a critical rhetor?

THIS seems like who I want to be: “the critic needs an enormous amount of ‘Negative Capability’: the ability to exist ‘in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’ (Dewey, 1934, p.33)” (121).
“…the intent of a critical servant [is] no less subject to critique than the actions/he proposed…….the critical rhetor takes on a more specific role than the ‘social actor’ proposed by McKerrow (1991, p. 62). Servitude as douleia is a giving over of one’s will to fulfill the important function of addressing the needs of the community…..The agency of the critical servant is obtained by understanding the agent’s subjectivity as a combination of the individual and the social……When critic and servant are combined in constant interplay, the rhetor is a moral and political agent who sacrifices his or her self-interest to the community, and through this loss gains knowledge and power…..The critic interprets the history of a community, showing how past choices led to the present conditions…Future actions are ones the community could have chosen in the past but did not….the critical interpretation…thus remakes the past with an eye toward a brighter future….This new constitution is powerful because it is grounded in a subjectivity that is actively both individual and social. In this critical service lies the possibility for ongoing transformation….
“The critical servant perspective pushes critical rhetoric to take ‘as one of its tasks an investigation of what the good is or might be’ (Charland, 1991, p. 73)…..it draws on and articulates the experience of the audience even as it moves them toward a new position….maintains its legitimacy by remaining open to further challenges (Wellman, 1971) by its critical servants….helps rhetors manage the paradox of proposing a course of action in an ever-changing world” (118).
“The servant is duty-bound to strive for the best for the community….can…play the ‘ethic card’ without denying its role as an ethic. Ethical appeals can win an election and reorient the audience toward an ethical position entailed in the community’s history but not yet fully realized in everyday practice. Is it this position that the critical servants offers as the best possible goal……Critical servants situate their knowledge of possible actions within the history of the community…knowledge…is always temporally relative, always situationally contingent, and always subject to further critique and revision….knowledge must be tied to a historical moment…..In the past lies transformative potential for the present community, potential that can be used in radical ways….By initiating a transactional interaction between past and present, the critic calls into question the good endorsed in the present as much as the good of the past. The critic offers a judgment on the past and, as such, draws on the history of the community for good” (118-119).
“As we look to notions of the good that a critical servant may articulate, it is important not to confuse community history with community standards. All communities have a history of practices that can lead to new practices. In every act there is some unanticipated opening that the actor did not intend. Rhetors have the freedom to take up a past practice, explore its potential, and discover its previously unexplored use. THus history can be seen as the resource of a potential that has yet to be actualized. Critical servants can transform local knowledge by drawing on the history of the community and the history of discursive practices that produced that knowledge. By looking to the past, critiquing it, refocusing and reorieting it, the critical servant can produce critical interventions and suggest courses of action with positive transformative potential” (119).
All quotes from Norman Clark (hope the link is to the right one?!), “The Critical Servant: An Isocratean Contribution to Critical Rhetoric.” QJS, Vol 82, No 2, May 1996.

2 thoughts on “a critical rhetor?”

  1. Big Bad John?! I LIKE that! 🙂 Yeah – you’ve got me pegged on the nose.
    You should be in Miami with me making waves.

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