Fall 2000, pages 83-94Rhetorical Disciplines and Rhetorical Disciplinarity: A Response to Mailloux
Abstract: In his essay "Disciplinary Identities: On the Rhetorical Paths between English and Communication Studies," Steven Mailloux laments the separation between rhetoricians in English and Communication and issues a call for them to join a multi-disciplinary coalition. Mailloux tries to connect the two by studying their disciplinary histories, and I respond to his account of developments in Communication. While his history, of the discipline seems flawed in detail, I argue that his main point holds true and is a matter of considerable importance: Communication-rhetoricians generally have adhered to a scientific rather than a "rhetorical hermeneutic" conception of disciplinarity, and this commitment has hampered their ability to enter into interdisciplinary endeavors. But there is also another significant difference between rhetoricians in the two disciplines. Communication rhetoricians, for a variety of reasons, have a weaker sense of internal disciplinarity, and I argue that an unstable disciplinary self-conception results in a confusion between disciplinary rhetoric located at a particular academic site and the global rhetoric of disciplinarity. Dealing with this problem presents a major problem for Communication-rhetoricians and for those who seek to establish effective interdisciplinary ties between English and Communication.