Book Review: The Rhetoric of American Civil Religion

I’ve recently received word from Taylor & Frances Online that a book review I wrote was published in the Journal of Religious and Theological Information. I am not a traditional or typical theologian or anything, but as one who studies rhetoric and is pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication, I thought it would be appropriate to review a book called The Rhetoric of American Civil Religion. 

According to Taylor & Frances Online, the first 50 people to click on this link can access the article: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/9jIhcGg8jKujBXVQ6nww/full.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. So check it out, send me a message, and have a great day.

Compton-Lilly’s “Development of Writing Habitus: A Ten-year Case Study”

How do people become writers over time, and how writing is situated within identity construction? In this case study, Compton-Lily follows Peter, an emerging African American writer from a low-income community from first-grade to high school. Compton-Lilly collected data from interviews, field notes, and writing samples while Peter was in 1stgrade, 5th grade, 8th grade, and 11th grade. She then coded data from each data collection, identifying salient categories of information, and then coding data from the first and third collections into grounded categories organized by contrastive analysis. As Compton-Lilly considered the patterns, she was led to Bordieu’s notion of habitus, which emphasizes the identity dispositions people create over periods of time, and from which she develops the concept of a writing habitus. She found that Peter’s writing habitus consisted of four developed dispositions: meeting school expectations for reading and writing, being a good student, forming friendships and affiliations that involved reading and writing practices, and future goals that related to writing. Becoming a writer cannot just be about learning thesis statements or grammar, but is also related to dispositions which focus on individual purpose and social belonging. Social affiliation should be fostered inside the classroom and promoted outside the classroom. 

Reference:
Compton-Lilly, C. (2014). The development of writing habitus: A ten-year case study of a young writer. Written Communication, 31, 371-403.

Ginzburg’s Rhetoric, History, and Proof.

At the beginning of this short book, Ginzburg says that he wants to know what history, rhetoric, and proof have in common. He says that history and rhetoric obviously have something in common, but what about proof? That seems to be the unlikely term. Yet, Ginzburg demonstrates that proof used to have something to do with both rhetoric and history—it was central—and that fact reveals the methodology of historians. Rhetoric is therefore naturally the term between history and proof. 

One example of this appears in Chapter 1, when Ginzburg states that Aristotle’s Poetics and the Rhetoric reveal how history, proof, and rhetoric were closely connected with one another. 
Ginzburg’s book includes the following chapters: 
Introduction 
1. Aristotle and History, Once More
2. Lorenzo Valla on the “Donation of Constantine” 
3. AlienVoices: The Dialog Element in Early Modern Jesuit Historiography
4. Reflections on a Blank

Works Cited
Carlos Ginzburg. Rhetoric, History, and Proof. Hanover and London: Brandeis University Press, 1999.

The New Colossus, A Poem on the Statue of Liberty

Emma LazarusThe New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus, circa 1880

(A part of this poem is inscribed on a plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty:)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”



Photograph by Daniel Schwen – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4170638

Thinking about Rhetoric while Shopping at the Grocery Store: Food or Plastic?

Last Saturday when I was doing some grocery shopping, I saw something that I had never seen before. Here’s a picture of 2 different kinds:


Apparently somebody thought that this is something that would sell. Not just “somebody,” but an entire group of people believed that a number of other people would want to pay money for it. 


The product is basically a small container that has 3 compartments containing a variety of fruit, cheese, and some other kind of snack. These were normally $1.89 but the price had been marked down to $1.00. 

Each product has around 1.5 ounces of food–and some of that weight of course consists of the plastic that it takes to make the 3 containers of food. I picked one up and wondered if the people who purchased this would be buying about equal amounts of plastic and food, but it was of course hard to tell. Iron could have been added to the granola to further increase the product’s weight, but I didn’t look, and I don’t remember. 

Whatever happened, the food would be eaten, and the plastic would be thrown away.

The product is for people who want a quick snack and who are trying to eat a certain type of diet, but it’s also for those who may not think much about the amount of post-consumer waste to which they are contributing. I am curious about the circumstances that provide the possibility of this product’s existence in the first place. I mean, for the same price, I could buy an entire apple and a whole chocolate bar–so why would I instead settle for a plastic container with tiny bits of dried apples and little chunks of chocolate? Maybe I would do it for the convenience. Maybe I would do it because of the appearance of variety and efficiency. But if I considered the act of purchasing and all its rhetorical implications, I don’t think I would be persuaded to put the product in my shopping cart. I wasn’t.

Using the Whole Self to Speak a New Language

There are always dark nights and cold winters in our lives, but these dark nights and cold winters don’t last forever. Like it has this morning, the sun eventually rises, and light disperses the darkness. And while in a few months, winter will come and it will bring snow and storms as it usually does, eventually, winter will give way to spring, and with it will come new warmth and new life. Then the trees that are now losing their leaves will begin to grow new ones.

Recent events may bring with them new challenges, but it’s not the end of the world! Let’s learn what we can from our experiences by getting to work!

Maybe we can start by spending a bit more time getting to know some of the people in our very own neighborhoods. What about the people next door? Who are they? Who in our very own communities needs a helping hand, a warm smile, or a listening ear? We can start by going out and showing people that we care–especially those who feel like they have been pushed to the sidelines. As we come to know the people who live in our own neighborhoods and communities, we will discover that there is not a shortage of people who need our help, and that there is much that each of us can do to show that an individual is appreciated and that, as a human being, theirs is a dignity that cannot be taken away.

To show that respect and not just to say it is itself a language that must be learned, and speaking that language involves more than just the lips (or the fingers)–it is spoken especially from the heart, but it involves the entire self, for it is a language that is really spoken as it is enacted. And it can be enacted by freely giving of one’s time, talents, and energies.

Life is so much more than sitting in a room by one’s self and reading endlessly!

So let’s get to work! 🙂

Interviewed by Stephanie Glaros from Humans of Minneapolis

A few weeks ago I was sitting on a bench in Holmes Park writing in my journal when a woman approached me and asked me if she could interview me and take my picture. She said her name was Stephanie Glaros and that she was from Humans of Minneapolis.

One of the things I appreciate about Stephanie’s work is how she is telling so many stories about so many people. Her work shows that all of us have something interesting to talk about, and that we all have a story to tell. Not only that, but by listening to the stories of others, we enable ourselves to empathize with them.

Here is the link to the Humans of Minneapolis blog:
http://humansofminneapolis.tumblr.com/post/149297585870/im-a-phd-candidate-at-the-university-of

Photograph by Stephanie Glaros

A Hungry Man is Approached by Another Man Who Has Cookies

There was once a man who was sitting in a public place. Soon, he was joined by a friend, and finally, a third man approached. The third man didn’t say anything, but stood there for a minute until he pulled out a package of cookies.

The first man couldn’t help but think to himself, “Great–I was just getting a bit hungry!” He began to subtly smile as the third man opened the plastic package. The third man then pulled out a cookie and gave it to the second man. So the first man began to salivate as he soon expected that a cookie would soon be handed to him, too. He waited.

The third man did indeed pull another cookie out of his bag, but he did not hand it to the first man. Instead, he simply took a bite out of it. Then he closed the bag, returned it to his backpack, and walked away.

Naturally, the first man was confused. And he was now only hungrier than before.

An Unprepared Student Takes a Final Exam

There once was a student who was enrolled in a class which had a comprehensive final exam. The student, however, did not study for the exam.

Eventually, the day of the test came. The student was nervous, and when he looked at the test, he stared at it, not knowing what answers to write. After hesitating for some time, the student resolved on a plan. He got up from the desk, test in hand, and walked up to the teacher, who was sitting in front of the classroom. “Excuse me,” he said, “may I have a different test?”

Two Poems about Freedom

Thomas Moore once wrote that it was

“Better to dwell in Freedom’s hall,
With a cold damp floor and mouldering wall,
Than bow the head and bend the knee
In the proudest palace of slaverie.”

In other words, it’s better to be free and living in a simple place than it is to be a slave in an extravagant palace.

What is the place in which I live? I have heat that I can turn on when it gets cold, air conditioning to turn on when it gets hot, running water (hot and cold), a carpeted floor, electricity, plumbing, etc. I have so much. My floor isn’t “cold” or “damp,” and my wall isn’t “mouldering.” Not only that, but I have wireless internet. I have a laptop computer that I can connect via the internet to just about anywhere in the world.

Here’s another one by T. Buchanan Read:

“Oh, joy to the world! the hour is come,
When the nations to freedom awake,
When the royalists stand agape and dumb,
And monarchs with terror shake!
Over the walls of majesty
‘UPHARSIN’ is writ in words of fire,
And the eyes of the bondsman, wherever they be
Are lit with wild desire.
Soon shall the thrones that blot the world,
Like the Orleans, into the dust be hurl’d,
And the word roll on like a hurricane’s breath,
Till the farthest slave hears what it saith–
Arise, arise, be free!

When I read this, I am persuaded to believe that freedoms of all kinds are something important, something to defend.

What do you think about these poems? Any thoughts?