Mere Rhetoric



A podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that have defined the history of rhetoric.


  • RSQ--Journal Roundup!

    20/08/2020 Duração: 13min

    What do a mid-century photographer, a fresh new work, politics and poop jokes, solitary confinement and a music video all have in common? Why it must be time for a rhetoric journal roundup! This week we are going to take a little journey through the quarter’s last issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly, otherwise known as the RSQ. The RSQ is the official publication of the Rhetorical Society of America, otherwise know as the RSA. So the RSA published the RSQ and now it’s time for the intro for you-know-who!   [intro]   Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who shaped rhetorical history and I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve finally finished the spring issue of the RSQ.   Before I give you a summary of this quarter’s issue, let me just give you a little context on the RSQ. The RSQ has been rolling out for decades and is probably one of the most prestigious and longest-running journals for rhetorical studies. If you become a dues-paying member of the RSA--a

  • James Berlin “Contemporary Composition: the Major Pedagogical Theories.”

    11/06/2019 Duração: 10min

    Some time ago, I was asked by listener Sarah Rumsey to do a podcast on composition theory. That’s a doozy of a topic, so I read a lot, I poked around, even pulled together a couple drafts, but couldn’t find the balance of breadth and depth to do this subject justice. So I gave up.   Ah, clever listener, you know I didn’t really give up, because this is Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history and I am Mary Hedengren and instead of trying to capture the entire depth of rhetorical theory thought I could just rip off someone who did.   Granted, the “did” in this case happened way back in 1982, when rhetoric and composition was still a young discipline, but the “someone” is James A Berlin, namesake of the Conference on College Composition and Communication Jim Berlin pub crawl. In addition to, I guess, being a man who could hold his liquor, Berlin was a composition historian and in 1982, he took stock of the current field of com

  • The Rise of Writing (Deborah Brandt)

    16/01/2019 Duração: 08min

    Welcome to Mere R the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, ideas and movements that shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary H and if you grew up in the eighties and nineties, like I did, then you might remember a series of posters in your school and public library. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker,A-Rod and, of course, Lavar Burton would be posed with a book, smiling, encouraging you to read. They were all readers, and so should you, because being a reader was a worthy identity.     Deborah Brandt, in her decades of interviews with people of all walks of life, found that being a reader had very different connotations than being a writer. Readers were feted, writers were suspect; readers had clubs, writers had isolation; reading was receptive, writing was productive. However, in Brandt’s latest book, The Rise of Writing, she finds something changing--our definition of literacy is swinging from readers to writers.     The subtitle of her book is redefining mass literacy, and that’s just what he

  • The Other Eight Attic Orators: Antiphon

    21/02/2018 Duração: 10min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’d like you to think a little about the types of writing you’ve done in the past, oh, let us say, year. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably written breezy email, stern syllabi, obscure academic texts and pun-based posts on Reddit that didn’t get nearly the number of upvotes as they deserve. Now what if a random, oh, say 12% of what you wrote was preserved and no one who knew you was around to testify you wrote it all? What would people think about your writing style? About your history? Would they even know you who were you?   This is precisely the mystery behind today’s Other Eight Attic Orator, Antiphon of Rhamnus. Like many of us, Antiphon may have written a variety of texts. He was a logographer, one of those professional legal speechwriters, so he probably wrote dozens of defenses for the rich and powerful in his social circle. He also

  • The Meaningful Writing Project

    08/02/2018 Duração: 07min

    Welcome to MR the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history   It’s the start of another semester, which, for me, means a season of wonder. I wonder about who my students will be. I wonder whether my schedule will be crushingly busy. Mostly, though, I wonder how my students will react to the syllabi and assignments that I have lovingly crafted. Will they understand the instructions? Will they learn what I hope they will? Will they find it meaningful?   Many compositionists have wondered these same questions and have argued about what kinds of assignments are best for students--digital or analog? Open-ended or directed? Reflective or projective? The authors of the Meaningful Writing Project,Michele Eodice, Anne Ellen Geller, Neal Lerner , had similar questions. But instead of pontificating, they just asked the students themselves.   And, boy howdy, did they! They surveyed students at a varied of schools--big state, small private, research and c

  • Steven Mailloux--Rhetorical Power

    11/12/2017 Duração: 06min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the people, terms and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and I’ve been reading A Christmas Carol this holiday season because I’m playing Mrs. Crachit in a community theatre production. And wow. There is a story behind that. But becaue I was interested in The christmas carol, so I started reading The Man Who Invented Christmas, Les Standiford’s history of Dickens’s masterpeice. I was surprised to hear how A Christmas Carol had solidified Christmas as we know it, a home-and-family holiday rather than a racacus drunken orgy of disrule. Yeah, Christmas used to be like that. In fact, there was a debate about Christmas raging over several centuries when Scrooge came on the scene. After Dickens, though, industrialists started giving their employees Christmas Day off, and everyone started sending their workers the ubiquitous Christmas turkey. Robert Louis Stevenson, upon reading Dickens’s Christmas Carol first cried h

  • Inventing the University--David Bartholomae

    14/11/2017 Duração: 07min

    [intro] Welcome to MR the podcast for beginngs and insiders aboutt he ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren. This last week I graded my students’ rhetorical analyses. For many of them, this was the first time they had been asked to write a rhetorical analysis and this assignment always makes me nervous. I give them sample papers. We practice writing a rhetorical analysis together. We discuss in depth examples and abuses of ethos, logos, and pathos, but many of them struggle tremendously. I know I could write a 3-page rhetorical analysis in 20 minutes; why do my students take hours and still fail the project?   David Bartholomae wondered, as I do, how students approach projects they’ve never been asked to weigh in on before. In my students’ case, they just barely learned what “ethos” is--how are they supposed to assert how it impacts a particular audience? Writing in the early 80s, Bartholomea, like a score of composition scholars like Mina Shanessey and Linda Flowe

  • Halloween special: Freud, the Uncanny and "The Sandman"

    25/10/2017 Duração: 23min

    Weeeeellllcommmme to Meeeeeereeee Rhetoooooric! It’s our annual Halloween episode, which means a little bit of the people, ideas and movements who have shaped rhetorical history, but mostly a ghost story. This year, we’re going with our first not-MR-James story. Don’t worry--there are still intials--but first--to business.   If you’re going to talk about ghost stories and influential thinkers, you won’t dig long until you come across Freud’s contribution, a little piece called “The Uncanny.” You might not peg Sigmund Freud as a connoisseur of boogeymen, but he was capital-f freaked capital-o out by ETA Hoffmann’s story “The Sandman.” If Hoffmann’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you know him from writing the story of the Nutcracker ballet. Look at that--our annual tradition here at Mere Rhetoric just founds 3-degrees of separation to every ballet company’s annual tradition! Anyway, the Sandman is a freaky sci-fi horror tale that eventually inspired another ballet called Coppelia. The original is e

  • Engaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines Podcast

    18/10/2017 Duração: 07min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and every semester, I feel like it’s New Year’s Day. “This semester,” I say, “everything’s going to be different.” I revise my classes, everything from switching two minor assignments to rehauling the entire curriculum. I try to create assignments that will catch my students’ attention, prepare them for their other classes, and, because I teach dozens of students, be interesting to grade.   But how do I know if the assignments I find interesting are effective? Or even that the students will think they are interesting? In Engaging Writers and Dynamic Disciplines, Chris Thaiss and Terry Zawacki explore how students learn to write in their majors, and how instructors write in their disciplines. These two things are not synonyms. Disciplines are dynamic, even before you account for all of the interdisciplinary work that goes on between them. Thaiss and Zawac

  • The Other Eight: Andocides

    11/10/2017 Duração: 07min

    Andocides (An-DOS-id-dees) Do you remember in the 90s when there was this huge “thug life” thing going on? Shady types getting money doing shady things. Andocides, the 5th century BCE rhetor, would have fit fell into that world. Even though he may have been acquainted with Socrates, he was more interested in roving with his friends of rabble-rousers. He was born to wealth and lived as what one editor called “a hot-headed young man-about-town with more money than sense” (321).   His carefree life came to a hard stop after a significant act of vandalism. Andocides was accused of multition of the Herms right before an Athenian expedition against Sicily--exactly not the time that you want to get the gods mad at you. Everyone was shocked. The act was seditious and blasphemous.  Athens could forgive some offences, but not parodying the most intimate religious beliefs on the eve of war. The act was seen as an affront against democracy from exactly the kind of rich snobs who would want to consolidate power. Numbers

  • College Composition and Communication

    04/10/2017 Duração: 08min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. Uh, I guess including recent history, because today we’re going to talk about the February 2017 issue of College Composition and Communication as our “journal of the month” summary. This issue, as editor Jonathan Alexander points out, “takes up the notion of the ‘personal’ in a variety of ways” (436), departing from what we might think of as “composition as usual.” The articles in it include thinking about students who are full-time workers, students who have disablities, and indigenous methodology.   College Composition and Communication, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is one of the grand old dames of composition journals. It came about way back in the 50s as a summary of the conference on college composition and communication and many of the early issues were just summaries of what happened in the conference, so that you could follow along at home. The conference itself w

  • Self: Technology and Literacy in the 21st Century

    20/09/2017 Duração: 09min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and today I want to start with a walk down memory lane   Remember laser discs? You might not be old enough to, but I do. I remember my seventh grade science classroom had a laserdisc player and we watched just a couple of films, brilliantly bright documentaries about butterflies or some other medium-appropriate topic. I don’t remember the topic, only that it was beauitlful. But I do remember that we only had the two laserdiscs, partially because they were expensive, but partially because in just a couple of years, DVDs would become widespread and accessible.   How about mini-discs? I definitely had boxes of minidiscs I had recorded from cds--I could get a cd and a half  onto only one mini-disc!--and I could listen to seemingly endless music at my college early morning janitorial job. It seemed very impressive--until I bought my first iPod.   This is fun.

  • Roberts-Miller: Demagoguery and Democracy

    13/09/2017 Duração: 08min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren, and I’ve had a hard time getting started on this one.   Sometimes I procrastinate an episode because I don’t want to get into an idea or movement that is potentially stupidfaced. Other times, I’m nervous about doing a great work a disservice in doing a stupidfaced episode. This is one of those times.   Patricia Roberts-Miller was one of my mentors at the University of Texas, and I always knew that she was doing work on demagoguery. She’s one of those wonderful rare people who let you in on the secrets of their research revision and editing process, letting you behind the curtain of producing academic work. But until I read Demagoguery and Democracy, I had no idea how important that work could be. I am not exaggerating when I say this is the most important book I’ve read this year.   First off, let me give you the caveat that the small, portable, ultimat

  • The Other Eight: Aeschines

    06/09/2017 Duração: 04min

    Don’t you love those group adventure movies? You know, the ones with a ragtag group of misfits who each have their special skill--Ocean’s 11, the Great Escape, Power Rangers? Rhetoric had that too and they were called the Canon of Ten of the Ten Attic Orators. Like most canonical lists, they weren’t clumped together until they well and dead. Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace compiled what’s called the Alexandrian Canon including these ten hotshots of the 5th and 4th century BCE. Later, a scholar who was probably not Plutarch, called the Psuedo-Plutarch, wrote “The Lives of the Ten Orators” to chronicle the Rat Pack of Classical Greek rhetoric. A couple of these ten will be familiar to you--Demosthenes and Isocrates. Demosthenes and Isocrates are like the George Clooney and Brad Pitt of the Ten Attic Orators, getting most of the screen time and most of the glory. We’ve have individual episodes on each of them as well as individual episodes on some of the works they’ve written. Mere Rhet

  • RSQ Special Issue: Non-human Animal Rhetorics

    30/08/2017 Duração: 08min

    This last year I adopted a dog, a scruffy grey schnauzer mix. I call him Pip. I talk to Pip all the time. But I don’t expect Pip to talk back to me, and I don’t think about what Pip calls himself. Maybe I should. The rhetorical power of non-human animals, this week on Mere Rhetoric. Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, a podcast for beginner and indisers about the people, ideas and movements who have shaped rhetprical history. I’m Mary Hedengren   Today we start a new type of episode of Mere Rhetoric. In the past, I’ve given you the low-down on books and movements, scholars and terms, and now I’m going to expand on that to give you the heads-up on some of the most recent issues of major journals in the field. Consider it a sort of Reading Rainbow, a teaser-taster of what’s showing up in rhetorical scholarship today.   Reading journals is one of those activities that I was encouraged to do when I first became a grad student in rhetoric and I’m always surprised how useful what I read ends up being: sometimes I find scho

  • Mere Rhetoric will return August 2017!

    01/08/2017 Duração: 41s

    Just checking in to let you know that new episodes of Mere Rhetoric are just around the corner. I've moved to a new institution and we've been figuring out how to set up a recording studio, but I think it's time to just get started making episodes the old fashioned way--in my office with a blanket over my head to muffle the sound.

  • Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie

    02/11/2016 Duração: 10min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas people and movements who have shaped rehtorical history. Before we get started, big announcement: Rerecordings are over! We’ve re-recorded over 80 episodes here in the studio thanks to the Humanities Media Project at the University of Texas. That’s an incredible feat and now that we’re done, there’s no more reruns, at least for a while. We’ve had new ones interspersed yeah, but now it’s all new from here on out. The other news is that having defended my dissertation and finished my time here at the University of Texas --boo!--I’m headed to the University of Houston Clear Lake --yippie! That means this might we one of the last episodes we record here at the booth at the University of Texas. Well, I hope it’s a good one!   Today we’re talking about LuMing Mao’s Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie. This book is not, as you might suspect, a treatise on how to decipher phrases like “Your smile is your best asset” or “Defeat your enemies by

  • Visual Rhetoric: Halloween Special "The Mezzotint"

    25/10/2016 Duração: 32min

      Welcome to MR, the podcast for beginners and insiders about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. I’m Mary Hedengren and a big thanks to the Humanities Media Project at the University of Texas for support for this show. Also thanks to Jacob in the booth. Today, All Hallow’s Eve is upon us and it’s been a long time since I attempted some terrible British accents, which means it’s time for the Mere Rhetoric HALLOWEEN SPECIAL [thunder sounds? Screeching cat? What have you.] But first, some background.   When you’re asked to give a description of what rhetoric is, as we did in our very first episode, What is Rhetoric?, you might say something like, “It’s the use of words to persuade someone,” and you would imagine someone in a toga standing around on a rostom shout-talking at people, but that’s not exactly all rhetoric is. Remember Kenneth Burke’s definition of rhetoric: that we can “influence each other's thinking and behavior through the strategic use of symbols.” Even Aristotle

  • Rhetorical Situation (NEW and IMPROVED!)

    19/10/2016 Duração: 11min

    Shout out to Daniel T Richards to wrote in to me asking for a podcast about Rhetorical Situations. Couldn’t be more pleased to oblige a fan, if you have a request for an episode or a question or comment, feel free to email me at [email protected] and I’d love to see what I can do, but Daniel asked for rhetorical situations and there’s no time but the present, eh? so let’s get it started with a couple of clips, eh? Churchill, Henry V, and Aragon. Why are these such great speeches so good? Qtd Churchill There comes a precious moment in all of our lives when we are tapped on the shoulder and offered the opportunity to do something very special that is unique to us and our abilities, what a tragedy it would be if we are not ready or willing.” This moment is part of what L B in 1968 calls the rhetorical situationation. More fully: A complex of persons, events, objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence which can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the

  • Writing Studies Research in Practice

    12/10/2016 Duração: 09min

    Welcome to Mere Rhetoric, the podcast for beginners and outsider about the ideas, people and movements who have shaped rhetorical history. Today we’re going to talk about the method to the madness, if madness were writing studies research. That’s right, we’re going to talking about a little edited volume called Writing studies Research in PRactice and you never knew methodology could be so fun.   But first, if you’re a regularly listener to the show, can I recommend you get on iTunes or whereever you find your podcasts and give Mere Rhetoric a review? It doesn’t have to be long or laudatory, but it would be nice for when I prepare reports for folks like the Humanities Media Project at the University of Texas. This way I can let them know that people like the show and want it to continue.   Or if you want to, you can email us at [email protected] and a word about that: sorry! I recently realized that my email forwarding on that gmail account wasn’t correctly forwarding to my personal email, meaning

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