Susan Brown Carlton

Poetic, rhetoric, and disciplinary discourse

Susan Brown Carlton

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1991; pp: 374
  • Advisor: Berlin, James A.
  • Source: DAI-A 53/01, p. 135, Jul 1992
  • Subjects: Rhetoric, Composition, Language Arts
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 745946601
  • UMI Number: AAT 9215528

Abstract:

    • This dissertation addresses the relationship between literature and composition in English studies through an analysis of the deployment of the poetic/rhetoric topos in disciplinary histories and domain theories written between 1922 and 1990.
    • My analysis indicates that two kinds of accounts have surfaced in the disciplinary discourse of the last sixty years, a standard and a revisionary account. Both accounts play major structural roles in texts, organizing historical narratives and theoretical arguments. Standard accounts construct the relation as a binary opposition in which poetics is the favored term; revisionary accounts rehabilitate rhetoric, extending its domain without directly confronting or subverting the opposition. During formalism’s dominance only standard accounts appear in the domain theory of literary studies and rhetoric studies, though some histories include revisionary accounts. During the ascendancy of reader-response criticism in literary studies and process-focused pedagogy in composition studies, some literary scholars continue to rely on the standard account and others introduce revisionary accounts; compositionists explore other models for theorizing discourse. The cultural studies movement includes continued reliance on the poetic/rhetoric topos on the part of some literary scholars, and a return to it on the part of some rhetoric scholars who view it as a mechanism for securing a higher value for rhetoric.
    • My research indicates that the poetic/rhetoric topos allocates unequal amounts of symbolic capital to literature and to composition. As a distributor of value it is highly functional, replicating textually the unequal status of literature and composition, and it is highly portable, appearing in opposing historical explanations and crossing epistemological boundaries. However, logically it is quite dysfunctional, introducing contradictions in the framework of historical accounts and theoretical arguments.
    • I indicate how the poetic/rhetoric topos is imbricated with a traditional disciplinary structure which restricts both cultural critique and rhetoric and composition studies. I recommend intervening both in the discursive deployments of these terms and in the disciplinary practices they are called upon to warrant.