Historically, rhetoric has had little to do with women (or feminism), other than sharing marginalization within the academy. However, as this collection makes clear, viewing rhetoric and feminism in context with one another reveals the ways they interanimate each other, challenge traditional academic thought, and occasionally fall victim to “conscious and unconscious hierarchies and exclusions” (Ede, Glenn, and Lunsford 248). Landmark Essays on Rhetoric and Feminism begins with an editor’s introduction contextualizing the 17 essays through a brief history of feminism. The editors organize the essays by feminist rhetorical means: recovery and recuperation; methods and methodologies; feminist practices and performances; pedagogical applications and implications; and new theories and histories. [End Page 705]
In “The Role of Pathos,” (reprinted in Harris’ Landmark Essays on Rhetoric of Science Case Studies, 1997), Craig Waddell explores the 1976 debate surrounding whether or not recombinant DNA (rDNA) research should be allowed in Cambridge, MA. In particular, Waddell focuses on the city-formed Cambridge Experimentation Research Board (CERB) and a meeting it had with researchers from Harvard and MIT and concerned citizens. Waddell determined that though our culture in general and the post-hoc reflections of CERB meeting attendees tend to privilege the role of logos in policy decision making, that, instead, the arguments presented at the meeting involved a sophisticated coordination of logical, pathetic, and ethetic arguments. In follow-up interviews CERB members reported that emotional arguments such as appeals to the sanctity of human germ plasm and the tragedy of children with congenital illness were prominent and in some cases particularly persuasive. Furthermore Waddell explores how ad hominem attacks became the primary mode of argumentation in some parts of the discourse.
Ultimately Waddell argues that this data suggest that scientists interested in influencing policy and rhetoricians studying the science-policy interface need to pay attention not only to the logical appeals, but also the role of pathos and ethos in that discourse. And while these were important conclusions in 1990 and they still ring true today, subsequent research in the science-policy interface has rendered these findings somewhat obvious to rhetorical scholars. Nevertheless, I think it is important to continue to remind ourselves that the scientists who participate in policy discourse and those making policy decisions often think of those decisions as exclusively logical, if well made.
They chart the field, exhibiting the governing themes of rhetorical criticism when its eye turns to science -- suasive greatness, paradigmatic debates, public policy concerns, and composition issues.
I referred to this article by Waddell (the reprint version) in a paper I wrote for a graduate-level class in Rhetorical Theory. As someone with an undergraduate degree in engineering who is going for her Master’s in Professional Writing (almost done!), I am endlessly fascinated by the role that rhetoric plays in the sciences, almost without being noticed. We think (and scientist’s themselves think) that science is all about, or strictly, logical, when in fact it is anything but, as Waddell’s article points out.