November 19, 2012

Helen Keller, the unintentional rhetorical theorist

 I have always known about Helen Keller but I just assumed she was famous for being able to read and write as a deaf and blind women. I had no idea that she had such insightful ideas about gender studies and audience construction. As Ann George states, "Helen Keller never called herself a rhetorical theorist, but we can."

George's idea of comparing some of Kenneth Burke's theories with Helen Keller's is genius. I never would have thought that their ideas were similar in anyway, but after reading Burke's essay on terministic screens and hearing some of the criticisms and ideas are associated Helen Keller are similar. Terministic screens allow people to view the world in a way that makes to them. That was the main argument against Keller since people thought that her observations and stories were told in a way that did not support her handicap of not being able to see or hear.

The criticisms that came about from this were necessary since one of Helen Keller's ideas about how to effectively advocate radical change is to create an identification with the audience and bore from within. Burke believed in this as well and in some ways justified why Keller's stories and ways of lobbying were told in the perspective of a person who can see, since most of her audience is not blind. Though this theory was not delivered as a theory like Burke would have presented it because Keller's goal was not teaching people how to be rhetorical critics or become "conscious and conscientious symbol users" like Kenneth Burke.

1 comment:

Kenneth said...

I hadn't made the connection of why Keller would write in language that is completely abstract to her until you pointed out that she might be using what Burke called "boring from within" and identification. What's even stranger is that this method didn't entirely work. Critics complained that her books didn't let one know what it's like to live without seeing or hearing. I haven't read her books so I can't say for sure if she did cover this topic, but there is a difference in writing about being blind and deaf and writing from the perspective of a blind and deaf person. Just because she's blind and deaf doesn't mean every thing she writes should make that fact obvious. Unless that's what she's writing about.

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