Once again. . .

I disappeared for a while. In the meantime, though, I did send my dissertation director 19 pages of a chapter, which she read and responded to in a conference with me yesterday. The chapter should end up being twice as long as it is now. . .I need to complicate the designations on which I rely from Bizzell and LeFevre, and clarify my description of topoi as well as the multiple definition given to the terms “invention” and “topic(s).”

 

Here goes. . .

Invention (in composition/rhetoric):is used to describe 1. the process of coming up with an original subject of discussion (including the perspective and opinions the writer has) and 2. the process of figuring out how to construct an argument about an already-decided upon subject (this is where Aristotle’s topics come in). There’s also something to be said for the idea of invention as coming to a conclusion (discovering it), which is already considered a “truth” by some group of people (the audience the rhetor intends to reach).

Topics: Ack. Okay, topics (in invention studies) can be either 1. references to strategies of approaching a decided-upon subject of discussion (such as Aristotle’s topics) or 2. the thing (idea) being discussed by a rhetor/writer. . .So we can use topics to discuss topics. . .Synonyms anyone?????

According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), “topic” can be a noun, adjective, or adverb. . .A sampling of definitions:

  1. “Pertaining to or of the nature of a ‘commonplace’  or general maxim. rule topic, a general rule, which may fail to apply in a particular case, so that its application is only probable and not certain,” an apparently obsolete use of the word now.
  2. “Containing ‘commonplaces’; topic folio, a commonplace-book,” also obsolete
  3. “Of or pertaining to a particular place or locality; local,” obsolete but really relevant for me
  4. “Of or pertaining to a particular part of the body; designed for external local application,” also interesting. . .
  5. Plural use: “As title of the treatise of Aristotle, or as name for a work of the same nature, or for a set of general rules or maxims.” Ya think?
  6.   “A kind or class of considerations suitable to the purpose of a rhetorician or disputant: passing into the sense ‘consideration’, ‘argument'”
  7. ” A head under which arguments or subjects may be arranged”
  8. “The subject of a discourse, argument, or literary composition; a matter treated in speech or writing; a theme; also, a subject of admiration, animadversion, satire, mockery, or other treatment”
  9. “The part of a sentence which is marked as that on which the rest of the sentence makes a statement (comment), asks a question, etc”
  10. And finally, a medical definition: “An external remedy locally applied, as a plaster or blister”

For clarification, the OED definition for topos is much shorter, though perhaps no less complex: “A traditional motif or theme (in a literary composition); a rhetorical commonplace, a literary convention or formula.”

And on Thesaurus.com, the list of synonyms for topic is also wide-ranging:

Yeah, the clears things up.

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I am an associate professor of English and writing center coordinator at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. I teach courses in composition, creative nonfiction, fundamentals of English, and peer tutoring.

Posted in Comp/Rhet, Dissertation, Invention

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