September 17, 2012

Confusion with Profusion Meanings in Agency

         I think the problem I have with most classes dealing with rhetoric is that they never receive one definite answer and that is exactly what Campbell is addressing in Agency: Promiscuous and Protean. In class we discussed that agency was “the condition or state of being that includes power, or the ability to do something.” When I translate that I take it as the ability to do something with power. Campbell suggests this power is done by a group that shares the same ideas, it is “invented”, it emerges and is done only through one’s own free will. This idea that agency is modern is troubling me because I feel that agency has been around as long as mankind. It may seem modern because it is just recently being addressed, but even in the time during Christ there were groups that orchestrated things only because they had the power too. The Jews had enough power to crucify him and that agency is not modern.

         By Campbell saying that rhetorical agency is “communal and participatory” I agree one hundred percent because even if an individual is the one creating a condition, they will need support from people that agree with them to make any progress. When he says agency “is ‘invented’ by authors who are points of articulation,” I am not sure what he means. I am first puzzled by his choice of the word author. Is author the individual who publishes their ideas or is it simply the person who begins the agency. With quote as a whole, I take it Campbell means the author must have processed their thoughts before they presented them. Agency “emerging in artistry” is believable because only one who has experience in presenting can make people understand and believe what they are saying is true. The quote agency is “effected through form,” means that however it is presented can affect the way it is perceived and the actions it will cause. This is where the rhetorical part of agency comes to play because the “author” must use their verbal approaches along with body language to persuade their audience. Lastly, he says that agency is “perverse […] protean, ambiguous, open to reversal. By agency being perverse that means it is done willingly and can vary depending on the circumstances.
          It is very interesting that Sojourner Truth's speech was presented in print this way. It makes me wonder why they did not correct her grammar as they would today. Was everything then written exactly as it was said? Campbell addresses the problem that she was portrayed as a woman who lacked education and English. His examination is different from the others because he is proposing that agency is a paradox when someone’s race, education, or class is involved.  Heilburn is the only other theorists who even addressed women. I think all the theorists would agree that even race or being illiterate is part of rhetorical agency and that can change based on how people receive the message.

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