and that they function as premises in a critical discussion.
A pragma-dialectical approach purposes to evaluate argumentation, which purposes to resolve the differences of opinions, through the procedure of the discourse.  In order to evaluate argumentation, we have to reconstruct the argumentative elements and judge the soundness of the speech acts in ideal norms. We happen to meet the difficulty in managing the proverbs that function as topoi in presenting the analytical overview of argumentative discourse. Read more

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ISSA Proceedings 2002 – American Itsesensuuri: A Typology Of Self-Censorship In The “War On Terror”

logo  2002-1According to an old cliché, the first casualty of war is the truth. However, when bullets start flying, dissent and debate often follow closely behind as early victims of military expediency. This is due in part to the fact that public debate is made possible by contingent norms that change with shifting circumstances. In peacetime, democratic nations identify with the processes of open argumentation and public dialogue as unifying notions that reaffirm the citizenry’s shared commitment to foundational principles such as free speech and popular sovereignty. Yet these commitments are often reassessed and deferred when war breaks out.
Numerous examples of wartime censorship reveal this as a routine phenomenon in U.S. history. Consider the Alien and Sedition Acts; the Truman administration’s loyal-security program; and information control during the Persian Gulf War (Schrecker, 1986; Moynihan, 1999; MacArthur, 1993). Each of these measures hushed war dissent by increasing direct governmental control over public discourse. In the terminology of Michel Foucault (1977), this type of overt censorship was leveraged by the “juridical power” of the state, with critical dissenters subjected to criminal penalties under the law. But for every muckracker punished under these wartime regimes of speech control there were probably hundreds of other potential critics who practiced self-censorship, holding their tongues in fear of being branded as unpatriotic or even traitorous.
In contrast to top-down forms of state-mandated censorship such as prepublication prior restraint or satellite “shutter control,” self-censorship results from tacit agreements between authority figures and potential critics that the “higher-order conditions” for argumentation do not obtain in a given milieu (see van Eemeren, Grootendorst, Jackson & Jacobs 1993: 32-3). From a Foucauldian point of view, self-censorship is thus an especially “efficient” form of wartime speech regulation, because it can be effected through circulation of “disciplinary power.” In contrast to the overt display of juridical power by the state apparatus, disciplinary power – here manifested in the ability to mobilize mass voluntary consent – is more discrete and diffuse, while also being more ostensibly consistent with norms of democratic governance.

While instances of overt government censorship in the current U.S. “war on terror” are relatively infrequent compared to previous wars, as the war drifts beyond Afghanistan, public argument is constrained by overwhelming polling data in support of the war effort and a deliberative straightjacket imposed by the Bush administration’s edict that the world sorts tidily into two camps – “with us or with the terrorists.” This dominant argument formation contributes to what Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann (1993) calls a “spiral of silence,” where pervasive self-censorship instills widespread quietism. Noelle-Neumann explains that poll-driven Western democracies experience spirals of silence when super-majority opinion survey statistics surpass their apparently neutral function as carriers of public opinion and become coercive tools of social control. The danger of voicing viewpoints outside a narrow band of acceptable consensus opinion grows. Private sanctions and penalties for dissent escalate. A hush of criticism is drowned out amidst a cacophony of agreement. Ruth Flower, director of public policy for the American Association of University Professors, contrasts this dimension of the current spiral of silence with chilling of dissent during the Cold War: “There are some things here that hearken back to McCarthyism. But this is different, because it is not the government telling the public what it can and cannot say. This is more a matter of public sentiment dictating behavior” (qtd. in Fletcher, 2001, October 30). Read more

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