Tom Wright's blog

Connecting Burke with notebooks and articles

Some more thoughts that I hope will bring me a step closer to this paper ...

I should have my notes with me as I write this. I don't--they're at home. But perhaps this is better. Writing without them may prompt a thought I didn't have as I was writing them.

When we compare Pasteur's laboratory notebooks with his published work, I believe the pattern is clear. It's not original--Gerald Geison makes the point firmly--but its application to rhetoric, and specifically to Burke's view of science and rhetoric, should be. I don't know yet whether I should limit myself to Pasteur. Research on Lavoisier leads to a similar conclusion, although I'm not sure Lavoisier had quite the rhetorical talents Pasteur did. In any case, it's absolutely clear that when we read a journal article, we're not getting an unbiased description of "the real world out there"; what we see is filtered through the scientist's rhetorical choices.

Public perception and the rhetoric of science

What follows is some casual writing intended to get my thoughts going, in the hopes that something here will lead to a paper.

Scientists make certain rhetorical choices as they write about science. How do these choices influence the way the general public views science and scientists?

By saying they make rhetorical choices, I am implying that their writing is at least partly persuasive, not purely informative. Scientific journals contain writing that is self-consciously "antirhetorical"--that is, it avoids rhetorical devices that could lead to an appearance of bias.

Re-entering the Parlor: Kenneth Burke as Pointillist

I originally wrote this for the Kenneth Burke mailing list. I put it here so I'll have a convenient place for storing my writing on KB.

One of the classrooms where I teach has a lovely bookcase. It is lovely not for its construction--I've seen better-made bookcases at Wal-Mart--but for its contents. Several rhetoric books grace these shelves, including A Rhetoric of Motives.

Burke, Pasteur, and the rhetoric of science

I've been reading a book called The Private Science of Louis Pasteur, written by Gerald Geison, a Princeton history professor. In spite of my sister's recommendation, I didn't actually intend to read it when I first picked it up. But then I saw one of the section titles: "Laboratory Notebooks, Scientific Fraud, and the Rhetorical Construction of Scientific Knowledge." Geison uses Mikhail Bakhtin's ideas on "inner speech" to shed light on scientific disclosure.