Friday, July 19, 2013

Reading a Rhetoric Text

I'm reading the newest edition of Brummett's Rhetoric in Popular Culture, a text my department has pretty much used in one edition or another for our gateway to the major  class.  I haven't taught the class since about 2004, so I'm prepping with the newer edition we have in our rental system.

There's good stuff, and it explains things well.  And then it gets to this:
It probably used to be the case, many centuries ago, that any given person lived within one large, overarching culture.  Such a culture may have been complex, but it was not multiple.  If you had lived in Britain during the Dark Ages, for instance (say, around 900 C.E.), everything around you, everything you encountered during the day, probably everything you knew about, was part of the same system, the same group identification, and thus the same culture.  You saw and spoke only to others of your own group.  Different aspects of life, such as work, religion, or government, were all closely interrelated; they all manifested the same overarching culture to you.  The same situation may still be found in some tribal cultures around the world, where people are primarily enveloped in a small, single group of people and surrounded by the artifacts that represent that single group.  (24)

So, where to begin?

I'll let you at it.


  1. I think I'd start here:

    Roman is a little early and their idea of medieval is a bit late, but between the two, it's clear that 10th-c Britain was a very cosmopolitan place.

    I think I didn't want to know that anybody seriously still uses the term "Dark Ages."

  2. Have them read Ivanhoe.

    Or talk about the history of the Enlgish language.... it's all there.

  3. !!!!!!!!!!!!

    That's all I can say.

  4. richard7:23 AM

    How about an undergraduate survey text in anthropology?

  5. Forget Ivanhoe (Susan, really?? After my bitching about it on Facebook? :)), to counter this have them read Beowulf or even just a summary, and ask them what it means that 10th-11th century Englishmen were creating and copying a poem about 5th-6th c. Danes and Geats, in which a man travels from his homeland to help another kingdom because of past connections between his family and their people. Ask them what they think that says about whether or not the audience of the poem or the characters of it think of the world as one in which they're "primarily enveloped in a small, single group of people." Or shoot, have them read a little something about St. Boniface's missions or the Synod of Whitby or any thing else that suggests the largeness of the world for people in Britain ca. 900 C.E. and *earlier.* Ooh, or show them images of Anglo-Saxon coins and ask them, "If they were 'primarily enveloped in a small, single group of people,' why did they need coins?" And also, "Why do their coins have Latin on them and what does that tell you?" Here's a nice, detailed look at a bunch of Anglo-Saxon coins:

    And above all, tell them no one who knows better still uses the term "the Dark Ages."