Fatema-The Rhetoric of Silence: Understanding Absence as Presence

Carroll, Laura Beth. The Rhetoric of Silence: Understanding Absence as Presence. Diss. Texas A & M University, 2002. Web. 16 July 2016

  • Analyzing meaningful silences in literature
  • Two kinds of rhetorical silences: Collaborative and Resistant which are used to align oneself with power or resist power.
  • Linguistic dismissal of seeing silence as having any kind of meaning. Silence is only understood as something that facilitates conversation.
  • The researcher attempts to study silence as a positive discursive act laden with meaning.
  • The need for Kairos (?) in the study of the rhetorical discourse of silence.
  • Traditional studies look at silence in two ways. First, as a meaningless negative space that only acts as a boundary to meaningful rhetoric and second, as oppression by denying one the power of speech. Only Greek Rhetoricians look at silence as a tool of power.
  • Even when silence has been studied, it has been studied only at the micro level of conversation (still not viewed as a tool for power but rather as lack). At the macro level only rhetoric has been studied thus putting silence completely out of the rhetorical discourse.
  • In fact, silencing has been viewed as the denial of power to marginal groups. Also, since it is essentially used by women, and rhetoric by men; the western preference of language over silence also  leads to the question of phallogocentrism.
  • The study aims at seeing silence in the rhetoric of Nazi Germany, Racial Segregation in Civil War America, and contemporary feminist movements.
  • The writer uses Kenneth Burke’s idea that language is symbolic action and action is rhetorical. Thus, he expands the scope of rhetoric beyond the realm of the political into everything else too.
  • Burke helps us believe that action functions rhetorically (?) and therefore giving scope to the interpretation of silence, which due to its lack of words has to rely on actions.

(To be continued…)


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