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What is a Rhetoric PhD?


deianira

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From Berkeley's website:

"The Department of Rhetoric is a leading center for interdisciplinary research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences. Linked by a common interest in the functions of discourse in all its forms, faculty and students engage the theoretical, historical, and cultural dimensions of interpretation and criticism, in fields as diverse as political theory, gender, law, media studies, philosophy, and literature. The Department is also committed to the study of rhetorical traditions, from the classical era to contemporary rhetorical theory."

Study of discourse, basically. Berkeley has some of the BEST people there producing AMAZING stuff. But sure, if you consider philosophy, literature, political theory and history a waste of time, probably not going to interest you.

I agree with Tonights. Not cool.

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Oh no, that's not what I meant. Sorry, guys, I know humor doesn't come through too well on the internet. Any way, I was joking about "waste of time", just reflecting the stereotype of English majors being chronically out of work :) Didn't mean to step on anyone's toes.

Back to the topic, the description is very general. What would you actually do for a thesis in Rhetoric? A critical analysis of...politics, literature, philosophy, history? That sounds so broad.

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I'm neither in the program nor did I apply, but if you take a look at their website, http://rhetoric.berkeley.edu/, you can look at some courses as well as some dissertation topics of market PhDs.

Lots of it focuses on questions of Knowledge and truth, hermeneutics (the reading and interpretation of "texts"), identity, subjectivity, etc.

FOr someone in the life sciences, you would be unfamiliar with the majority of concepts. It is highly theoretical and one of the more "obscure," "postmodern/post-structuralist" and "fancy-pants" types of programs. If you want to read something that would definitely be a part of rhetoric, pick up michel foucault or hannah arendt :) I smile because someone in the life sciences wouldn't have a fucking clue what they were saying. Not meant to be pejorative, it is just hard to describe to the uninitiated.

If they allowed you to apply to more than one program at berkeley, i would have thrown in my hat.

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I smile because someone in the life sciences wouldn't have a fucking clue what they were saying. Not meant to be pejorative, it is just hard to describe to the uninitiated.

I think your statement is no less offensive than "English PhD is a waste of time and money". I'm a neuroscientist, and I've read quite a bit by Foucault, Derrida, Heidegger, etc. Just because I am in life sciences, does not mean I can't have other interests, or have a clue about philosophy or literary theory. Different people are interested in different things, and their professional field does not necessarily have to limit their worldview. I find your generalization pretty condescending.

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I didn't mean to be offensive, and of course that doesn't mean they don't have outside interests. I said the "uninitiated" would have no clue what they were saying. You, clearly, do not fall into that category.

I do not expect to pick up a neuroscience journal and have any idea what the fuck is going on. That is all I meant.

For something like rhetoric, it is hard to describe to someone unfamiliar with they type of scholarship that goes on in the humanities and social sciences.

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For the record, I've read Focault, and a number of other philosophers, and taken philosophy and english lit classes. What people do for a profession does not define them on the whole, but I'm sure you know that :)

So what kind of jobs do people do once they get a Rhetoric PhD?

edit: and you should understand at least part of what's going on if you pick up a neuroscience journal, because the logical analysis of facts and theories is common to all disciplines. You may not understand the details, but you should be able to follow the general conclusions.

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I didn't mean to be offensive, and of course that doesn't mean they don't have outside interests. I said the "uninitiated" would have no clue what they were saying. You, clearly, do not fall into that category.

I do not expect to pick up a neuroscience journal and have any idea what the fuck is going on. That is all I meant.

For something like rhetoric, it is hard to describe to someone unfamiliar with they type of scholarship that goes on in the humanities and social sciences.

I see your point, and I'll chalk up your original statement at which I took offense to sloppy wording (you did refer to "someone in life sciences" in general). I'm sorry for taking this personally - I just think we should all be wary of anti-unfamiliar discipline rhetoric (heh), especially if we are accusing others of the same.

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Yeah, I'm always getting these "history - what the hell is that?" type questions from my friends in the hard sciences. It's sort of a tough concept to explain... I always start with having them think back to what they had for dinner the day before and then explain that it's like that but even further back, and often more complex. I up the ante by asking them to imagine that they'd eaten at a French restaurant and the difficulties they would have had doing their dinner-selection research in a foreign language. This is usually where I lose them... :wink:

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I see your point, and I'll chalk up your original statement at which I took offense to sloppy wording (you did refer to "someone in life sciences" in general). I'm sorry for taking this personally - I just think we should all be wary of anti-unfamiliar discipline rhetoric (heh), especially if we are accusing others of the same.

Well, I did mean "someone in the life sciences" as a generalization. I don't expect them to keep up with contemporary theory. I stand by my original assertion--for most in the hard sciences unfamiliar with current social science and humanities scholarship, the stuff one does in rhetoric program would not resonate, and I wouldn't expect it to. Doesn't lessen it's critical value.

My tone is the result of general contempt for those in the sciences who devalue the social sciences and humanities and find it "a waste of time," oftentimes because they are no good at it, don't understand it and/or got bad grades in their writing courses that brought their gpa down. Of course this is not everyone in the sciences, but I've encountered quite a few.

So, you caught me. I was condescending. On behalf of the much maligned "soft science" folks out there--deal with it.

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So what kind of jobs do people do once they get a Rhetoric PhD?

Well, mostly entrepreneurial types undertake this kind of study. I'm not saying everyone who gets a PhD in rhetoric is guaranteed an instant entry level corporate job with a 7 figure salary, but it's pretty hard to be an efficient minister of propaganda, charismatic cult leader or revolutionary subversive with less than an extensive survey of the field.

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Well, mostly entrepreneurial types undertake this kind of study. I'm not saying everyone who gets a PhD in rhetoric is guaranteed an instant entry level corporate job with a 7 figure salary, but it's pretty hard to be an efficient minister of propaganda, cult leader or revolutionary subversive with less than an extensive survey of the field.

HAHAHA! Love it!

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Well, mostly entrepreneurial types undertake this kind of study. I'm not saying everyone who gets a PhD in rhetoric is guaranteed an instant entry level corporate job with a 7 figure salary, but it's pretty hard to be an efficient minister of propaganda, charismatic cult leader or revolutionary subversive with less than an extensive survey of the field.

hehe...very descriptive, thank you :)

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As an undergrad at Berkeley, I can offer you the following two facts about the Rhetoric Department:

1) It is a major that attracts ambitious and intelligent undergraduates interested in going to law school. The others do Political Science.

2) I have no idea who the grad students are, but my best guess would be a variety of insufferably smart prigs with the hots for Judith Butler.

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