Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cicero, McLuhan, Kairos

Thinking about the Kairos call for webtexts on the relevance of classical rhetoric to new media composition. Reading McLuhan on Cicero, the notion of encyclopedic eloquence, the training of citizens / princes, McLuhan's reading of Machievalli and Ramus as a narrowing and instrumentalizing of that tradition, in contrast to Cicero, Erasmus, and Nashe. McLuhan cites Joyce, Eliot, and Pound as the great rhetoricians / poets in the 20th century, so where does that leave us in the 21st century? David Byrne, Hillman Curtis, Laurie Anderson? I just went to Laurie Anderson's site for the first time and found out that she was NASA's first "artist in residence" in 2005, and that her newest work comes out of that experience. Without knowing any more than that, i know that there is a McLuhanesque article on the "two worlds," on Anderson translating the scientific experience, on tuning the public to the scientific endeavor that increasingly seems dangerous and perhaps pointless rather than exciting, brave, new.

For Kairos: as Sirc has shown us, we need to expand out understanding of composition beyond our narrow and specialized conversations or we risk losing the range and variety of human expression. I worry about offering up Byrne and Anderson because I worry about the "genius" status, but I don't think either would accept that label, but they both exhibit 21st century encyclopedic eloquence, an eloquence that is not high brow although not always accessible. To the extent that they can teach us and our students anything, Byrne's PPT has clearly shown us that the medium is the massage--students just don't massage in the same ways. Anderson is perhaps less accessible; i'll have to revisit her work. What does it mean that at 37 I am re-learning all that I new at 17? Look at the roadblocks my education and myself put up.

Students in the sciences, engineering, even business exhibit the same kinds of passion, curiosity, and amateurism as students in the humanities, who are equally susceptible to specialization, narrow-minded ness, and fragmention.

Anthony has been talking about the canons of skills, derived from Scholes canon of methods. Scholes is probably working in the Ciceronian tradition; collaboration with Ulmer on TextBook, I believe.


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