One of my major categories of this blog is “mundane”. Though I attribute several posts to the term, I have not defined the meaning. Funny enough, I consider one of the major focuses of this blog to be the exploration of the mundane. Yet, as I learn more about what mundane rhetoric is, I have a difficulty of defining what it is not. You see, I know that the study of rhetoric is very broad. If anything, “rhetoric” in academia is more dependent on other forms of study in an almost mutual occurring existence. In this post I want to explore my basic understanding of specialized rhetoric and how mundane rhetoric might be differentiated.
Specialties, niches, or adjective
On twitter and faculty bios on university websites you’ll find that many rhetoric academics have an area of interest. Makes sense, they want to stand out in their field by creating sub-communities, also known as a “specialty” or “research focus”. The word “rhetoric” gets attached to anything and everything in these cases.
An example, MedRhet (Medical Rhetoric) concerns itself with the persuasive elements of medical research, health sciences, and areas around the health care industry. Another example, Gaming Rhetoric, focuses on interactive entertainment media, video game creation/implementation, and constructed rhetorical situations within games. A final example, Politics Rhetoric, can cover local/international government, historical civic engagement, or even classical/modern comparisons. My oversimplified definitions serve to show that academics will limit their view to increase their focus. The list goes on and on for the many different and beautiful types.
A “niche” is really more of a synonym for “specialty”, but in this post I’d like to shift the definition slightly. A niche colloquially speaking is really just an even more focused specialty. Take a used car salesman as a metaphor. They are an expert a salesman, but they specialize in selling cars that are used. Take a step further and say that their niche is selling used Fords. For many of the academics I’ve met this is the same. Apply the same logic to the next example. The medical field already has their own list of specialties, but those can be used to make a MedRhet academic niche (Hospice MedRhet, Emergency MedRhet, OBG MedRhet).
Reformatted for ease:
- Academic Focus: Rhetoric
- Specialty: Medical Rhetoric
- Niche: Rural Emergencies and Response
What makes all of this interesting are the blurred lines that are drawn between each specialty and how the niche further isolates between individuals.
My question though: What if all rhetoric fell into only one sphere of genre? That’s easy, we’d call that “Rhetoric Studies” and that would be departmental level research. However, as I’ve explored I’ve noticed that there might be in-fact two spheres of rhetoric: the mundane, and the phenomenal. This is all observation and hearsay, but I’ve found it helps breaking down rhetorical situations.
Here are a few qualities to help with definition:
- rare, potentially one or a handful of events within a lifetime
- impacts the smallest amount of people at any given time, is not normalized
- highly unpredictable rhetorical value
- can be a fixed or constructed rhetorical situation, but not required
- unlimited choices with potential unexpected outcomes
A great example would be my holiday post: Caring is Communication. To sum up, I helped a drunk man navigate through a busy mall and avoid hurting himself/others by convincing him that I would be his drinking buddy.
- Rare: I doubt that I will have an identical event take place within my lifetime.
- Small impact: less than 2 dozen mall goers as witnesses in Spokane, WA
- Unpredictable value: I didn’t know what I would gain or prevent from helping. Also no lasting effects.
- Fixed or Constructed Rhetorical Situation: Not applicable
- Choice restriction: Unlimited. Could have avoided the situation, been physical, or actually bought the man another beer. The choices are endless speculation.
Again, here are some qualities that I have identified:
- Happening on regular recurring intervals, i.e. near daily, few times a year, or structured social custom
- impacts the largest populace at any given time or is normalized
- seemingly inherit rhetorical value or fixed rhetorical situation
- limited choices with expected outcomes
Simple example would be vows at a wedding.
- Common occurrence: Weddings happen all the time. Some years I’ve gone to 4-5 weddings. Hearing vows is normal at a wedding.
- Impact or Normalized: For the most part weddings are a structured event. Vows are even is secular weddings because of their importance for the situation.
- Inherit/fixed rhetorical value: There’s only 2 choices. Either there’s a new married couple or everyone leaves saddened.
- Choice Limitations: Again, really only 2 choices. Either both people in the couple say, “I do” or they don’t. Very odd if there was something else.
- Pastor to groom: “Do you take this woman…yadda, yadda, yadda..both shall live?”
- Groom: “How much do you want for the toyota out back of the church?”
- Pastor: “What? We can talk about that later. Do you want this woman as your wife?”
- Groom: “How many miles does it have?”
- Pastor: “We’re in the middle of your wedding”
- Bride: “Honey, ask him if it has satellite radio”
- Groom: “Can you throw in satellite radio?”
- Pastor: “Seriously?”
Can one become the other?
As the ludacris example I give above illustrates, yes. There is some fluidity between phenomenal and mundane rhetoric; however, this gets into a completely different topic of expectations. This is a part of phenomenology I dove into during undergrad when I attempt to understand New Criticism. Here, I’m merely attempting to illustrate a macro-level understanding of rhetorical situations.
Really, if you can identify if a rhetorical situation is mundane, then you can identify a system or process. By identifying the process, you can predictably breakdown the parts including all the available means of persuasion.
Today’s post was more of a ramble than usual. I’m sorry for that. I’m using this line fo thinking to identify, for myself, my own interests. As I look at more and more academic/professional profiles, I see a system of self-identification. I’ve known this for lawyers. They structure their advertising on a very specific system. The ones that have the best blogs have found their niche.
I’m going to keep doing these Casual Friday Posts. They give me a chance to explore. I hope you found something useful. Any comments or questions let me know. I like to feel that people are getting more out of this blog than I am.