The Methodical Memory: Invention in Current-Traditional Rhetoric
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
In this first sustained critique of current-traditional rhetorical theory, Sharon Crowley uses a postmodern, deconstructive reading to reexamine the historical development of current-traditional rhetoric. She identifies it (as well as the British new rhetoric from which it developed) as a philosophy of language use that posits universal principles of mind and discourse. Crowley argues that these philosophies are not appropriate bases for the construction of rhetorical theories, much less guides for the teaching of composition. She explains that current-traditional rhetoric is not a rhetorical theory, and she argues that its use as such has led to a misrepresentation of invention.
Crowley contends that current-traditional rhetoric continues to prosper because a considerable number of college composition teachers—graduate students, part-time instructors, and teachers of literature—are not involved in the development of the curricula they are asked to teach. As a result, their voices, necessary to create any true representation of the composition teaching experience, are denied access to the scholarly conversations evaluating the soundness of the institutionalized teaching methods derived from the current-traditional approach.
through the same steps to a knowledge of all the rest. (20) In other words, the methodical movement from the complex to the simple induced a native, elemental understanding-an intuition-that could not be questioned, apparently because of its irreducibility to anything else. Once the investigator had discovered this irreducible, elemental minimum, she had a basis from which to begin a systematic inquiry into the more complex features of any field. The orderly nature of this process reassured the
the logical reasoning process where proofs were cast into discourse. Watts conducted his discussion of analysis and synthesis under the head of natural method, since in nature the "knowledge of things which follow depends in great Measure on the things which go before" (34041). In other words, since the two varieties of natural method rely for their ordering principles on the relation of things in nature, they should be used whenever the object of discourse is discovery or instruction. Like many
have found the notion of the leading inquiry in the methodical literature. The publication of Coleridge's essays on method preceded that of the Practical System of Rhetoric by about eight years, and Watts' logic text was widely known. But method was part of the intellectual equipment carried about by most educated persons during the early years of the nineteenth century, thanks to its use in logic courses. Newman could also have derived the "leading object" by drawing an analogy with
in turn be exactly represented in grammatical sentences. For Rippingham, the proper inventional procedure was to "define the Subjects and O~iects 67 subject proposed, form an opinion on it, and state the reasons on which that opinion was obtained." For example, if "temperance" were the subject chosen by a student, she would first define it: "Temperance is the restraint of passion" (17). She then would add a predicate to this definition in order to indicate her judgment about it. When cast
any rhetorical act in a given community, and transfers discursive authority away from individual rhetors and onto the academy. Perhaps this presented a less serious ethical problem to Adam Smith, whose audience was relatively homogeneous. But the cultural backgrounds of the young writers who now populate American writing c1ass- 168 The Methodical Memory rooms are far from homogeneous. It is unrealistic, then, to assume that all of these writers bring the same mental equipment to the