more on the rhetorical situation

In “Generic Constraints and the Rhetorical Situation,” Kathleen M. Hall Jamieson writes that “Genres are shaped in response to a rhetor’s perception of the expectations of the audience and the demands of the situation” (163). Adding to Bitzer’s conception that genres grow out of comparable situations, Jamieson claims “that perception of the proper response to an unprecedented rhetorical situation grows not merely from the situation but also from antecedent rhetorical forms” (163). Thus, we can understand new genres (genres as always evolving) through their Darwinian ancestors. We can understand the pap encyclical by understanding its roots in the Roman Imperial Decree, and we can understand the presidential inauguration speech through its ancestor the sermon (168).

In “Rhetoric and Its Situations,” Scott Consigny critiques both Bitzer’s and Vatz’s view of the rhetorical situation: “for Bitzer the situation controls the response of the rhetor; for Vatz the rhetor is free to create the situation at will” (176). Both of these views are problematic: the rhetorical situation is not deterministic, and the rhetor cannot be fully arbitrary, but must pay attention to particularities in order to be successful. Consigny argues for “rhetoric as an ‘art,’” with two conditions: integrity and receptivity (176). Integrity is the “‘universal’ capacity such that the rhetor can function in all kinds of indeterminate and particular situations as they arise” (180), and receptivity “allow[s] the rhetor to become engaged in individual situations without simply inventing and thereby predetermining whcih problems he is going to find in them” (181).

Consigny, Scott. “Rhetoric and Its Situations.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 7.3 (1974): 175-186.

Jamieson, Kathleen M. Hall. “Generic Constraints and the Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 6.3 (1973): 162-170.

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