After getting an “A” in my first endeavor, I dropped my second one. It turns out the heavy workload for this so-called “five-week” course is actually crammed into 22 days, and I’ll be on vacation half of those. I didn’t want to be thinking about rhetoric while I’m playing with Lucy and Emmy, so I quit. (I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend. Otherwise, the 3-4 years I’m counting on to finish this degree may morph into 6-8.)
When I first signed up for Rhetoric, my husband laughed. “Isn’t that a bad thing?”
Of course, he was thinking of the Dark Side of Rhetoric. This side is usually associated with politicians’ speeches – rife with words that are pretentious, pompous, and contrived – pretending importance but lacking substance. Even the sound of the word bombast, an old Latin term for material used for padding, smacks of ostentation. Politicians, marketers, and used-car salemen pad their lingo with words designed to tickle our ears.
Negative rhetoric is the stuffy language of academia, which is the very opposite of good, crisp writing. How do you wax eloquent about rhetoric in a research paper without being sucked in by its evil tentacles?
Never fear, rhetoric is not all bad. It does has a positive meaning: the study of the effective use of language. It’s the art of using words to persuade, influence, inform, or please. When I looked ahead in the syllabus, I saw that – if I’d stuck it out – I would’ve studied masterpieces such as Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric. I also would’ve learned about Dumas’ musketeers Ethos, Pathos, and Logos (or is that Athos, Porthos, and Aramis?). I guess it’s not hard to see that I’m a drop-out.
Sometimes we just have too much on our plates. Wisdom calls for us to get rid of the excess. I just did. And I feel free.