"Resources of Ambiguity": An Exploration of Pathos
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This dissertation depicts the relationship between rhetorically and pedagogically limited versions of pathos and the types of writing instruction and writing practices that can inadvertently enact oppressive institutional, systemic, and ideological forces. Exploring various definitions, applications, and illustrations of pathos in composition scholarship and composition textbooks, I argue that contemporary representations of pathos are rhetorically and pedagogically restrictive. These restrictive representations negatively influence both students' writing and teachers' pedagogies in the first-year composition (FYC) classroom. I argue that definitions of pathos portray it as the artistic appeal most connected to the audience while implementations of pathos frequently delimit it to an appeal that only addresses academic audiences. This compression of audience subsequently contributes to an acculturating process that constrains approaches to teaching academic writing in FYC. Next, I analyze the relationship between logos and pathos through the enthymeme. Drawing from scholarship that suggests audiences insert pathos into enthymemes in order to inform logical appeals, I establish the enthymeme as constructed by the ideological commonplaces and assumptions of contemporary American society. While I consider the possibility that the enthymeme might be employed as a pedagogical tool to reveal racist assumptions and practices, I also recognize positions that challenge the degree to which academic writing, constituted of appeals to logocentrism, is able to perform such critiques in a politically transformative manner. Consequently, I examine the relationship between pathos and logos in the example, and after presenting definitions of the example, I argue that the employment of a pathos-infused example, one grounded in the personal, might perform such politically transformative work. In light of my analysis of pathos as depicted and employed in composition scholarship, I evaluate three contemporary first-year composition textbooks and their representations of pathos. In doing so, I observe that these textbooks' definitions of pathos often include warnings and applications of pathos that disconnect pathos from the ideological. Moreover, by focusing on pathos, I demonstrate that such textbooks inadvertently characterize rhetoric as an autonomous activity rather than a social one. Ultimately, this work suggests that reconsidering pathos in FYC might productively inform and interrupt logocentrism in American society.