Rhetoric as a communal making of meaning versus a platform for demonstrating intellectual prowess of an individual through victory over an opponent, or even as a means to put an existing point across seems to be at least one theme in these articles. For us, as educators, this seems a distinction to be reckoned with. How do we teach an art? I don’t think I’m too far from these articles when I say that teaching rhetoric as an art versus a skill is the problem we face. After all, what we are really talking about is negotiation, aren’t we? When we explore ideas in an open forum what we’re doing is accepting a democratic situation. Today’s metaphor is that of cooking. We pool our individual thoughts, ideas, bits of knowledge, as ingredients to be tossed into a big pot of mulligan stew. Maybe I bring a carrot, Sabrina brings some grated ginger, Maggie some cactus juice, etc. Together these ingredients may taste awful, but that’s a matter of negotiation and individual choice. Here’s a problem. Depending on the situation and individual tastes, we may decide that all three ingredients taste great. Some of us may want to have our cactus juice on the side. Of course, mulligan stew is usually made under circumstances in which the cooks can’t afford to be so picky; we take what each person brings to the pot, toss it in and be thankful that our bellies are full. And that’s the point. I brought a carrot because that’s what I came up with. Maybe a nice leg of lamb would have been better, but the carrot is what I had. Forget the leg of lamb. Maybe next time I’ll come up with it — then we’ll have to argue about that. It doesn’t matter. the fact is that without the contributions of the individuals there would be no stew. Mulligan stew is progress and growth. (I can’t believe I’m even saying this.) Individual ingredients add to the whole. Individual ideas add to the intellectual nourishment of us all. I’d like to get off this metaphor, but I’m not sure I can, because I’m thinking of Crowley’s article about the evolution of invention in current-traditional rhetoric and I’m thinking of the problems that could arise within our little circle of cooks if some of us decide to get hung up on a particular recipe. I’m thinking of form versus function, I guess. If the goal is to get rid of the rumbling in our bellies, what difference does it make if we throw in the ginger before the carrot? It’s STEW, for crying out loud! What’s the difference? Or suppose somebody insists that his or her understanding of mulligan stew is that it requires cabbage. Our dinner in now in jeopardy because the guy with the pot (the Professor, maybe) insists that we will make no stew without cabbage. The professor means well. He knows that mulligan stew requires cabbage or tastes best if the ginger goes in first, and doesn’t want his students to come away with a misunderstanding of what “true” mulligan stew is. Unlike Booth, in “The Rhetorical Stance,” the professor with the pot is forgetting that a well-motivated cook can come up with some pretty tasty stew out of the ingredients at hand.
anderson, kurt. “the age of unreason.”