This is a page for previous assignments done for this class:

Glossary of Terms:

(Original tweets available by clicking link above definition.)

1.) Hypophora

Posted by sylverlining:

So how many people died in the American Civil War? t.co/TZUlwPLf @NYTcivilwar #cw150”

This is an example of hypophora, which is when one or more questions are asked and then immediately answered. The character limit prevented the poster from answering, so they posted a link that leads to an article that does so.

2.) Allusion

Posted by CardiffBluesSC:

“It’s not the American Civil War but tonight see Cardiff Blues South v North U16′s at Abercynon RFC tonight. 7.15pm kickoff. #rugby”

Allusion is a quick reference to something or someone famous. The poster uses the American Civil War as their reference.

3.) Epizeuxis

Posted by marykmac:

Did you know the first world war was VERY VERY BAD? #downton #bleedinobvious”

Epizeuxis is when a word is emphasized by repeating it– in this case, ‘very’.

4.) Diacope

Posted by laurenstrug:

nope. i thought i would like the american civil war. nope.”

Diacope is when a word or phrase is emphasized by repeating a word before and after it– in this case, ‘nope’.

5.) Aporia

Posted by kellyzimmer:

I don’t know if all things are fair in war, but I do believe all things are fair in love.”

Aporia is when someone expresses doubt about a statement. Often it is ued to dismiss something that doesn’t have to do with your second statement but may have some relation, as is seen above. The poster’s point is that all things are fair in love. Technically, war has nothing to do with the poster’s opinion on love, making this an example of aporia.

6.) Understatement

Posted by Maverick_Loses:

#war is bad and people die.”

Understatement is when a concept is portrayed as being less important than it is in reality. War is horrific and many, many people die, so putting it as simply as the poster does is a clear example of an understatement.

7.) Antithesis

Posted by lomart10:

Peace is good war is bad save the trees”

Antithesis contrasts two concepts by putting them side by side. The poster announces that peace is good, then immediately follows up by saying that war is bad, making this an example of antithesis.

——

When one thinks of Twitter, the phrase ‘rhetorical sophistication’ isn’t usually the first to come to mind. The social networking site allows users to make posts that can be seen by others, but these posts are limited to one hundred forty characters or less. Because of this, users must get to the point quickly and concisely, and as a result these posts are often littered with chat speak (for example, ‘u’ for ‘you’) so more information can be squeezed in. Surprisingly, however, these posts do contain some degree of rhetorical sophistry. In fact, I found many tweets in which quite a few rhetorical devices were used. I searched for posts with a connection to war, and the results I found made me realize that even platforms like Twitter afford for impressive usage of the English language.

For example, I found an interesting and nontraditional use of hypophora. Twitter user Sylverlining posted the following tweet:

So how many people died in the American Civil War? t.co/TZUlwPLf @NYTcivilwar #cw150”

This is an example of hypophora, which is when one or more questions are asked and then immediately answered. The poster couldn’t answer their question without going past the one hundred forty character limit, so they posted a link with the answer in it. It’s still an example of hypophora, but adapted to the constraints of the technology.

Another rhetorical device that had been modified for space was marykmac’s post ‘“Did you know the first world war was VERY VERY BAD? #downton #bleedinobvious”‘. This is an example of epizeuxis, which is a method of emphasizing a word by repeating it. Most examples I found when looking up the definition of epizeuxis repeated the word so that it appeared three times. Here the poster had to keep the character limit in mind, and therefore only wrote the word ‘very’ twice.

The above post is also an example of understatement, also defined as a concept being portrayed as less important than it is in reality. This wasn’t the only understatement I found. Maverick_Loses wrote ‘#war is bad and people die‘. These two posters are far from the only ones to use this particular device. Of all the rhetorical devices I’ve seen on Twitter and on the Internet in general, understatement is one of the more common ones. It isn’t a difficult or obscure device, and for many it comes naturally.

Understatement seems to be so prevalent that it appears in a post that initially caught my attention due to its use of antithesis (which is contrasting two statements by putting them side by side). Lomart10 says ‘Peace is good war is bad save the trees’. This post is a landmine of rhetorical devices. First is the understatement (of course peace is good and war is bad), followed by the antithesis (putting the statement ‘peace is good’ and ‘war is bad’ side by side). Thirdly comes another example of epizeuxis in the Chinese characters that follow the English statement. Unfortunately these do not seem to appear when I write them here (and, oddly enough, they do not appear on Twitter either– only when I pasted them into a Microsoft Word file did they appear), but when I looked them up I found that each one meant ‘tree’. Though the poster did not have the space to write a full sentence in which to speak further about the importance of environmentalism, he did have the space to write ‘tree’ not just once but three times in Chinese. By writing it three times he placed an extra stress on that particular part of his statement, making it undoubtedly another example of epizeuxis.

Similar to epizeuxis is diacope, which also involves the repetition of a word. Instead of appearing immediately after its first occurrence, the word appears once at the beginning of a phrase, and then again at the end. Laurenstrug uses this when she says ‘nope. i thought i would like the american civil war. nope.

What can we conclude from all this? I feel safe in saying that Twitter users are actually quite literate in a wide variety of rhetorical terms. However, because of Twitter’s one hundred forty character limit, this prevents them from using them in the traditional fashion one would immediately look for and recognize. Instead, they have come up with creative new ways of applying these timeless devices of the English language to modern technology. Whether one writes the answer to a question immediately after it is asked, or if they post a link containing the answer after said question, it is still an example of hypophora. Even when stripping antithesis to its most basic form, it doesn’t change the fact that it is indeed antithesis being used.

I must admit that I was surprised by what I found. My previous adventures when using Twitter jaded me into thinking that it was only a website filled with illiterate people condensing what they had to say as much as possible so as to fit their statements into a tiny word limit. I was wrong– they aren’t illiterate at all, but actually quite ingenious in how they’ve consciously or subconsciously managed to find new ways to use the various rhetorical devices we’ve known for years. Is it traditional? No. Is it always ‘correct’? No. Is it still a surprisingly impressive display of rhetorical sophistry? Indeed it is.

Digital Humanities

We live in an age in which things are changing at a rapid pace. Technology is evolving faster than the blink of an eye, and yet it hasn’t been until recently that educational institutions have truly begun to embrace modern technology in the classroom. Some may say that digital humanities technologies are the best way to interpret literature, and while I do agree that they’re a good way to interpret literature it’s not the best. It is of my opinion that these digital tools are indeed just that– tools. In some ways they are better for interpretation, in others they are worse.

First, let’s focus on the good. Imagine that a class is studying George Cary Eggleston’s short story ‘The Canoe Fight’. A possible subject for discussion could be how at one point in time ‘Indian’ was an acceptable term to describe the people we now refer to as Native Americans. However, one would have trouble being specific as to when that change occurred. Was it ten years ago? Twenty? Fifty? One could search through book after book on the history of Native Americans and find nothing.

Thanks to Ngram, a website that allows you to track how often various words or phrases have been used in published books over the years, there’s an easier way to go about finding this information. Instead of individually pouring through book after book from a multitude of different eras and comparing the results and/or tracking down studies that may not even exist on the subject, the results are just a click away.

(Click image for larger size)

Take a look at the figure above– do you see how the phrases ‘Native Americans’ and Indians have been used over the course of one hundred forty years? What once would have taken weeks or even months can now be done in only a few seconds. All I had to do was type ‘Native Americans, Indians’ into the word box and click ‘Search lots of books’. The rest was done for me. This is incredibly useful for obvious reasons. For one thing, it allows the necessary research to be done quickly so there’s more time for the real focus of the lesson.

(Click image for larger size)

Another example is the picture above– it encompasses a few of the words that I considered to be most important in my story, as well as some of their synonyms. I was able to find the frequency in which they were used during the years around the period it was published very quickly, while in the past it would have been an entire project in itself just to do so.

There are many things I can do with this– for example, I can analyze what it says about society from 1860 to 1900 based on words that appear more frequently than others. If I were a professor, I could lead a classroom discussion on what ‘war’ appearing far more frequently than anything else (including ‘friend’) means, and how it’s reflected in books from that time period. Before the advent of programs like Ngram this level of customization for individual situations would have been nearly impossible.

(Click image for larger size)

The above picture is a Wordle (insert link here) I made using the text of my story. A Wordle takes the words of a text and arranges them in a tag cloud in which the words that appear more often are larger than the ones that appear less often. Like Ngram, this can be used to track the frequency of certain words and to analyze what that says about the story.

However, while Wordles may be very pretty, they aren’t always completely educational. After all, how often a word appears doesn’t imply a direct correlation with what the story is about. My Wordle heavily emphasizes the words ‘Dale’, ‘Indians’, ‘men’, ‘one’, and ‘canoe’. These words may appear more than any other (except for words considered ‘common’, such as ‘an’, ‘or’, ‘the’, etc), but they don’t really tell us anything about the story itself beyond the basic facts. ‘Dale’ refers to Samuel Dale, one of the major characters, while ‘Indians’ and ‘men’ refer to the other characters. ‘One’ and ‘canoe’ are a bit useless, as one would clearly expect the word ‘one’ in a story, and ‘canoe’ is equally expected in a story called ‘The Canoe Fight’.

Even so, there are some things we can do with this data– for example, judging by the Wordle, ‘Indians’ appears far more often than ‘white’, which says a lot about how to be white was considered natural and something not worth mentioning as opposed to Native Americans being ‘savages’.

But still, many of the most important themes in the story go unmentioned. Of the most important words I chose, none appeared among the most frequently used. Despite the fact that online tools can be very helpful they don’t magically tell us what the message of a story is on their own. They can help us find words that appear often and perhaps we can make some sort of conclusion based on that information, but in the end they are tools, nothing more, nothing less.

In fact, one can argue that the less often a word appears, the more important it is to the story. I mentioned earlier that ‘white’ doesn’t appear very often, which shows how to be white was something that was a given from 1860 to 1900, which is clearly reflected in the story. This is a way in which Wordle can be useful, and in fact most if not all online tools. They don’t do the work for you, but they do make collecting the necessary data more convenient.

However, this brings us to one more problem. These tools may be useful, but they aren’t always as accurate as a human being. Let’s take the word ‘canoe’, one of the most frequently mentioned in my story. Now, when we enter it, should we spell it as ‘canoe’ or ‘Canoe’? One wouldn’t think that would matter, but in fact it does:

(Click image for larger size)

When Ngram searches through books, it’s looking for the word exactly as you typed it. ‘Canoe’ with a capital ‘c’ likely finds results of the word being at the start of a sentence, and thus capitalized, while ‘canoe’ is likely in the middle or end of a sentence. This skews the results, and as a result one cannot consider Ngram to be fully accurate.

Another issue with Ngram is that one cannot specify what version of a word they’re looking for. When I searched for ‘Indian’ I was searching for the outdated term once used to refer to Native Americans. However, Ngram included all instances of ‘Indian’, meaning that many of the results likely originally referred to people from the country of India.

Humans are not machines, and while in some ways this can be a shortcoming (for example, our inability to perform the tasks of Ngram and Wordle at a comparable speed), in this case it is a good thing. Although it would take much, much longer for a human to sort through hundreds of years worth of books we would still be able to decide if a word should be included or if it isn’t relevant.

As a result, I cannot agree that digital humanities technologies are the best way to interpret literature. They’re very good and useful tools, but to rely on them would be to rely on very flawed programs. I do think that they have their places in the classroom and that we can form our own opinions based on what we find when using them, but to call them the ‘best’ way to interpret literature would be promoting analysis based on questionable sources.

Annotated Paragraph:

An annotated paragraph from The Canoe Fight by George Cary Eggleston:

‘At Fort Madison, one of the smallest of the forts, there was a very daring frontiersman, named Samuel (or Sam) Dale—a man who had lived much with the Indians, and was like them in many respects, even in his dress and manners. Hearing that the Indians were in force on the southeastern bank of the Alabama River, the people in Fort Madison were greatly alarmed, fearing that all the crops in that region—which were ripe in the fields—would be destroyed. If that should occur, they knew they must starve during the coming winter, and so they made up their minds to drive the savages away, at least until they could gather the corn.’

One thing I was struck by was Eggleston’s use of contrast. Our protagonist, Samuel Dale, is immediately introduced in a sympathetic fashion. He is given a nickname, which creates a more intimate bond between him and the reader as it humanizes him somewhat. Meanwhile, the Native American characters are dehumanized by the usage of the term ‘savages’ to describe them. Also dehumanizing them is the assumption that they will destroy the corn crops just because they have set up camp in the area.

Another way the Native Americans are dehumanized is the use of the word ‘force’. Both the connotation and denotation of the term create an image of aggressive power, and therefore the reader is given the impression that they in fact are the aggressors when it is Dale and the residents of Fort Madison who make the decision to do battle. In fact, it gives the impression that these ‘savage’ and aggressive ‘Indians’ are less human and makes the former appear even more sympathetic than before.

This creates a large wedge in the reader’s perception of Dale and the Native Americans– their first impressions of both guide them into perceiving Dale as a sympathetic, strong hero and the Native Americans as spiteful savages who would have the people living in Fort Madison starve. The immediate reaction of the residents to the presence of the latter is alarm, which implies a past history of negative events between the two. Due to this, we can assume that the citizens of Fort Madison are not Native Americans– they are portrayed sympathetically while those who are specifically described as Native Americans (or, as the author puts it, ‘Indians’) are described both through portrayal and outright statement as being savages.

At the same time, the reader is also made to believe that Dale is somewhat ‘different’ from the rest. He is described as having spent time with the Native Americans, even going so far as to mention that he dresses and behaves like them. By using the word ‘even’ the author portrays this as being unusual, and as a result continues to portray the Native Americans as being different/unnatural. More importantly, however, he also portrays Dale as being unusual as well. At the same time, Dale is first described as being one of the members of Fort Madison. This makes him appear to be ‘normal’ first and ‘unusual’ second, and therefore the reader can assume that he will support the plan to drive the Native Americans back.

The language is simple and any use of literary device (besides contrast) doesn’t greatly affect the reader’s perception of what is happening. The language is so simple, in fact, that one can assume that this was not written to be intellectual and in fact is more for entertainment than heavy analysis.

As a result, the literary meaning we can derive from this paragraph is that the residents of Fort Madison are ordinary, the Native Americans are different in a negative way, and that while Dale is a bit unusual his primary loyalty is with the residents of Fort Madison. This makes the residents seem justified in their attack on the Native Americans, as they are supposedly dangerous and aggressive. While this is immediately obvious and the author doesn’t exactly obscure his feelings, the terms he uses to describe the various groups and the initial impressions he creates for them ingrain this even further.

Annotated Bibliography:

Ashwill, Gary. “Savagism And Its Discontents: James Fenimore Cooper And His Native American Contemporaries.” American Transcendental Quarterly 8.3 (1994). Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

Ashwill writes about the author James Fenimore Cooper and how his both his and the novels written by Native American authors helped create the stereotypical image of Native Americans as savages. He believes that “Cooper’s novels emphasize the radical otherness of Native Americans, consolidating savagism by freezing its tenets into myth and freezing Native American difference into racial difference” (Ashwill). When it comes to Cooper, “cultural or racial mixing between Native Americans and whites seems impossible, or at least historically precluded” (Ashwill). Before this point “a substantial number of whites, particularly missionaries and Enlightenment intellectuals, believed that Native Americans were not substantially different from whites” (Ashwill), but this waned greatly in part due to Cooper’s depictions of the two societies as being “radically different” (Ashwill) and that they “simply could not be assimilated” (Ashwill). It became a common belief that “Native Americans and the world of whites [were] so different that they [couldn’t] mix in any way” (Ashwill). Cooper’s novels seemed to purport that the future would be “white, European, and “civilized,” and it [would] eliminate rather than compromise with or assimilate…the Native Americans” (Ashwill). He set out to deny the “possibility of hybridization, cultural or racial” (Ashwill) between whites and Native Americans, and “explicitly [found] white cultural values superior” (Ashwill). This source would be very helpful to my project as it shows the rising belief of superiority among white settlers towards Native Americans, and it also shows how people were influenced through literature that these Native Americans were utterly and completely separate from ‘civilized’ society. It also shows that this was not always the case, and at one point it was believed that they could indeed be incorporated into this ‘civilized’ society. Most importantly, it shows how these attitudes were changed through literature, which is one of the major points of my open ended question.

Olund, EN. “From Savage Space To Governable Space: The Extension Of United States Judicial Sovereignty Over Indian Country In The Nineteenth Century.” Cultural Geographies 9.2 (2002): 129-157. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

Olund’s article focuses on the government takeover and forced assimilation of Native American territory as well as the moving of the Native American people into reservations in the 1800s. Olund notes that although the integration of Native Americans into the society of the United States was seen as progressive it was also done on the terms of the white settlers. He states that through the words of these white reformers “conquest was transformed into the ‘gift’ of civilization” (129), and therefore American society could make “a certain claim to innocence” (129) on behalf of their actions. The plan was to allow Native Americans to live on reservations and assimilate at their own rate, but this did not appear to be happening fast enough and “in the eyes of white Americans across the political spectrum, this lack of ‘progress’ precluded Indians’ political and social equality with their rapidly arriving white neighbor” (130). Many of the reasons this was not happening at a suitable enough speed was in fact the fault of the white Americans; for example, “the elimination of traditional resources such as bison herds and the uneven,yet devastatingly intrusive, efforts to discipline and civilize” (130). However, according to Olund, the white Americans did not take responsibility for this, instead believing that the solution would be to teach the Native Americans “appropriate American habits” (133). Even reservations were seen as “property to be distributed by the US government to Indians” (140) instead of land that had once belonged to them. This article is perfect for my project as it shows in detail the ways white Americans convinced themselves that they were morally superior to Native Americans and especially how they manipulated the this superiority complex into the facade that it was all done out of goodness and concern. This ties into my claim that the white majority not only aggressively but, more importantly, subconsciously asserted their dominance over Native Americans during the nineteenth century.

Portman, Tarrell Awe Agahe, and Roger D. Herring. “Debunking The Pocahontas Paradox: The Need For A Humanistic Perspective.” Journal Of Humanistic Counseling, Education & Development 40.2 (2001): 185-199. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

In this article, Portman and Herring work together to dispute the various stereotypes of Native American women and try to provide a more humanistic perspective on the matter. The article details the historical role of the Native American woman, and explains that in addition to raising children, making clothes, and preparing meals, they also “were integral to the economic and social survival of their nations and tribes…held positions of political importance…provided guidance and influenced governance decisions and served as leaders and advisers in many Native American Indian tribes and nations” (187). However, things changed when European settlers arrived on the scene. “Early European explorers considered Native American Indians the essence of what people would be without Christian and civilized behavior. The terms beast, savage, and heathen were used to describe Native American Indians” (189). Many settlers believed this “through literary and visual representations that helped perpetuate the stereotypes” (189) that they became familiar with while still in Europe. The article then describes several of these stereotypes, including the image of the Native American woman as both a “strong, powerful, dangerous woman or as a beautiful, exotic, lustful woman” (191). The authors conclude that “The time has arrived for a more accurate and more humanistic portrayal of Native American Indian women in the media” (196). This article would be of great assistance to my project because it details in part the creation of the stereotype of Native Americans as ‘savages’ and how people were swayed to believe this. It also rejects these stereotypes and expresses the desire to remove them from even the current media, which shows that the media does and has had an influence on people’s beliefs of what Native Americans are and were truly like.

Conference Presentation

Conference Presentation

Leave a Reply


You must be logged in to post a comment.