Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rhetoric: The Use of It in Chinese

Karl Kao, "Review: Recent Studies of Chinese Rhetoric," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR), Vol. 15 (Dec., 1993), pp. 143-154
Analogy, as the predominant form of reasoning in Chinese, is in fact also fundamental to its literary xiuci; it also underlies the operation of some of the most important Chinese rhetorical devices, for instance, bi and xing and the shilei allusion. The common and divergent features such as the above are the markers of cultural traits themselves or attributes that could be further analyzed for their differentiating values in identifying cultural character.
Regarding specifically the making of argumentation in speech, Aristotle's scheme conceives of three kinds of 'artistic proofs': ethos, pathos and logos. If logos, or logical proofs, receives the most extensive consideration in Greek rhetoric, Chinese practice seems to be more preoccupied with the power relationship in a persuasion and places the greatest emphasis on the factor of pathos,or the hearer's psychology. There the object of persuasion, the addressee, is normally the monarch of a state or an otherwise politically powerful personage; the persuader must therefore be extremely careful not to 'rub him/her the wrong way,' not to touch the nilin 逆鳞, the irritable 'inverted scale' of the human dragon. The art consists in subtly manipulating the ego of the auditor, sometimes reversing the power relation without appearing to do so. The factor of ethos, or proofs of the speaker's good character, in an extended context concerns the ethical question of rhetoric in general. Quintilian's "good man" theory, or Isocrates' stress on the importance of the moral character of the orator, could be seen as comparable to the Chinese concern as expressed in the dictum from the Yijing: "Xiuci li qi cheng" 修辞立其诚 (often understood as "polished expressions are to be based on sincerity" or "polishing the expressions in order to establish one's sincerity," although Kong Yingda interprets it differently).
The parallel couplet however is a binary system which, as critics have pointed out, is related to typical Chinese correlative thinking; it reinforces certain meaning associations and represses or excludes others in order to corroborate with and enhance the values of the imperial system. Similarly, the fact that the evocative xing mode has taken precedence over the metaphoric bi seems deterministic of the character of Chinese literature; it makes Chinese poetry different from that of the West which is grounded in a metaphoric principle. The seemingly open-ended way of signification of the xing analogy again has been found to be an effect of the correlative cosmology or the 'organic' Chinese world view associated with the imperial order. Part of the aim of a 'deconstructive' reading, as an effort in cultural criticism, would be to examine the reasons for the privileging of these figures and expose their hidden ideological implications.
The post-structuralist theory also emphasizes the autonomous operation of rhetoricity and its destabilizing effect, seeing rhetoricity as inherent in language and capable of generating a centrifigual force in contradiction to the explicit intent of the text. This position is most succinctly expressed in de Man's conception of rhetoric, equatable with literature itself, as something that "radically suspends logic and opens up vertiginous possibilities of referential aberration" (Allegories of Reading, 1979, p. 10). From this perspective, rhetoric is seen as a system in opposition to logic and grammar, working often at cross purposes with them, and thus could disrupt the unity of the text and lead to an indeterminacy of meaning. A rhetorical reading of a text along this line would need to trace and delineate such conflicting tendencies of the structuring systems and their associated values. Since neither grammar nor logic is well defined in the Chinese tradition, a preliminary step to such a reading is to determine the specific features of these or some other structuring systems against which rhetoric might collide (or collude).

Friday, December 30, 2011

Chinese: On Rhetoric

Rhetoric is the counterpart of Dialectic. -- Aristotle
在亚里士多德著作《修辭的藝術》的第一句,他描述修辭為辯證法的相對物,即是說辯證方法是找尋真理的要素,修辭方法便用作交流真理。-- Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guide to the Apostrophe

Every time I grade term papers, I'm tempted to put the link to this comic in my comments. But I don't, because it would be unprofessional to call my students "idiots."
I haven't visited Bob the Angry Flower in too long

Prelude to a New Year's Resolution

I found this image ready-made at
From Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography:
About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety in my mind and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and complete the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particilars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a torable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious. My time for these exercises and for reading was at night after work, or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship, which my father used to exact of me when I was under his care, and which, indeed, I still thought a duty, though I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to practise it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Story: "Nineteen Fifty-Five" by Alice Walker

No need to grieve, I said. No need to. Plenty more where she come from.

He perked up. That's part of what that song means, ain't it? No need to grieve. Whatever it is, there's plenty more down the line.

I never really believed that way back when I wrote that song, I said. It was all bluffing then. The trick is to live long enough to put your young bluffs to use. Now if I was to sing that song today I'd tear it up. 'Cause I done lived long enough to know it's true. THem words could hold me up.

I ain't lived that long, he said.

Look like you on your way, I said. I don't know why, but the boy seemed to need some encouraging. And I don't know, seem like one way or another you talk to rich white folks and you end up reassuring them.

Joke: Psychoanalysis

This must be the paradigmatic joke about psychoanalysis:
A man walked into a bar and ordered a glass of white wine. He took a sip of the wine, then tossed the remainder into the bartender's face. Before the bartender could recover from the surprise, the man began weeping.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm really sorry. I keep doing that to bartenders. I can't tell you how embarrassing it is, to have a compulsion like this."

Far from being angry, the bartender was sympathetic. Before long, he was suggesting that the man see an analyst about his problem.

"I happen to have the name of a Psychoanalyst," the bartender said. "My Brother and my Wife have both been treated by him, and they say he's as good as they get."

The man wrote down the name of the Doctor, thanked the bartender, and left. The bartender smiled, knowing he'd done a good deed for a fellow human being.

Six months later, the man was back. "Did you do what I suggested?" the bartender asked, serving the glass of white wine.

"I certainly did," the man said. "I've been seeing the Psychoanalyst twice a week." He took a sip of the wine. Then he threw the remainder into the bartender's face.

The flustered bartender wiped his face with a towel. "The Doctor doesn't seem to be doing you any good." He sputtered.

"On the contrary," the man claimed, "he's done me world of good."

"But you threw the wine in my face again!" The bartender exclaimed.

"Yes." The man replied. "But it doesn't embarrass me anymore."

Thanks, In Lacan for Beginners, the man pees against the bar, but the bartender has come to know the man over time before he begins that habit.