Monday, December 8, 2008

Happy Last-Blog-Posting!

So, for your final blog prompt, I have a doozie of a question for you, but it is one that hearkens back to the essential themes of our course, as denoted by the very title of our course: "Identifying American Argument: Race, Gender, and the Rhetoric of Identity."  Based on your understanding of the various argumentative essays, taken together, that you've read over the course of our term, how would you describe what the "rhetoric of identity" is, in the context of present-day America and, in particular, in regard to "American" argumentative writing?

20 comments:

Dunte said...

The modern American rhetoric of identity seems to be identifying oneself with tradition-prescribed standards on the basis personal interests and a disregard for the greater good. Mike Rose points out that students are only pursuing their own interests; Shelby Steele describes the selfish intent of the races to absolve themselves of any guilt due to their actions; Alexie describes "to make American" as everyone adhering to the one-ethnicity standard.

By American authors' arguments, it seems that American identity is the superficial qualities displayed by selfish, uninformed or closed-minded people. Few of the authors present America as the land of promise, equality or opportunity it is said to be. Fewer still represent the American people as interested, empathetic or compassionate to their own world or the world around them.

Sam O. said...

A high level view of American's racists-rhetoric shows a direct correlation to the fact that people form into groups; we can designate these groups with a random color to distinguish them apart from others. Most of these groups are formed on arbitrary similarities, allowing a group to identify itself from outsiders; because of a groups ability to separate itself from others we create a schism in our culture, this phenomenon is at the root of racism. The authors that we have read this semester have observed the lines that divide groups into their colors and how certain colors perpetuate the group division. Anyon told us about how we maintain the advantage that blues have over the reds through school, Steele educated us on how the yellows still kept themselves separate by exploiting the magenta's guilt, and Kilborne spoke of how the light greens are stereotyped by the media. Unfortunately, this abstraction has little affect in explaining the issue to high school students in the early 90s.

tim said...

The authors of the articles we have been reading throughout the semester have been readily able to identify flaws in American society: racism, sexism, and even unequal educational practices. With an emphasis on these negative elements, people may find it easy to dismiss the American promise of a better life--if part of the "American Dream" is false, it must be nonexistent. However, most of the authors are quick to point out that this is not necessarily the case. Although the authors do discuss flaws in American society, they also suggest changes to fix these problems--a sign that America isn't beyond saving. It would thus seem that all the authors cultivate an environment of improvement--an environment of hope.

Danny said...

It seems pretty clear that Americans tend to identify each other by the first aspect that they see. This of course includes race, gender, lifestyle, etc. Basically anything that could be established just by looking at someone can become their identity. Of course, the identity placed could vary depending if the "viewer" is for example a racist or a sexist.

eric said...

This is a doozie of a question. Based on what I have read, Rereading America defines the "rhetoric of identity" as one's culture. This is defined in the introduction when the author states "Culture shapes the way we think; it tells us what 'makes sense.' It holds people together by providing us with a shared set of customs, values, ideas, and beleifs, as well as a common language. We live enmeshed in this cultural web: it influences the way relate to others, the way we look, our tastes, out habits; it enters our dreams and desires" (RA 3).

Alex said...

Today's rhetoric of identity strikes me as an identity of people who are trying to find a place to belong in this society where everything is slowly, (very, very, slowly), starting to meld together. In the past, children would form "clubs" in order to be a part of something exclusive, and they may excluded other people because they may have been different. The communities we have today are a result of our attempt at keeping these "clubs" and being a part of something exclusive and having control of who can or can't join our "club".

From the essays we have read it seems that the American identity is one of an uneducated, sexist, and racist person who does not wish to give anyone the same opportunities to get to the level he may have attained. Instead the inequality of education in our schools, as recorded by Kozol, the objectification of women in advertisements, shown by Kilbourne, and the lack of communication between people of different races, on the subject of race, explained by Steele, are issues that stand out in today's culture, which no one, with the power to change these issues, seems to want to fix.

jon s said...

Rhetoric of identity is how we describe ourselves in relationship to other people or other groups of people, or how we develop who we are in relationship to other people. We are able to identify with or distinguish ourselves from different people because of the established trends/prejudices of American society. The various authors that we read this semester generally focused on some aspect of society that we use to distinguish people by, be it race, gender, or education. So in the context of the "American" argumentative writing that we have read, the rhetoric of identity would be how to associate yourself with the different groups of people that are distinguished by race, gender, and education.

Mike E. said...

The rhetoric of identity in America is an example of what makes America great; our diversified and mixed cultures are forced to coexist and live side by side. It is difficult to say exactly what is our rhetoric of identity because, like the culture it attempts to describe, it is a large collection of various culture, ethnicity and belief systems. The rhetoric of identity is what we decide to make it. It is how we label ourselves and each other. Therefore, those labels that we apply to ourselves will make up not only our personal identities but will also change how we identify those around us.

Dan said...

Based on the readings in Rereading America, the authors have described the "identities" of being and American. My understanding is that anyone's identity is based on their background and culture. The way we perceive others identity is by in a way of first appearance from gender to race. Knowing your self will know your true identity, but "rhetoric of identity" most of the authors describe is how we perceive others identity and how there is much improvement on our perception.

Sam said...

The rhetoric of identity is the manner in which a writer uses prose to endow his or her writing with a sense of individuality. For example, in his essay, Alexie uses many references from his indian culture but at the same time includes white american references. By doing this he marks his writing with a combination of both white and indian culture. In essence, the rhetoric of identity encompasses everything including the issue at hand and the authors feelings about the issue into a cohesive whole from which a piece of writing draws its individuality and power.

Ian said...

The American "rhetoric of identity" is our attempt to come to grips with the sheer variety of people around us. Instead of facing the overwhelming task of meeting and understanding everyone in America, we apply labels and stereotypes in the interest of simplicity. Which stereotypes, and to what extent they apply, depends on the person. Most of the texts we've read though seem focused on two aspects of these labels; clarifying and defining the more complex lables such as in "Causes of Prejudice," or condemning individual lables such as in Kilbourne's essay.

Vicky said...

America, when regarding argumentative writing, is a land of myths. Jonathan Kozol clarifies the myth of individual opportunity considering education; his study reveals the obvious partitions that currently exist with regard to white versus black children. Jean Kilbourne displays for us examples of how advertising portrays women as objects and of how the dehumanization of women makes them more susceptible to increases in violence, thereby diminishing the myth of gender equality. George M. Fredrickson unveils the myth of the American melting pot in his revelation of the ethnic hierarchy that continues to thrive currently in our country.

These arguments all have one thing in common; in the authors’ opinion, the American identity is a country made up of many claims, the land of opportunity and equality, and the melting pot. These claims however, are merely myths.

In disclosing these flaws, they have given the reader several options, the choice to accept their findings as truths and do nothing, or to strive to correct them.

RRowley said...

I think the American rhetoric of identity is ones ability to identify themselves with a group. Be it based on gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation so on.

Throughout the semester, we have read essays that express an individuals views anc criticisms of a given subject, presenting us with a means to question the world around us as well as our own personal views.

Del said...

The rhetoric of identity, as described and used in the articles of "Rereading America", is the technique of persuading the reader to view an issue - such as racism or sexism - through the author's own perspective. Any given person is so remarkably individual and authentic that, unfortunately, these arguments will always be identified as biases. Due to the complexity of our past experiences, good or bad, we quite often have the incentive to try to project our deepest beliefs of what is right or wrong even on those who we perceive to be different from us.
One of the major flaws of this writing strategy is that the author becomes implicitly judgmental towards other groups, although he or she might have not had an intent to do so. Sometimes we are harsh on other people and incredibly quick on forgiving ourselves. Perhaps humans are just inherently judgmental towards one another. I know I am too.

nikki said...

I think the Rereading America readings suggest that the standard American "rhetoric of identity" is essentially an illusion. In America, we associate gender, race, and sexuality with one's identity. However, the essays seem to suggest that these devises are strictly superficial and do not compose the "true" identity of an individual. For example, the bulk of the essays conclude that one's race (or other cultural or biological feature) has no bearing on his intellectual capacity or inherit ability to succeed.

However, the way society views race, gender, sexuality, and religion do influence the way a person views himself and therefore influence the makeup of his identity. In "Becoming Members of Society," Devor says, "The tension created by the constant interplay of the personal "I" and the social "me" is the creature known as the "self"" (386). Although this reading blatantly says it, other essays subtly reinforce the idea that the "rhetoric of identity" refers to society's manipulation of one's "self."

Alan said...

Unfortunately, this abstraction has little affect in explaining the issue to high school students in the early 90s.

So you write almost a page of thoughts only to tell us, at the end, "by the way, ignore everything I just said." Awesome!

As for the "rhetoric of identity," words are taken right out of my mouth from these other postings. Whenever I think "rhetoric of identity," I'm pressed to think about the reasoning behind -- the method to madness to -- that which constitutes our "identity."

Based on the reading over the semester and the discussions in class, I'm led to believe that our identity constitutes that of uninformed, lazy, and ethnocentric people, not the hard-working, individualistic, "elite" peoples we like to think of ourselves to be in the world.

But we all probably already knew that, otherwise this semester would've been in vain.

So, I digress.

John said...

The American view on who we are as a culture differs widely. Views and arguments range from Michael Moore's and John Taylor Gatto's views that citizens of our country lie somewhere on the interval between bored and ignorant to that of Alexis De Tocqueville who believed that the American culture was the ultimate utopia. From our exposure through this course, it appears that contemporary American argumentative writers take a pessimistic view of where our culture stands relative to the ideal advances of complete freedom and equal opportunity, while the only authors to present a favorable view, or one which documented the successes of our country were those who are now long dead.

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