Textual Criticism

Workshop Leader:

Jim Jasinski, University of Puget Sound

Karlyn Campbell concluded her essay “Rhetorical Criticism 2009: A Study in Method” by observing: “[Edwin] Black was right. There are no methods—only language and critics.” But in order to assess and/or explain language, critics need to engage it. They need to describe it. Since antiquity, rhetoricians have introduced and refined a vocabulary on which students of rhetoric—initially would-be orators and, in our world, would-be critics—can draw to identify and examine “strategic language choices” (Fahnestock, 7) and not so consciously strategic language practices and patterns. Jeanne Fahnestock’s Rhetorical Style: The Uses of Language in Persuasion (Oxford, 2011) is one of the most recent and comprehensive efforts to organize and explicate the rhetorical vocabulary relating to language and style, and it will serve as the workshop’s organizing text. Each of the workshop’s four sessions will focus on one of the book’s four parts.

Depending on the number of people participating in the workshop, participants will work in pairs or individually to lead discussion of a specific chapter (or perhaps small number of chapters). To facilitate collaborative engagement of the descriptive vocabulary, participants will identify and circulate in advance a practical text with which they are working or on which they would like to work (or a passage or passages from one or multiple texts). Participants will develop their grasp of the vocabulary through hands on collaborative analysis of the selected practical texts.

As Fahnestock acknowledges, other rhetoricians as well as scholars working in other “schools of language analysis” (9) have much to contribute to our ability to engage language carefully. Additional readings to supplement Fahnestock on specific topics will be identified once the roster for the workshop is established. The facilitator will also work with individual participants to help them prepare to lead discussions on specific chapters and descriptive concepts.

Questions should be directed to Jim Jasinski, jjasinski@pugetsound.edu.