Scary Rhetoric

“Rhetoric is the thing in the shadows lurking about. You kind of want to run, yet you kind of want to go check it out!”

I came up with this definition of rhetoric while I was listening to music and I just felt like it would suffice. Rhetoric is something that I always kind of want to ignore because it gives me such anxiety. Anxiety like knowing someone is following you home, but not knowing how to get away. Why is it that rhetoric is beset defined through metaphors? This definition of rhetoric is fitting because it describes the anxiety and the curiosity we have when it comes to discussing and defining rhetoric. I defined rhetoric this way because I think of rhetoric as something that we are afraid to discuss, yet we are still continuously attempt to define it. Just because we don’t want to discuss it, does not mean that it isn’t there. When a professor asks his or her class to define rhetoric, everyone seems to avoid eye contact in hopes of not being called on to share their definition. It’s something no one ever wants to talk about. But, this fear should be erased as we are constantly learning that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to defining rhetoric.

Rhetoric does not to need to continue to be something that we are deathly afraid of, but it needs to be something that we strive to understand because in a sense, it is essential to composition. Good composition. Rhetoric can be compared to an assigned reading for class, you know it’s something you don’t want to do at the time, but it is essential in doing well in the course.

I think what we fail to understand is that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to defining rhetoric; this could be because it varies from person to person. My definition of rhetoric may not be the same as the person sitting beside me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that his or her answer is right and mine is wrong.

Usually when you ask someone to define rhetoric, you will get a question in return. If you don’t get a question in return, you will probably get a blank stare or something of the sort. Is rhetoric just a continuous cycle of question asking? It seems that the authors so far that I’ve read have only asked more questions in regards to rhetoric, yet they have still failed to answer the question of what rhetoric is. In a podcast by Mary Hendengren titled What is Rhetoric, she speaks about the origin of rhetoric, gives a little background and history on rhetoric, and constantly asks questions of rhetoric, yet she still never gives a definition of what she thought rhetoric to be.

I don’t think rhetoric should be a subject that we constantly avoid. Is there even such a thing as a right or wrong answer when it comes to discussing rhetoric, or is it simply based off our opinions? How do we get rid of this negative connotation that is associated with defining rhetoric? The more we talk about it, the better understanding we will have of it even though there will probably never be a concrete definition of rhetoric.

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