November 3, 2012

A Wrench in the Roles

I always find myself coming back to Ong’s The Writer’s Audience Is Always A Fiction. The piece describes how an author can never know their audience completely because a work is available to read by anyone. Ong states, “the indefinite article tacitly acknowledges the existence or possibility of a number of individuals beyond the immediate range of reference and indicates that from among them one is selected.” (13) This related to my misunderstanding because it seems to Ong that in order for rhetoric to be effective, one role must be chosen out of numerous and then given to the reader. In turn, the author must imagine an audience and then cast the reader into the role that they have perceived. On the other hand, a reader must choose to accept the role that is given to them.

November 2, 2012

The figures of wordplay

In reading Killingsworth's article "Appeal through tropes" it became apparent to me that the various ways in which we use the constructions of words to communicate complex messages with one another are much more dynamic and fundamentally grounded in the conception of a shared reality than I was previously aware. Killingsworth defines tropes as being "figures of speech"(123) that we use, often times unintentionally implying the meaning behind these figures of speech, in everyday language as a means to communicate the complex meanings of which we identify with our shared conceptions of reality.

November 1, 2012

When do we have a new genre?

As I began reading a post by another classmate about genre and how Miller says that genres are not the same as mediums but they can come about through mediums I can’t help but notice how similar this sounds to agent and agency. For me I have to agree with the fact that genre is not a medium but created through mediums because as Miller states in the first paragraph of his essay “One concern in rhetorical theory, then, is to make of rhetorical genre a stable classifying concept; another is to ensure that the concept is rhetorically sound.” (Miller, 151) With this in mind you cannot very well have something that is used to classify different types of mediums a medium in itself can you? If that were the case it would be quite a contradiction.

October 29, 2012

Tropes and Motifs

Killingsworth says that he "prefers the term trope to figure of speech because figures of speech are also figures of thought and figures of writing. Tropes help us to classify and study other functions of appeals. They suggest how one position (author, audience, or value) can relate to another"(Killingsworth 121) However, I was wondering about motifs. Are motifs types of tropes? Do motifs form tropes which form genres? The Bedford Glossary defines motif as a recurrent, unifying element in an artistic work, such as an image, symbol, character type, action, idea, object, or phrase. A given motif may be unique to a work, or it may appear in numerous works" (p.316).  I think a motif is something symbolic that turns up recurrently in works to reinforce the main theme. 

Metaphor is to.....

In Jimmie Killingsworth's Appeal Through Tropes he clarifies that "trope is just another word for 'figure of speech'" (121). He uses four examples of tropes that we can find in everyday language. Tropes help us to classify and study other functions of appeals. They suggest how one position (author, audience, or value) can relate to another (121). Modern rhetorical theorists insist that rhetorical language, including the use of tropes, is pervasive and unavoidable (122). Killingsworth proposes four tropes and the processes or functions each use.

His first example is a metaphor: "a trope that identifies a person, thing, or concept with a logical dissimilar thing"(121). Killingsworth suggests the reader thinks of a metaphor as an identification, a way of bringing together seemingly unlike things (123). An example of this identification can be seen in the opening line of "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley: "O wild West Wind, thou breath of autumn's being" (124). This line develops an identity between two typically separate things: wind and breath. By bringing wind and breath together, Shelley creates an important identity between human life and nature.

tropes on tropes on tropes

The way Killingsworth breaks down the basic tropes that we incorporate into our lives is extremely useful. Society associates a trope as a figure of speech, but Killingsworth believes that tropes are more than just a figure of speech, which is an interesting way to look at it. Tropes help us classify and study other functions of appeals (Killingsworth 121). The appeals are metaphors, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. Most of us know what metaphors and irony are and have heard of synecdoche and metonymy, but most of those people can not identify what they are if given examples. Before reading this essay I could not tell you the difference between metaphors and metonymy if I had a gun pointed at my head.

Genre Shift

I still have a few lingering questions concerning last week's discussion of Miller's "Genre as Social Action." For instance, I know a major talking point of our discussion was based on the quote, "we understand genres as typified rhetorical action based in recurrent situation" (Miller, 159). Miller establishes that our understanding of most things is socially constructed an engrained through repetition (repetition of experience or study); Burke would agree with this conception in terms of language (that the meaning of words is socially constructed and standardized through repetition). If we agree with this understanding of genre, Miller's argument has a huge impact on the grasp of the "character of a culture or historical period" (158).

While a valid point, I feel that this idea sparks a more in-depth question:

What does the evolution of genre say about a culture?

Tropes, Ropes, and Catholic Popes

Killingsworth’s essay on tropes brought up a lot of familiar ideas while helping to make the connections between things easier to identify. The best thing about his essay, though, is that he found a much simpler way of explaining what Lakoff and Johnson meant to say in Metaphors We Live By. Our minds automatically create metaphors without our deliberate action. I like his use of the word trope because, as he says, it is more inclusive than “figure of speech,” and created a familiarity that made it much easier to get into the article. To me, going into this reading, a trope is a recurring scenario in television or film. It is a formula that writers use to help them formulate stories. For example, the “dragon” trope consists of the main villain having a subordinate who acts as the main physical obstacle. Maybe the most famous example is Emperor Palpatine and his “dragon” Darth Vader. This relationship can be seen in many examples, and it is thus a trope ( This essay expanded that idea in my mind to literature and everyday speech. Metaphors, metonyms, synecdoche, and irony become tropes because they are frequently occurring formulas in language. They aren’t as formulaic as TV tropes, but they can be thought of in a similar way.

Dynamics of Tropes

Before reading this article I came to understand a trope as a literary figure of speech that deals with a play on the meaning of words. Some of the more known types of tropes include simile, metaphor, and oxymoron. Although the definition of a trope includes many other literary devices, the four main types are those that can identify (metaphor), associate (metonymy, represent (synecdoche), and distance (irony).

I was confused as to whether the author felt like these were the only ones worth being classified as a trope? One of the reasons the author probably feels inclined to speak on the subject of tropes is because its term is so ambiguous and the author also called it inclusive. Therefore since a trope has the ability to persuade I think it makes it a topic with enough flexibility.

Synechdoche, New York

Synechdoche is a word that I'm quite a fan of; which is strange, because I don't have the clearest understanding of it. What I know of Synechdoche is that which is occasionally taught in an english class (i.e. dictionary definition: a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa.) and the film: Synechdoche, New York, which embodies the dictionary definition as a film that can be synonymous with memento mori. So what else could be added on to this definition? Well, I had never looked at it from a rhetorical stand point before.

Killingsworth - Metaphors

I thought the explanation of metaphors was really interesting. Mostly because we use them all the time but people frequently mislabel things as metaphors when really it's a simple comparison, or an analogy, or a simile. Comparisons, or analogies, are literally just that - things that are being compared. And the general rule for similes is that they use like or as in their language to know positively that it is a simile. 

But a metaphor is defined in this as an identification, "a way of bringing together seemingly unlike things" (123). The explanation of bringing things together that seem unrelated is an interesting and accurate take. Whether the metaphor is in a positive or negative light, it does it's job at combining emotion with tangible things, or personification with things unseen. Killingsworth's example of "O wild West Wind, thou breath of autumn's being" (124) he explains as a ratio. Which I found to be an interesting take on the matter. If there is a hint of this, then add a dash of that and even though you think it might not work, literary works might be made from it. 


I found it helpful that Killingsworth was able to break down language of figures of speech into 4 trops (identification, association, representation and distance). It allowed me to separate the different functions we use in literature and see the gasps in how older readers and writers can have trouble distinguishing double meanings, in today's form of writing.

I also found it interesting how science and philosophy have a functionality together (at least it used to) that was brought up. I wonder where that connection within our thoughts and language that got lost in translation, or in the continuation of a similar thought process.

objective or biased?

I've been thinking about Daniel's webtext since we discussed it on the blog Friday. Maybe it's because I'm naturally drawn to pieces even remotely feminist or because it's asking us to take such a...different point of view, but her piece did exactly what she meant for it to do: make us uncomfortable. She says that we're aware of this happening but we chose to turn a blind eye to it because we're uncomfortable thinking about it. We're content with putting away these people asking for our help because we don't want to have to deal with it.

I think this piece takes an interesting structure because she's drawing us to become aware of our treatment of these people in more than one way. We're having our attention drawn to the treatment of these prisoners, these women asking for our help and we're being made aware of just how cruelly we're treating these people, potentially just because they are women. Why are we allowing ourselves to be okay with this?

October 28, 2012


Last week I was struggling a bit with the concept of Miller's theory of genre as a “situated action.” I knew what genre was and how different mediums and stories could be divided into different genres or have overlap with several genres at once, but I wasn't quite sure I fully grasped Miller’s concept. After looking at the posted trailers and their remakes and trying to apply Miller’s theory to them, however, it is much easier to understand. All these movies are very fully entrenched in their specific genres, and many of them are used as classic examples of those genres. However, with a bit of simple re-editing, an entirely new product is created.