Special Issue "Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 May 2018).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. James S. Baumlin
Website SciProfiles
Guest Editor
Department of English, Missouri State University, Springfield MO 65897, USA
Interests: English Renaissance literature (Shakespeare, Donne, Milton); the history of rhetoric; rhetorical and critical theory
Dr. Craig A. Meyer
Website SciProfiles
Guest Editor
Language and Literature, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363, USA
Interests: modern and classical rhetoric; disability studies; rhetoric and composition; creative writing

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Once upon a time, Western Enlightenment dreamed of a logos-based discourse whose speaker was “universal,” presumably neutral in gender, ethnicity, and social status. In dreaming this naïve dream, Enlightenment philosophy embraced a classical-Aristotelian model of persuasion, in which logos—logical argument or, more broadly, “good reasons”—ruled over pathos and ethos. Our movement into late-modernism brings us to an age of “expert systems,” disciplinary specialization, and information overload, in which logos has been largely displaced in public discourse. Reliant upon others’ expertise, audiences are left perilously to take speakers’ claims “on trust.”

The essays in this special issue aim to waken contemporary discussions of ethos (and of rhetoric generally) from their Western, classical-Aristotelian slumbers. Western rhetoric was never univocal in its theory or practice of ethos: essays in this collection give the proof. Contributors aim to shake rhetoric out of its Eurocentrism: the traditions of South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia sustain their own models of ethos and lead us to reconsider rhetoric in its rich variety—what ethos was, is, and will become. This collection is groundbreaking in its attempt to outline the diversity of argument, trust, and authority beyond a singular, dominant perspective.

This collection offers readers a choice of itineraries: thematic, geographic, historical. Essays may be read individually or cumulatively, as exercises in comparative rhetoric. In taking a world perspective, Histories of Ethos will prove a seminal discussion. Its comparative approach will help readers appreciate the commonalities and the distinctions in competing cultural-discursive practices—in what brings us together and what drives us apart as communities. And it is the editors’ hope that, out of this historical, multicultural dialogue, some new perspectives on ethos may come forward to broaden our discussion and our breadth of understanding. No fee will be charged to contributors in this special issue.

Dr. James S. Baumlin
Dr. Craig A. Meyer
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Rhetoric
  • comparative rhetoric
  • ethos
  • logos
  • pathos
  • character
  • persona
  • selfhood
  • Aristotle
  • Cicero
  • classicism
  • modernism
  • trust
  • authority
  • communication

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial
From Postmodernism to Posthumanism: Theorizing Ethos in an Age of Pandemic
Humanities 2020, 9(2), 46; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9020046 - 28 May 2020
Abstract
This essay expands on the previous discussion, “Positioning Ethos” (Baumlin and Meyer 2018), which outlined a theory of ethos for the 21st century. There, my coauthor and I observed the dialectic between ethics and ethotics, grounding subjectivity within a sociology of rhetoric: Contemporary [...] Read more.
This essay expands on the previous discussion, “Positioning Ethos” (Baumlin and Meyer 2018), which outlined a theory of ethos for the 21st century. There, my coauthor and I observed the dialectic between ethics and ethotics, grounding subjectivity within a sociology of rhetoric: Contemporary ethos, thus, explores the physical embodiment (with its “markers of identity”), positionality, and “cultural dress” of speakers. There as here, we looked to Heidegger for an expanded definition, one reaching beyond a speaker’s self-image to bring all aspects of our lifeworld—cultural, technological, biological, planetary—into a dynamic unity. And, there as here, we observed the dialectic between speaker and audience: Within this transactional model, ethos marks the “space between” speaker and audience—a socially- and linguistically-constructed meeting ground (or, perhaps better, playground) where meanings can be negotiated. Crucial to this transactional model is the skeptron, as described by Bourdieu: To possess the skeptron is to claim the cultural authority, expertise, trust, and means to speak and to be heard—indeed, to be seen—in one’s speaking. To our previous essay’s ethics and ethotics, this present essay adds the dialectic arising between bios and technê. We “dwell” in memory, in language, in history, in culture: All speakers in all cultural moments can claim as much. But, writing in an age of postmodernism, we acknowledge the heightened roles of technology, “expert systems,” and urbanization in our lifeworld today. What we had described as the cultural “habitus” of ethos is here supplemented by an ethos of scientific technoculture; similarly, what we had described as the existentialist “embodied self” is here supplemented by the postmodern—indeed, posthuman—ethos of the cyborg, a biotechnic “assemblage” part cybernetic machine and part living organism, simultaneously personal and collective in identity. This posthuman con/fusion of bios and technê is not a transcendence of (human) nature; rather, it acknowledges our immersion within an interspecies biology while expanding our habitus from the polis to the planet. It’s these aspects of our lifeworld—insterspecies biology, bodily health as self-identity, postmodern technology, and urban lifestyle—that COVID-19 pressures and threatens today. In the current struggle between science-based medicine and conservative politics, the skeptron assumes life-and-death importance: Who speaks on behalf of medical science, the coronavirus victim, and community health? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessEditorial
Positioning Ethos in/for the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction to Histories of Ethos
Humanities 2018, 7(3), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030078 - 09 Aug 2018
Cited by 5
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)

Research

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Open AccessArticle
Exploring Ethos in Contemporary Ghana
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 62; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030062 - 15 Jul 2020
Abstract
In this article, we discuss contemporary Ghanaian ethos reflecting on female sexual behavior as a discursive construction that shifts and changes across time and space. Borrowing from Nedra Reynold’s concept of ethos as a location, we examine the various social and discourse spaces [...] Read more.
In this article, we discuss contemporary Ghanaian ethos reflecting on female sexual behavior as a discursive construction that shifts and changes across time and space. Borrowing from Nedra Reynold’s concept of ethos as a location, we examine the various social and discourse spaces of different rhetors on female sexual behavior in Ghana and how each establishes ethos through identity formations and language use from various positions of authority. With multiethnic, multilingual, and multiple religious perspectives within the Ghanaian population, how does ethos and moral authority speak persuasively on female sexual behavior? We examine contemporary discourses governing normative female sexual behavior and presentation as revealed in both proverbs and social media to drive the discussion toward how these discourses of female sexual behavior and ethos are discursively constructed in contemporary Ghanaian society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Senegal, the African Slave Trade, and the Door of No Return: Giving Witness to Gorée Island
Humanities 2020, 9(3), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9030057 - 02 Jul 2020
Abstract
Recently, the Senegalese people have learned to speak more openly of their history. But, as late as the 1980s—the years of my youth and early schooling—the wounds of colonialism were still fresh. I contend that slavery had been so powerful a blow to [...] Read more.
Recently, the Senegalese people have learned to speak more openly of their history. But, as late as the 1980s—the years of my youth and early schooling—the wounds of colonialism were still fresh. I contend that slavery had been so powerful a blow to the Senegalese ethos that we—my family, friends, and schoolmates—did not speak about it. The collective trauma and shame of slavery was apparently so powerful that we sought to repress it, keeping it hidden from ourselves. We were surrounded by its evidence, but chose not to see it. Such was my childhood experience. As an adult, I understand that repression never heals wounds. The trauma remains as a haunting presence. But one can discover its “living presence,” should one choose to look. Just 5.2 km off the west African coast of Senegal lies Gorée Island, where millions of Africans were held captive while awaiting transport into slavery. Much of the four-century history of the African slave trade passed through Senegal, where I grew up. In this essay, I explore the history of the island and its role in the slave trade. I describe my own coming to terms with this history—how it has haunted me since my youth. And I argue for the role of visual rhetorics in the formation (and affirmation) of Senegalese ethos. As Baumlin and Meyer (2018) remind us, we need to speak, in order to be heard, in order to be seen: Such is an assumption of rhetorical ethos. And the reverse, as I shall argue, may be true, too: Sometimes we need to see (or be seen), in order to know what to speak and how to be heard. It is for this reason that we need more films written, directed, produced, and performed by Africans (Senegalese especially). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
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Open AccessArticle
Disability Ethos as Invention in the United States’ Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries
Humanities 2020, 9(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9010011 - 16 Jan 2020
Abstract
This article posits that disability activists routinely present a disability “ethos of invention” as central to the reformation of an ableist society. Dominant societal approaches to disability injustice, such as rehabilitation, accessibility, and inclusion, may touch upon the concept of invention; but, with [...] Read more.
This article posits that disability activists routinely present a disability “ethos of invention” as central to the reformation of an ableist society. Dominant societal approaches to disability injustice, such as rehabilitation, accessibility, and inclusion, may touch upon the concept of invention; but, with ethotic discourse, we emphasize disability as generative and adept at producing new ways of knowing and being in the world. We identify an “ethos of invention” as driving early resistance to socially constructed “normalcy”, leading the push for cross-disability alliances to incorporate intersectional experiences and propelling the discursive move from inclusion to social justice. Through our partial re-telling of disability rights history, we articulate invention as central to it and supporting its aims to affirm disability culture, reform society through disabled perspectives and values, and promote people with disabilities’ full participation in society. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessArticle
Islamic Ethos: Examining Sources of Authority
Humanities 2019, 8(4), 170; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8040170 - 24 Oct 2019
Abstract
This paper investigates the construction of Islamic ethos in the early Islamic period, highlighting what constitutes the guiding principles of its authority. As a religion that is currently subject to many ugly charges, a careful examination of its core historic values provides a [...] Read more.
This paper investigates the construction of Islamic ethos in the early Islamic period, highlighting what constitutes the guiding principles of its authority. As a religion that is currently subject to many ugly charges, a careful examination of its core historic values provides a counternarrative to the distorted ideology perpetuated by extremists such as The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as to the Islamophobic and anti-Muslim racist discourse circulating in the West. The counternarrative presented here serves scholars of ethos whose expertise lies elsewhere than in religious studies. While providing this historical narrative, I highlight how Islamic ethos is derived from multiple sources of religious and cultural/communal authority, mainly from The Qur’an (the holy book of Muslims); the Sunnah (the Prophet Muḥammad’s example, deeds, and customs); and ijtihad (the interpretations and deductions of Muslim religious leaders). Tracing the construction of Islamic ethos through the creation of the Muslim community (Ummah) in 622 CE and the establishment of the Caliphate in 632 CE reveals guiding principles of conduct that are, in contrast to the discourses mentioned above, realistic, practical, and adaptable to current global needs and exigencies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessArticle
How the American Working Class Views the “Working Class”
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010053 - 12 Mar 2019
Abstract
This article reviews the complications in understanding some of the conflicting tenets of American working-class ethos, especially as it unfolds in the college classroom. It asserts that the working class values modesty, straightforwardness, and hard work and has a difficult time accepting an [...] Read more.
This article reviews the complications in understanding some of the conflicting tenets of American working-class ethos, especially as it unfolds in the college classroom. It asserts that the working class values modesty, straightforwardness, and hard work and has a difficult time accepting an ethos based in formal education. The article also discusses some of the performance aspects of working-class texts and explores the difficulties that outsiders face in trying to analyze/critique working-class experience. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessArticle
Hip-Hop Ethos
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010039 - 27 Feb 2019
Abstract
This article excavates the ethos surrounding hip hop, starting from the proposition that hip hop represents a distinct yet pervasive expression of contemporary black subjectivity, which crystalized in 1970s New York City and has since proliferated into a potent ethos of the subaltern [...] Read more.
This article excavates the ethos surrounding hip hop, starting from the proposition that hip hop represents a distinct yet pervasive expression of contemporary black subjectivity, which crystalized in 1970s New York City and has since proliferated into a potent ethos of the subaltern embraced within socially marginalized youth communities throughout the world. The article begins by outlining the black diasporic traditions of expressive performance that hip hop issues from, as discussed through the work of Zora Neale Hurston and Amiri Baraka. In the remainder of the article, a blueprint of hip hop’s ethos is presented based on five fundamental tenets: (1) properties of flow, layering, and rupture; (2) a principle of productive consumption; (3) the production of excessive publicity or promotion—what hip-hop affiliates refer to as “hype”; (4) embracing individual and communal entrepreneurship; and (5) a committed politics of action and loyalty. While acknowledging hip hop’s malleability and refusal to be neatly characterized, the article maintains that its characteristic spirit embodies these core doctrines. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessArticle
From Wounded Knee to Sacred Circles: Oglala Lakota Ethos as “Haunt” and “Wound”
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010036 - 25 Feb 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Oglala Lakota ethos manifests a pre-Socratic/Heideggerian variant of ethos: ethos as “haunt”. Within this alternative to the Aristotelian ethos-as-character, Oglala ethos marks out the “dwelling place” of the Oglala Lakota people. That is, the Oglala Lakota ground their cultural- and self-identity in the [...] Read more.
Oglala Lakota ethos manifests a pre-Socratic/Heideggerian variant of ethos: ethos as “haunt”. Within this alternative to the Aristotelian ethos-as-character, Oglala ethos marks out the “dwelling place” of the Oglala Lakota people. That is, the Oglala Lakota ground their cultural- and self-identity in the land: their ethology, in effect, expresses an ecology. Thus, an Oglala Lakotan ethos cannot be understood apart from its nation’s understanding of the natural world—of its primacy and sacredness. A further aspect of the Oglala Lakotan ethos rests in the nation’s history of conflict with EuroAmericans. Through military conflict, forced displacement, and material/economic exploitation of reservation lands, an Oglala Lakota ethos bears within itself a woundedness that continues to this day. Only through an understanding of ethos-as-haunt, of cultural trauma or woundedness, and of the ways of healing can Oglala Lakota ethos be fully appreciated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
Open AccessArticle
Haunt or Home? Ethos and African American Literature
Humanities 2018, 7(3), 80; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030080 - 10 Aug 2018
Abstract
The African American rhetorical tradition could be described as a shelter in an alien environment or as a way station on a long journey. A focus on ethos suggests that such a narrow approach to African American literature cannot do justice to these [...] Read more.
The African American rhetorical tradition could be described as a shelter in an alien environment or as a way station on a long journey. A focus on ethos suggests that such a narrow approach to African American literature cannot do justice to these literary texts: how these writers employ images and symbols, craft and deploy examine identities, blend, criticize, and create traditions, explore contemporary issues, and create community. Because of cultural and racist narratives, African Americans could not simply use either the pre-Socratic or Aristotelian approaches to ethos in their fight for social justice. This essay demonstrates how a postclassical approach to ethos that draws on Bourdieu’s concept of habitus and is focused on community-building and self-healing is central to the African American literature and rhetoric. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)

Other

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Open AccessEssay
A Dialogue on the Constructions of GLBT and Queer Ethos: “I Belong to a Culture That Includes …”
Humanities 2019, 8(2), 97; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8020097 - 16 May 2019
Abstract
Invoking a dialogue between two scholars, authors Jane Hoogestraat and Hillery Glasby discuss the exigence for, construction of, and differentiation between LGBT and queer ethos. Drawing from Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart and the construction of a gay identity, the text explores connections [...] Read more.
Invoking a dialogue between two scholars, authors Jane Hoogestraat and Hillery Glasby discuss the exigence for, construction of, and differentiation between LGBT and queer ethos. Drawing from Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart and the construction of a gay identity, the text explores connections between queer theory, LGBT(Q) ethos, and queer futurity, ultimately arguing for a more nuanced and critical understanding of the undecidability and performativity of LGBT and queer ethos. In framing LGBT and queer ethos as being at the same time a self and socially constructed and mediated—legitimate and illegitimate—ethos can be understood not only as a site for rhetorical agency, but also as an orientation and a form of activism. Finally, the text offers a case study of Adrienne Rich’s “Yom Kippur,” which is a poem that offers a queer (and) Jewish perspective on identity—from an individual and community level—exhibiting both an LGBT and queer ethos. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Histories of Ethos: World Perspectives on Rhetoric)
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