The Rhetoric of Fiction

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Nick Riggle - - Philosophical Quarterly 65 Heidegger and the Aesthetics of Rhetoric. Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar - - Informal Logic 15 1. Rhetoric and Pleasure Readings in Realist Literature. Jan van Luxemburg - Postmodern Canadian Fiction and the Rhetoric of Authority.

Glenn Deer - Monika Otter - Kenneth Burke's Way of Knowing. Booth - - Critical Inquiry 1 1 Ellen Peel - - Utopian Studies 17 1 Mark Currie - - Edinburgh University Press. Booth - - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 1 Realist Fiction and the Strolling Spectator. John Rignall - Samuel IJsseling - - M.

Christian O. Lundberg - - Philosophy and Rhetoric 46 2 Patterns in Thackeray's Fiction. James H. Wheatley - - Philosophy and Rhetoric 5 1 Added to PP index Total views 15 , of 2,, Recent downloads 6 months 6 , of 2,, How can I increase my downloads? Sign in to use this feature. This article has no associated abstract. No keywords specified fix it. Aesthetics Fiction in Aesthetics categorize this paper. Applied ethics. A brief introduction to the foundations of critical dogma: truth and purity. The major difference lies in the location of truth and purity.

In general, the True Artist will produce a Pure Work. An artist who follows abstract rules and regulations will be able to access a higher level of art. The adherence to a generic standard to access a reading community is not dogmatic, but the imposition of rules and regulations upon a text in order to read it through a privileged lens is dogmatic.

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Notions of Pure Art tend to exclude the reader from the text. The problem is that what is purged from the text are the necessary elements that make the text relevant and real. The expulsion of the reader as a relevant part of the critical puzzle is nonsensical.

The author does not create emotional situations and involvments in the text for any other purpose than to create art — if this were so than why bother circulating the book through a reading community?

The advent of reader response criticism would seem to undercut this critical dogma, but not the pull of external standards, and therefore, new dogmas. Reader-response critics, like Stanley Fish, for instance, have created a new critical dogma: overemphasis on the reader at the expense of the ongoing discourse between reader, author and text.


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Booth asks how we can possibly remove the human element, which is dependent on emotion, from a work? Even the non-reference to emotion produces an emotion, whether it is discomfort, or aloofness, or coldness. The fashionable trend is to focus on language to the exclusion of human relationships.

Although purity was discussed briefly above, we only discussed one tenet from the school of purity. Realism and purity are dogmatic literary philosophies that insist a text must follow abstract rules in order to be considered pure or properly representing reality respectively. Should dogma be dismissed outright? For example, he agrees with the basic precept of purity--universality--but from the perspective that we all share certain beliefs for the good of the community.

If there were no universal beliefs endemic to a community, then rhetoric and literature would be useless. Booth changes the theoretical optics of puritanical universalism espoused by purists and realists to a new view: from monism to pluralism. If he did not do this he would no longer be a pluralist.

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The contemporary critical scene is riddled with dogmatic views regarding the value and worth of fiction or other critical spheres. For example, some feminist critics enact a methodology that superimposes a rigid political agenda on to the literary text they are investigating. Often these critics will construct narrow dichotomies that pit male against female.

However, this does not rule out feminism as a valuable form of criticism. Barthes proposes that the primacy of the author is a construct supported by critics in order to close the text under one solitary, superior meaning.

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The author is nothing more than an imposed limit on the text that falsely deciphers the hidden meaning in a text. Barthes claims there is no hidden meaning in a text, in fact, there is little if any meaning at all, except for that supplied by a system of language. Barthes then closes the text in a linguistic system that is devoid of human action: we are all meat puppets controlled by language.

Booth might agree with Barthes that critical monism is detrimental to the text, but the author is not merely a device used by critics to supply meaning for the text. Although this is an over-generalization of Barthes's theory, which is mainly directed at a critical dogma that privileges the author over the text, Booth strongly objects to Barthian solution: remove the author from criticism.

For Booth, the author is not the prime literary figure but part of a complex dramatic performance enacted during the process of reading. Furthermore, the author is so far from dead as to be multivalent; the meaning-making engagement of a reader with a text depends potentially on a range of authors, and or tellers, most crucially the implied author, a quite different and more knowable entity than the flesh-and-blood producer of the text.

The reader and the author are not separate entities for Booth.


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The author, the reader and the text live in a symbiotic relationship with each other. Admittedly, Booth seems to concentrate on the author more fully than the reader — over a third of the book discusses authorial voice, style and technique. However, Booth does not over-privilege the author at the expense of the reader: a basic tenet of his philosophy is the interrelated, inseparable, yet interpretable nature of the author, the reader and the text.

In other words, the author, reader and text cannot function without each other; therefore, criticism that dismisses any one member of this literary triumvirate creates a dysfunctional criticism. He critically inquires how these parts work together to create a coherent whole.

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The Rhetoric of Fiction

This is a neo-Aristotelian method. The author chooses to construct implied authors and narrators that suit the purposes of the text in order to connect with a reading community. Although this sub-title appears to be privileging the author, the reader is always implicit. There is a difference between excluding a subject based on its estimated unimportance and focussing on a particular part of larger whole.

The implied author is an integral part of the work. The needs of the work compel the author and reader to create an implied author. The actual feelings and values of the flesh-and-blood author cannot be known.

However, the reader builds responses and attitudes, and assimilates information, about the implied author s. The implied author has values and is engaged with life.

Wayne C. Booth - Wikipedia

We cannot know the personal details of his or her social existence but in terms of ethical matters, the implied author speaks overtly or covertly. The implied author and the narrator are not to be confused, although the narrator and the implied author can converge in some cases. For this reason, Booth discusses the importance of examining how an author uses narration in each text. For example, distance is one of the most important aspects of the rhetoric of narration. Booth considers narration a rhetorical art.

If the work can be considered a map with highways and byways of meaning and value, then the narrator is the navigator that directs the reader to different positions on the map. Booth delineates Jane Austen as a master of the discourse of narration. In the next section the role of narration as a moral compass is examined.

The decisions we make as a reading community on what direction to follow, as well as how the author influences our decisions delineates our responsibilities as readers or authors. They are even quite Boothian, although they might not acknowledge or be aware of the resemblances.


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When Booth refers to morals he does not mean it in the negative sense that the word has come to represent: a confining, puritanical categorization of good and bad. This habitus is always part of the reading process.