14 October 2005

It's All Rhetoric:
Remembering Wayne C. Booth

Wayne C. Booth died a couple days ago; I just heard about it. I can't profess to sadness, as he lived to 84, a ripe old age for such a heavy thinker. But, I am cathartic. In an indirect way he changed the way I view communication. My mentor, Professor Mada Morgan, attributes Booth with changing her life, and for her, it all started with one book: The Rhetoric of Fiction.

Booth was the first to apply the rhetorical triangle—ethos, pathos, logos—to works of fiction ranging from the Iliad to the Holy Bible to Moby Dick to Postmodern works. Many scholars refer to him as one of the pre-eminent figures in Postmodern thought. Thanks to Booth, we have rampant literary criticism that continues to seek new perspectives, new ways to read stories.

However, fiction was just the start for Wayne Booth. His other books include The Rhetoric of Listening and The Rhetoric of Rhetoric. I feel fortunate to have studied from someone who Booth invigorated so fully. In an age in which black and whites still tend to rule our decision making processes, Professor Morgan's Booth-influenced maxim seems all the more important: It depends—it depends on who you're addressing, it depends on the message you're sending, it depends on you.

For more about Wayne C. Booth, read this NY Times article.

No comments: