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Title:"My Makyng Thow Wryte More Trewe': rhetorical chorus in medieval and digital spaces
Author(s):Smith, Julia
Director of Research:Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Baron, Dennis; Schaffner, Spencer W.; O'Gorman, Ned; Mak, Bonnie
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
rhetorical chorus
Abstract:I argue that speech acts are artificially divided into individual (Campbell 1993) or collaborative (Biesecker 1992) work, which obscures the nuanced differences between rhetorical group activities: cooperation, concert, alliance, interface, harmony, disharmony, counterpoint, breach. Rather, the individual and the collaborative can intersect, but not only by providing direct feedback to the original speaker (LeFevre 1987) or through consensus (Bruffee 1984) or by partnering to create a single rhetorical event (Lundsford and Ede 1990). Instead, some rhetorical speech acts are distinguished as the work of both an individual speaker and a collaborative group. Since this communicative act resembles musical and classical dramatic chorus, I utilize choral activity to create a model for describing how the ensemble comes together, responds to the original speaker, and distributes that speaker’s message. Typically, a collaborative group tends to be described as homogenous, proximal, reciprocal, and synchronous. Whereas a chorus model offers the means to articulate how a collaborative group can be heterogeneous, asynchronous, diachronic and remote. This methodology is applied to a range of case studies, which have two unifying features: First, each example represents a case of contested authority, agency, and authenticity for an individual speaker. This contestation occurs because others have contributed to the preservation and distribution of the speaker’s ideas; the presence of these individuals is often used to problematize the speaker’s authority on the basis of the speaker’s gender, race, education or other limitations which would justify the contributors’ interventions at the expense of the individual speaker’s authority. Second, these examples compare the actions of the rhetorical chorus in medieval manuscripts (Chaucer, Kempe, Pizan) to contemporary digital websites (Wikipedia, Huffington Post, Gay Girl in Damascus). Both medieval manuscripts and digital sites are dynamic material spaces in which the choral actors can enter and alter the space. The materiality of the different spaces also allows for their actions to be identified, traced, and mapped. Applying rhetorical chorus to the case studies demonstrates that the concept of collaboration can be expanded to include a group of participants, who are tools of rhetorical invention. The chorus offers a conceptual framework for discussing how a group can propagate an original speaker’s message through their own agendas, mediate the message to an audience, and thus participate in the invention of social knowledge. A chorus model reveals that authority and agency are not fixed and finite entities, which can only be conferred to either an individual or a group, but can be distributed through the transmissions of one and many.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Julia Marie Smith
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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