Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Contrastive Ethos: Chinese and English Rhetoric Continued

~Blog Two~

The Ethos of the Quoted

            Confucius quite literally wrote the book on education in China. Since that time, a good education has always required an extensive quoting knowledge of the man's many writings and of the works of various other revered scholars. Early Chinese educators believed that the study of the works produced by these great minds would in turn create more scholars just like them. Hence, the more that one knew of the classics, the more intelligent and worthy one was considered to be. Credit was given by emulation. In other words, a person's knowledge of other writers allowed them, in a sense, to borrow the respect that those other writers had already earned and stand on it themselves.
            This is where the extensive use of quotes in Chinese writing comes from. It is a part of their rhetoric, stemming from a long tradition. As mentioned above, the use of quotes allows the author to borrow ethos. To an extent, it can be said that an author is as good as the quotes that he knows how to use, something that falls in direct contrast with the values that American writers place on their original ideas. Western writers are credited for the ideas that they can discover on their own, not on how well they can utilize the previously written knowledge of others in order to make their points. And, while the Chinese appreciate original ideas as well, it is the ethos of the quoted that will afford these new ideas ant respect.
            Quoting authors deemed to be “great” likens the current author and his ideas to those more illustrious writers and their ideas. Modern Chinese authors attempt to place themselves on the same plane as the greats by thus borrowing authority. Also, quotes seem to provide a shared medium through which the readers can easily understand the authors. This augments the writer's ethos even more—one is aways more likely to respect someone who presents ethical information in way that can be understood than one is to respect someone who presents it in a way that cannot be. Quotes allow the author to extend a hand to the reader, as it were. Hence, they therefore provide a direct link by which authority can be lent to the word smith in various ways. Chinese authors seemed to gain a more respectable ethos through imitation, as well.  Many, in addition to seeking ethos through sayings or quotations, find it important to copy the “spiritual import” of Confucius and the earlier writers, making their style somewhat similar and didactic.
            Thus, while many aspects of Chinese rhetoric may be considered indirect to the Western reader, such as their topical organization scheme, their promotion of ethos is and always has been at the opposite end of that spectrum. According to Carol Severino, when talking about what Chinese authors thought most important and clear in their writings, “the inclusion of sayings, proverbs, and quotations was...emphasized” in a proper education along with such basics as grammar, clarity, and attention to instructions  (55). Hence, to the Chinese, quotes and ethos were as important as correctly spelled words.
            It can thus be concluded that a long tradition of expanding an author's ethos through the quoting of revered works is still an important part of Chinese rhetoric. The author's ethos is fundamental if he wants to be listened to, and the use of quotes is one of the main ways in which an author can establish the credibility necessary to be heard. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Contrastive Ethos: Chinese and English Rhetoric

            Every culture has their own paradigm, their own way of seeing the world. They each have central values specific to their own identity, and these values play an integral role in the shaping of how members of each culture form their arguments in literary formats. For example, in China, people place a strong emphasis on who a person is and on paying the respect due that person. Therefore, a person's ethos is considerably more important in China that it is in many Western cultures.

~Blog One~

The Ethos of the Author

            The ethos of the writer, his supposed character or reliability as seen on the written page, is important in written Chinese. This comes from a tradition begun over a thousand years ago, when the masses were uneducated and only a few could claim the distinction of knowledge. Those who were educated, as part of Confucius theory, assumed the responsibility of educating those who were not in both ethics/morals and practical information. However, the educated few often never came in personal contact with the masses. To make up for this, early Chinese scholars felt that they must create a persona within their writings that would command attention and respect from those reading it. This would guarantee that they would be listened to. Thus, the national importance of ethos was born out of necessity (Li).
            One way that early writers found to bridge this gap between the author and the reader with ethos was to create a sense of “sincerity” within their writings. They wanted to build a sense of mutual trust between the reader and the writer. To do this, they attempted to impart a sense of “spiritual import” to their readers—a sense which was more than simply an emotion. It was their duty. Their readers needed to know that they cared about their well-being and lifestyles. Those that were educated were required to provide a sort of betterment for those that were not; their duty was towards the society as a whole, not towards themselves. Thus, they did not make the didactic, or ethical, part of their discourses difficult to discover. This was for two reasons: the main one being that this element was a critical part of the information that they wished to convey. The second was because the conveyance of the didactic gave them a legitimacy of purpose (bettering their audience) that otherwise would have been lost. This is in strict contrast to how an American writer would seek to retain readers. In the West, the current method is to entertain readers while subtly slipping in something that might not otherwise be learned—somewhat like slipping a carrot into a chocolate brownie and hoping no one notices.
            While it would be naive to think that Chinese rhetoric has remained completely unchanged in terms of ethos since its earliest origins, it has remained quite static when compared to other languages. Chinese authors still feel a duty to win the respect of their readers and, once that respect is gained, to prove that their persona was worthy of such respect through the information that they choose to impart. In the words of a modern student, “I can't let myself gossip and talk about a lot of things...useless to my audience. I have to tell them something that I think is valuable to them. Paper is not expensive, but time is” (Severino 56). The writers still have a profound respect for their readers, and do not want to waste their time on something that the reader may not consider important.
            China's modern authors are also turning more to the use of emotional language to build their ethos. This emotional language shows the sincerity of the author for his topic, and thereby gives legitimacy to it. This is most commonly seen in the “sanwen”--the “loose writing” that young Chinese are becoming accustomed to (Li). It is emotional, breaking the bounds of a more conservative past to convey a new sort of ethos to their readers. It is striving to give a stronger sense to the reader of the importance the author places on a particular topic.
            Thus, ethos has always been, and perhaps always will be, an important part of Chinese rhetoric. It has changed in minor ways over the ages and will undoubtedly change more as Western influences seep into its framework. But, because of the respect that the Chinese carry for their readers, it will probably remain as an important part of their literary creations for many more centuries.

Friday, February 10, 2012

International Writing Centers Week 2012

How is everyone celebrating?


Friday, February 03, 2012

UCLAWC "Tutorpalooza"

Chris LeCluyse of Westminster College in Salt Lake City gives us a round-up of the Utah Community Literacy and Writing Consortium's "Staff Retreat" (a.k.a. Tutorpalooza) last weekend on the UCLAWC blog, replete with video and comics.