Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Blog #9

Blog #9
1. What is contrastive rhetoric? (150 words)

Contrastive rhetoric is a new way of looking at bi-lingual education that takes into account the fact that people for whom English is a second language may have means of communicating that don't translate perfectly to the way the English language is constructed. The idea behind it is to facilitate reading and writing in English. In addition to bi-lingual students, it also applies to people who don't participate in dominant U.S. culture, and opens the doors of composition for them as well. Five questions are key to anyone attempting to discuss a given topic:

1. What may be discussed?
2. Who has the authority to speak/write; OR Who has the authority to write to whom under what circumstances?
3. What form(s) may the writing take?
4. What is evidence?
5. What arrangement of evidence is likely to appeal (be convincing to) readers?

While these are all questions that are easy for a native language speaker who is part of the dominant culture, they are not as self-evident to the non-native speaker/newcomer to the culture.

2. Why is the Alexie article an example of contrastive rhetoric? (150 words)

I think that the Alexie article was an example of contrastive rhetoric because it provides and answer for the five questions above, and ultimately, the people making the decisions were not the people who belonged to the Native American ethnic group. To answer the questions quickly:

1. Culture said that what may be discussed is that nature of what it means to be a Native American. In their idealized form, as defined by Hollywood, they were noble savages - warriors who used monosyllabic speech, or people close to nature who climbed mountains or waded into streams.

2. Those with the authority to speak were the people defining the idealized Native American - Hollywood actors and producers, who were normally working from stereotypes rather than any real understanding of the culture.

3. The writing might take the form of a movie script, or a TV show, or a trashy romance novel. The Native American was there for entertainment, not for the education of cultural understanding.

4. Evidence is the depiction of Native Americans, such as Tonto, who Sherman Alexi hates.

5. The arrangement of the evidence is that they are ideally suited to the role of sidekick.

Of course that's a load of BS, but it makes me wonder how far we've come really. One of my favorite movies is Brotherhood of the Wolf, which features a Native American character. Even through the character dies a heroic and meaningful death, he is still portrayed as the noble savage warrior who essentially fills the role of the sidekick. On the other hand, there's a European character who also fills the role of sidekick, and the relationship between the protagonist and the Native American seems to be one of genuine friendship as opposed to "helper." I think the portrayal in that movie is a little more complicated than Tonto, and I would love to know what Alexi would say about it. My guess is that his analysis wouldn't be entirely positive or entirely negative.


Paul Muhlhauser said...

So it ISN't BS is it?

Darrin Drader said...

The load of BS is that society allows people who are not connected to, and have not fully researched, a given group to speak on their behalf - which inevitably leads to stereotyping.