April 5, 2007

Ah, the French

Leave it to the French to come up with semiology.

"There seems to be a difference, then, between what I call the rhetorization of grammar (as in the rhetorical question) and the grammatization of rhetoric...The former end up in indetermination, in a suspended uncertainty that was unable to choose between two modes of reading whereas the latter seems to reach a truth, albeit by the negative road of exposing an error, a false pretense" (de Man 372).

It seems like there is a little controversey over grammar vs. rhetoric in literature, or at least as per de Man in Semiology and Rhetoric . Which way should the text be read- literally or rhetorically? And when should one do this? How does the reader know what to take as verbaitim and what to read as a rhetorical question?

Grammar isn't the deciding factor when examining literature and how to read it, however. It seems that with questions in a piece (often poetry) there are very few clues on how it should be interpretted. Taken literally it holds one meaning, and taken rhetorically it holds a completely different one. It seems as if there is no absolute and surefire way to read a piece- take it literally and we're wrong or take it rhetorically and we're...wrong. Well, that's no fun. How can we, when all we've been talking about lately is the structure of the text, not be able to rely on it to answer our questions? If you can't trust the grammar of the piece, who can you trust? Hmm...I see another form of criticism coming into play here. Authorial intent, anyone?

de Man, ''Semilogy and Rhetoric'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at April 5, 2007 3:09 PM | TrackBack

Ooh, good one! We just keep seeing the criticisms intermixed. It's great, but I'm getting to the point where I'm frustrated because we just keep finding out that there is no answer. How can we be questioned on something we can't really prove right or wrong?

Posted by: Erin at April 6, 2007 11:55 AM

Erin I agree. I have been finding it frustrating all semester that I have not been able to find a satisfactory answer to anything that I am working on. There are a million questions, but no way to answer them with any certainty because one school of thought sees a piece in one manner while another school of thought is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I get that there are many different critics out there and that they all have to be able to carve out a piece of the pie, but can't someone come up with a functioning definition for these criticisms that isn't hidden amongst a ton of wording?

And Vanessa: Yes I do see some authorial intent in the idea behind the rhetorical question, however I think that I would say there is more of a reader response here. I'm working on my paper with the unreliable narrator and the same thing is popping up. It seems that the reader must make the conscious choice to decide the narrator is unreliable, and the same thing is true here. It is the reader that will make the question literal or figurative all in their reading of the question.

Posted by: Tiffany at April 11, 2007 11:02 AM
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