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Humanities 2018, 7(3), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030078

Positioning Ethos in/for the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction to Histories of Ethos

1
Department of English, Missouri State University, Springfield, MO 65897, USA
2
Department of Language and Literature, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 July 2018 / Accepted: 31 July 2018 / Published: 9 August 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
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Abstract

The aim of this essay is to introduce, contextualize, and provide rationale for texts published in the Humanities special issue, Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric. It surveys theories of ethos and selfhood that have evolved since the mid-twentieth century, in order to identify trends in discourse of the new millennium. It outlines the dominant theories—existentialist, neo-Aristotelian, social-constructionist, and poststructuralist—while summarizing major theorists of language and culture (Archer, Bourdieu, Foucault, Geertz, Giddens, Gusdorf, Heidegger). It argues for a perspectivist/dialectical approach, given that no one theory comprehends the rich diversity of living discourse. While outlining the “current state of theory,” this essay also seeks to predict, and promote, discursive practices that will carry ethos into a hopeful future. (We seek, not simply to study ethos, but to do ethos.) With respect to twenty-first century praxis, this introduction aims at the following: to acknowledge the expressive core of discourse spoken or written, in ways that reaffirm and restore an epideictic function to ethos/rhetoric; to demonstrate the positionality of discourse, whereby speakers and writers “out themselves” ethotically (that is, responsively and responsibly); to explore ethos as a mode of cultural and embodied personal narrative; to encourage an ethotic “scholarship of the personal,” expressive of one’s identification/participation with/in the subject of research; to argue on behalf of an iatrological ethos/rhetoric based in empathy, care, healing (of the past) and liberation/empowerment (toward the future); to foster interdisciplinarity in the study/exploration/performance of ethos, establishing a conversation among scholars across the humanities; and to promote new versions and hybridizations of ethos/rhetoric. Each of the essays gathered in the abovementioned special issue achieves one or more of these aims. Most are “cultural histories” told within the culture being surveyed: while they invite criticism as scholarship, they ask readers to serve as witnesses to their stories. Most of the authors are themselves “positioned” in ways that turn their texts into “outings” or performances of gender, ethnicity, “race,” or ability. And most affirm the expressive, epideictic function of ethos/rhetoric: that is, they aim to display, affirm, and celebrate those “markers of identity/difference” that distinguish, even as they humanize, each individual and cultural storytelling. These assertions and assumptions lead us to declare that Histories of Ethos, as a collection, presents a whole greater than its essay-parts. We conceive it, finally, as a conversation among theories, histories, analyses, praxes, and performances. Some of this, we know, goes against the grain of modern (Western) scholarship, which privileges analysis over narrative and judges texts against its own logocentric commitments. By means of this introduction and collection, we invite our colleagues in, across, and beyond the academy “to see differently.” Should we fall short, we will at least have affirmed that some of us “see the world and self”—and talk about the world and self—through different lenses and within different cultural vocabularies and positions. View Full-Text
Keywords: ethos; selfhood; identity; authenticity; authority; persona; positionality; postmodernism; haunt; iatrology; trust; storytelling; Archer; Aristotle; Bourdieu; Corder; Foucault; Geertz; Giddens; Gusdorf; Heidegger ethos; selfhood; identity; authenticity; authority; persona; positionality; postmodernism; haunt; iatrology; trust; storytelling; Archer; Aristotle; Bourdieu; Corder; Foucault; Geertz; Giddens; Gusdorf; Heidegger
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Baumlin, J.S.; Meyer, C.A. Positioning Ethos in/for the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction to Histories of Ethos. Humanities 2018, 7, 78.

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