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Is Rhetoric what I think it is?

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Hello all. I've been lurking on the forums for a while trying to figure out, based on all the useful information I've seen, how my interests and I fit into this whole mushy humanities picture, but have yet to get a precise sense.

my academic background:

English BA from top 10 school (but I focused a lot on theory and philosophy courses)

Linguistics MA from CUNY Graduate Center (finishing this right now; at least now I know Linguistics is a science and not in the humanities)

I've also spent the last few years teaching remedial grammar and essay composition to highschoolers in a non-profit program, which I really enjoy. Teaching English 101 would be just fine with me. I'm not an avid lover of literature for its own sake, but I had a good time doing Theory+Literature in my English undergrad. That said, I am hungry to engage in philosophical/critical query at a high level, and write, and stuff.

I'm interested in studying/arguing that

1) there is a degree to which, linguistically, we are unable to talk about ontological nihilism (nothing can be said to really exist) or monism (everything is one), as nouns and verbs reaffirm the existence of objects as distinct things; socially, we are encouraged not to do it; and politically, we are not allowed to do it

2) certain activities (organized and unorganized criminal activity, rioting, gang activity, non-medical approaches to depression, political apathy and non-voting) can be variously interpreted as political and, more specifically, as anarchistic. these activities and the people who do them are often non-historicized and are not incorporated into the narrative of what is considered positivist social discussion. that is, anarchism can be positivist, too, and we should be able to capture that.

3) the exploration of the philosophical connection between anarchism and non-positivist ontologies

some texts/names I'm interested in are Hume, Taoism (studied 1.5 years of Chinese, but stopped recently), Baghavad Gita, Nietzsche, Husserl, Plato and the Pre-Socratics and skeptics, and Foucault. I also love Shakespeare---he's always big on giving voice to the non-historicized, but I'm not a buff.

I'm considering the usual interdisciplinary suspects, maybe some Comp Lit, maybe some of the more flexible philosophy programs, and maybe some of the flexible English programs. What do you guys think?

So...in summary: clearly, somewhat political but primarily theoretical, focusing through language. I don't wanna study history per se, but analyzing society is clearly an interest. I'm interested in language for its social, political, educational aspects. I also, though, have practical strengths in syntax/semantics and writing in general.

(By the way, I know humanities PhDs stuff isn't a good way to make money, but I don't care. I realized that the last few years I've been thinking too much in terms of my career (as an academic or not) and not enough in terms of my interests as a thinking person. I had my most fun (and academic success), intellectually, at school, when I wasn't worrried about goal-oriented aspects of academia, but rather in interest-as-path. The thought that the field is getting more selective and less self-sustaining is empowering; it means that those who aren't really into it are dropping out and it makes me feel more confident about doing it!)

Thanks a million for your feedback!!!

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So, it sounds like you're asking what kind of subfield you should go into (or, what sorts of programs to apply to, i.e., comp lit, philosophy, etc.) with these research interests? Do I have that right?

I'll let others more authoritative in lit speak for the viability of fitting in these interests into comp lit programs. If you're asking whether these are rhetorical concerns (per your thread title), I'd say possibly, but only loosely so. It sounds as though your interests could incorporate rhetorical concerns, but it doesn't seem to be the focus of what interests you, and so I wouldn't recommend applying to rhetoric programs.

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If you want to flex the philosophy/theory aspect of what you've described, the Rhetoric program offered by Berkeley might be worth a look: http://rhetoric.berkeley.edu/ It's unlike most rhetoric programs in its treatment of rhetoric. (I, unlike some, do think it's a viable use of "rhetoric" as a program title.)

Otherwise, there are certain programs that embrace more esoteric theory and certain ones that are more right down to the composition/pedagogy stuff. I'd give UT-Austin a look, or perhaps choose English departments that offer a rhetoric focus -- so look foremost for appealing rhetoric faculty, and then scope out the rest of the department for strong theorists whose interests align with yours. (A bit what I'm doing with rhetoricians and medievalists.)

And if that turns up some fabulous programs for you -- in the sense of programs that are a fabulous fit for your interests -- then, yes, rhetoric's what you want to study! If not, then it's not.

If Berkeley's Rhetoric program seems more your speed than typical rhet/comp programs, you might also want to look at Duke's Literature program.

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