Read Bruner…you’ll be glad you did

Sometimes, I read an article rich with theory and ideas, but I’m not able to apply them immediately. When this happens, the article gets kind of lost in my brain.

Despite the color coding, it's easy to get lost in here

I’m sure it continues to shape my thoughts, but I can’t quote from it or do anything really relevant with it.

This happens with movies and books, too. I have little bits of them floating around in my head, but they are not as accessible as I’d like. If I write about something, however, then I remember it. I learned in my instructional design class it means I’m a kinesthetic learner (McArdle, 2007)–I need to apply knowledge in order to learn it. And, it makes sense because writing is thinking (Creswell, 2009).

So, to prevent me from forgetting, here’s a little something about one of the best articles I read this semester.

This article is by M. Lane Bruner, and he is a Professor of Communication at Georgia State University. I’m not certain I can put into words how interesting I found the article. I will likely reread the article several times in the future. Not only did the article help me shape my conclusions about political communication, but the article also offered rich ideas I will carry with me to my thesis and other writing projects.

Bruner, M. L. (2005). Rhetorical theory and the critique of national identity construction. National Identities , 7 (7), 309-327.

Bruner wrote the article to demonstrate the close connection between the way people talk and the kinds of communities people create. The idea makes sense because of the way language defines a community. In addition, Bruner mentions Edwin Black’s (1970) ‘The Second Persona’, where Black discussed the relationship between ‘dimensions of discourse’ and ‘a corresponding form of character’. According to Black, the discourse says something about the character of the public. If Black is correct, the existence of highly-partisan news media in the US says something about the character of the US.

In Bruner’s summary of the scholarship in the field, he describes stages of rhetorical influence. Of particular note are the second stage and the fourth and final stage. The second stage is when rhetors manufacture identities for political purposes out of the available pool of cultural resources. The fourth stage is when a “rhetoric of decay” occurs, and the political exigence, which prompted the identity entrepreneurship, passes and ideological commitments fade. If the scholarship is true, highly-partisan news media sources are manufacturing identities for readers and listeners out of the culture itself. A little hope for today’s culture of highly-partisan political rhetoric exists, though. Perhaps the fourth stage of decay will occur soon, and highly-partisan political rhetoric will be replaced by a more productive rhetoric. Bruner demonstrates rhetoric as a slave to the audience. For Bruner, the rhetorical situation completely controls the direction of the discourse.

I think the power of rhetoric demonstrates the importance of resisting such limits as censorship and book banning. Art and writing add to the rhetorical situation, thus, art and writing must be available for absorption by a community in order for the community to learn from its experience by creating Bruner’s concept of a valid public memory–one not polluted by censorship, ideology, hegemony, or xenophobic stereotypes. That’s a tall order, isn’t it? But, it’s a noble quest.

Quite honestly, I am just barely scratching the surface of what this article offers in terms of scholarship about identity, rhetoric, and politics. You should read it.

References
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches (3rd edition ed.). Sage.

McArdle, G. E. (2007). Training Design and Delivery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD.

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One Response to Read Bruner…you’ll be glad you did

  1. Professor Michael Lane Bruner says:

    I’m very pleased that you enjoyed my article so much. If you have any questions about it, then don’t hesitate to ask.

    When you think about graduate school, don’t forget to consider programs in rhetoric!

    M. Lane Bruner

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