Abstract

The aim of this essay is to introduce, contextualize, and provide rationale for texts published in the Humanities special issue, Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives onRhetoric. It surveys theories of ethos and selfhood that have evolved since the mid-twentieth century, in order to identify trends in discourse of the new millennium. It outlines the dominant theories—existentialist, neo-Aristotelian, social-constructionist, and poststructuralist—while summarizing major theorists of language and culture (Archer, Bourdieu, Foucault, Geertz, Giddens, Gusdorf, Heidegger). It argues for a perspectivist/dialectical approach, given that no one theory comprehends the rich diversity of living discourse. While outlining the “current state of theory,” this essay also seeks to predict, and promote, discursive practices that will carry ethos into a hopeful future. (We seek, not simply to study ethos, but to do ethos.) With respect to twenty-first century praxis, this introduction aims at the following: to acknowledge the expressive core of discourse spoken or written, in ways that reaffirm and restore an epideictic function to ethos/rhetoric; to demonstrate the positionality of discourse, whereby speakers and writers “out themselves” ethotically (that is, responsively and responsibly); to explore ethos as a mode of cultural and embodied personal narrative; to encourage an ethotic “scholarship of the personal,” expressive of one’s identification/participation with/in the subject of research; to argue on behalf of an iatrological ethos/rhetoric based in empathy, care, healing (of the past) and liberation/empowerment (toward the future); to foster interdisciplinarity in the study/exploration/performance of ethos, establishing a conversation among scholars across the humanities; and to promote new versions and hybridizations of ethos/rhetoric. Each of the essays gathered in the abovementioned special issue achieves one or more of these aims. Most are “cultural histories” told within the culture being surveyed: while they invite criticism as scholarship, they ask readers to serve as witnesses to their stories. Most of the authors are themselves “positioned” in ways that turn their texts into “outings” or performances of gender, ethnicity, “race,” or ability. And most affirm the expressive, epideictic function of ethos/rhetoric: that is, they aim to display, affirm, and celebrate those “markers of identity/difference” that distinguish, even asthey humanize, each individual and cultural storytelling. These assertions and assumptions lead us to declare that Histories of Ethos, as a collection, presents a whole greater than its essay-parts. We conceive it, finally, as a conversation among theories, histories, analyses, praxes, and performances. Some of this,weknow,goesagainstthegrainofmodern(Western)scholarship,whichprivilegesanalysisover narrativeandjudgestextsagainstitsownlogocentriccommitments. Bymeansofthisintroductionand collection,weinviteourcolleaguesin,across,andbeyondtheacademy“toseedifferently.”Shouldwe fall short, we will at least have affirmed that some of us “see the world and self”—and talk about the worldandself—throughdifferentlensesandwithindifferentculturalvocabulariesandpositions.

Department(s)

English

Document Type

Article

DOI

https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030078

Rights Information

© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Keywords

ethos, selfhood, identity, authenticity, authority, persona, positionality, postmodernism, haunt, iatrology, trust, storytelling, Archer, Aristotle, Bourdieu, Corder, Foucault, Geertz, Giddens, Gusdorf, Heidegger

Publication Date

8-9-2018

Journal Title

Humanities

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