Both of these readings brought forth some new ideas that I found rather fascinating, either that I hadn’t considered, or had only considered/learned about in passing but never with concentrated focus like that of these articles, or, even better, didn’t yet have names for.
From Fisher, I enjoyed the Homo narrans idea. Fisher gave a name to an idea I didn’t have a name for, and somewhat didn’t realize was enough of an idea to have a special name. The importance of accounting, as he calls it (in my head, I thought of it like relating — between humans, between humans and our environment, etc. etc.), or taking into account human choice in the history of argument, and not letting argument become separated from its innate human-ness.
It seems to be this, along with the idea of acknowledging humanity’s need for “stories meant to give order to human experience” that are made up of a bunch of other pieces (“materials”) from the history of stories before that (381). Or, at least, that’s how I understood it, and was further reminded by Fisher’s study of rhetoric as a semi-study of history as well, of the theory of new historicism (wiki article and a good Greenblatt article, natch), where literature is done much the same. Maybe I’m getting too far off track here, but they seem to, if not go hand-in-hand, at least high-five one another on their way past one another.
From Cooper, I was fascinated by the section “Death to the Subject,” though I’m not quite sure if I understood it correctly (though I know for sure I loved his play on Barthes). It seems that Fisher is getting at the subject as an idea instead of as a specific person? And that the subject itself is simply one agent of many, another being the agent who is the speaker/writer. Though, I’m curious as to how much this can be used to push the study of rhetoric towards not the art of persuasion, but to the study of finding the cracks and corners in language, the hidden definitions and silences.
I’m particularly into the quote on 425 that says “Unlike subjects, agents are defined neither by mastery, nor by determination, nor by fragmentation. They are unique, embodied, and autonomous individuals in that they are self-organizing, but by virtue of that fact, they, as well as the surround with which they interact, are always changing.” The part about self-organization leads me to think of audiences not which rhetors rhet upon, but instead choose to partake in the process. The transfer of power between rhetors and their audiences, from one of Authority to know-how (which, I guess I’m using as a stand-in to mean that lack of mastery agents are said to have).
I leave these essays thinking that maybe I need to do a lot more thinking myself about what they’re saying, particularly Cooper. I feel like I missed a lot, much like I did after reading Fish (though I didn’t miss the point so egregiously this go around, yikes), but the ground beneath my feet feels a little more even, even if I’m still getting a lot of (and I mean a lot)