Mailloux: Disciplinary Identities

Mailloux, Steven. Disciplinary Identities: Rhetorical Paths of English, Speech, and Composition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. 2006. Print.

Mailloux opens with a history of the diaspora of rhetoric within the American university and an examination of the rhetorical forces that shape disciplinary identities within and outside of English Departments. Mailloux points to a number of path-forming splits, including the rhetoric of writing/speaking split between composition/communication and the invention/hermeneutic split between rhet-comp/lit-culture. Disciplines, Mailloux says, are “the transformation of practical wisdom into accredited techniques, of phronesis into techne” (5). Notably, Mailloux points to the split between Speech and English in the early twentieth century as formational moment in the fragmentation of rhetoric in the academy. Mailloux points three “monumentally influential” books published around 1960 by Gadamer, Perelman, and Kuhn that “argue for the interpretive nature of all disciplines” and hail a “return of rhetoric to the humanities and related social sciences” (16).

Mailloux’s method of rhetorical hermeneutics traces paths through the terrains of theory, tradition, politics, identity, and time. His method seeks “a phronetic tracking of rhetorical paths of thought, treating rhetoric as a tool and topic, tracing the rhetoric of thinking and thinking about rhetoric (65).  Mailloux’s response to the state of rhetoric is one of optimism and action: “To remedy this disabling fragmentation and disciplinary isolation, I recommend continuing our efforts art cros-disciplinary cooperation” (129).  In addition to contributing to the “social, political, and cultural environment that extends beyond the university,” Mailloux calls for a comparative cultural rhetoric, a framework within which “rhetoricians form different departments should come together in interdisciplinary centers, on the model of current humanities centers throughout the country” (130).

Bibliographic Tracings

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Chaim Perelman, The New Rhetoric

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method


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