Friday, January 30, 2015

Prologue: Into the Woods - A Musical Number using Modern Rhetoric

Greens, greens, nothing but greens
Parsley, peppers, cabbages and celery,
Asparagus and watercress and
Fiddleferns and lettuce-!
He said, "All right,"
But it wasn't, quite,'
Cause I caught him in the autumn
In my garden one night!
He was robbing me,
Raping me,
Rooting through my rutabaga,
Raiding my arugula and
Ripping up the rampion
My champion! My favorite!-
I should have laid a spell on him
Right there, I could have turned him into stone
Or a dog...
Or a chair...
But I let him have the rampion-
I'd lots to spare.
In return, however,
I said, "Fair is fair:
You can let me have the baby
That your wife will bear.
And we'll call it square."
The recent Disney musical film, Into the Woods, gave audiences, including me, great entertainment with the songs written by the famous Broadway composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim. This film was adapted by Sondheim’s original musical in 1987, which featured songs such as “Giants in the Sky”, “Agony” and “Last Midnight”. Many of these songs had one thing in common: They used rhetorical figures and tropes. However, I would like to focus on the very first musical number, which is the “Prologue: Into the Woods”.

“Prologue” is about 13 minutes long, but the part which I believe is very eloquent and used many rhetorical figures and tropes is at 7:23 to 8:07, where fans affectionately called it the Witch’s Rap, done by Meryl Streep. One of the rhetorical figures and tropes was alliteration. This was evident at the part “Parsleys, peppers, cabbages and celery”, where the first part had a focus on the letter “P” and the second on the letter “C”. In my opinion, I believe alliteration was used in here to let audiences understand the varieties of vegetables being grown by the Witch and these vegetables were stolen by the Baker’s father. However, this was not the only part where alliteration was used. In fact, alliteration was used throughout the rap.

Besides, rhyme was also used in the Witch’s Rap. For example, “He said ‘All right!’, but it wasn’t, quite, ‘cause I caught him in the autumn, in the garden one night!”, used rhyme, where “right”, “quite” and “night” were rhymes at the end of the sentence. In this example, rhyme was used to stress out the point that the Witch has seen the Baker’s father sneaking into the garden that night. Furthermore, assonance was another rhetorical figure used in the Witch’s Rap. As an example, “Rooting through my rutabaga, raiding through my arugula” had assonance with an emphasis on the vowel “u”. This proved to be effective, in my opinion, because assonance gave audiences a chance to understand the actions done by the Baker’s father in more detail, but also it made audiences understood the process of stealing the vegetables with catchy lyrics. Parallelism was also used in this part of the “Prologue”. An example would be “I could have turned him into stone, or a dog, or a chair” had parallelism in terms of using nouns. In this case, parallelism was used to show the capabilities of the Witch’s powers, where she probably could have turned the Baker’s father into anything, ranging from a non-moving object to a living animal.

But, the most eloquent part of all, in my opinion, was the part where Sondheim intended the use of “Robbing me, raping me” in his lyrics. I was immediately shocked when I heard the lyrics, but then after some research, I finally understood what the Witch was singing about. In this case, “raping” did not mean the act of committing a rape, but actually meant the act of stealing, or seizing. This meant that the Baker’s father was not raping the Witch, but only meant that he was seizing the vegetables from her garden.

Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods was not only an excellent musical film, but it also was a clear example where rhetorical figures and tropes were explicitly and effectively used. I would suggest everyone to watch this film, because it is entertaining with the multiple musical numbers, and it is a good example of the modern rhetoric in terms of word choices in songs.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One most eloquent writings that I have ever read comes from page 8 of Carl Sagan’s 1994 book, Pale Blue Dot:
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
The passage refers to a photograph taken of Earth by Voyager 1 at a distance of about 4 billion miles.
The words themselves are carefully chosen to create a certain frame of mind in the audience by evoking different emotions. Sagan also uses figures to further his intended affect. Primarily, he uses repetition and antithesis. Repetition, chiefly in the form of anaphora, allows Sagan to place strong emphasis on his particular points and make those points memorable. Through antithesis, Sagan engages his readers and challenges them to actively think while reading. The finely chosen words and figures combine to make an emotionally-moving passage. This passage is then combined with the powerful photo to which it refers to create a true rhetorical masterpiece.

By the end of the passage, the audience is emotionally open and here is where Sagan places his suggestion to be kind and take care of the Earth. This is an effective structure because by creating an emotional connection with his audience Sagan improves the probability of them accepting his suggestion. It is important to note that he uses a suggestion and not a command which would disrupt the emotional nature of the passage. But Sagan does not rely solely on pathos; indeed, there is a certain logic to his writing. Additionally, Sagan has considerable credibility because he is was one of the preeminent astronomers of his time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Reading Guide for Week 3

1. What is the difference between a figure and a trope? Give examples of each.
2. Why do rhetors use figures and tropes? What is the value of eloquence?
3. What explains the power of metaphor?
4. Read some passages of Gorgias' Encomium of Helen aloud. Can you feel the rhythm of the language? Why do you think Gorgias crafted his speech so rhythmically?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Reading Guide for Week Two

1. Where does the systematic study of rhetoric emerge? What were some features of ancient rhetorical cultures?
2. Explain the dispute between Plato and the Sophists. What was at stake in this dispute?
3. Palczewski, Fritch, and Ice note that language constructs reality. How so? What are the implications of this claim?
4. What is a terministic screen? How might a metaphor function as a terministic screen?
5. What is resignification? Are there limits to the resignifying of terms?
6. What are some examples of the "misuse" of language? Pay special attention to doublespeak, euphemism, and inflated language.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reading Guide for Week 1

Reading Guide for Week 1--Manuel Castells, "Networking Minds, Creating Meaning, Contesting Power"

1. What role did the internet have in stimulating and coordinating the social movements Castells' refers to?

2. Castells identifies two sources of power (p. 5). What are examples of each, and which kind of power is preferred for democratic cultures?

3. Castells defines communication as "the process of sharing meaning through the exchange of information." How does this definition line up with either the informationist or rhetorical model of communication we discussed on Tuesday?

4. There are two unique forms of power in a network society: "switching" and "programming." Explain these forms of power with specific examples. What are examples of switching and programming in the service of what Castells calls "counterpower"?

5. How would you explain the relationship between individuals, networks, and social movements?