Reading Response-Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon

In this literary discourse by Linda Hutcheon we are asked to take a look at the current situation in our academic world with regard to it’s competitive tendencies, and in this case not necessarily positive ones. Throughout the article we see Hutcheon address the problem of competition in the academic world turning into a zero-sum game. She then tells us what actions the academic community should be taking to make it a more inclusive and positive place.

Looking at the content and structure of these three articles of writing (one of them being a speech) we are able to see a distinct similarity in their particular arguments for eliminating our current system that values individualism. However, Werron’s piece ‘Why do we believe in competition? A historical-sociological view of competition as an institutionalised modern imaginary’ seems to take a rather neutral stance on the thought of competition in our world. While we seem to grasp a more distinct connection between Bateson’s ‘Myths of Competition and Independence’ and Hutcheon’s works, with some settle differences in their messages, these differences stemming with the actual application of competition in the world.

In Bateson’s speech we are told that society, as a whole will only be able to progress evolutionary through co-operation. She states that independence and competition are a “myth” that we need to eliminate from society. This argument is similar to that of Hutcheon’s research article as they are both wanting humans to be less individualistic and work together. However, also notice how Hutcheon believes that we can use criticism and competition as long as it is used to help the other person improve in his or her field, and doesn’t come at their expense. Hutcheon notes that in today’s society the academic elite are too focused on destroying their opponents opinions and beliefs in an attempt to better themselves. I believe her argument is properly shown in her article when she calls on an example of counter-discourse in which Richard Terdiman stated, “For every discourse there will be a contrary and transgressive discourse.” Where instead she argues for every discourse there should be a “complimentary and inclusive discourse.” This example builds on her belief of people assisting each other in the academic world as opposed to “one-upping” them.

Nowhere else was Hutcheon’s theory more apparent than in our current world than in the 2016 US presidential election. The world saw candidates Donald trump and Hillary Clinton have nationally televised debates, where for the entirety of the debate were primarily focused attacking the other and their works. These actions came as attempts to make themselves look better, in a zero-sum game for political victory. It is this individualistic thinking that Hutcheon and Bateson seek to eliminate from both everyday life and the academic society.

When we see these scholars use the word competition they are not talking about the same thing. Bateson sees competition as the idea of us as human beings having to fend for ourselves in the current world, rather than work together to increase our quality of life. With Hutcheon, the word competition is something that the academic elites (in particular) do with the hopes of destroying their competitor and their work, rather than pushing them to do better. Which in today’s world, especially politically, has never been more apparent.





  1. While I agree with your assessment of the similarity of Bateson’s and Hutcheon’s argument, I think their is a whole avenue that we can explore through Werron’s argument in combination with your critique of current political discourse. Yes, Bateson and Hutcheon are similar in that they have a less neutral stance on competition than Werron. However, the value of Werron’s argument comes from its plea to analyzing the increase in “reproduced public comparisons of performances”. In other words, Werron wants us to look at how modern competition takes place on a very public stage. Werron may not be as critical towards competition as Bateson, but Werron does focus on a really important aspect of where our current political discourse exists: in front of an audience, and how that has affected political discourse. My comparison between Hutcheon and Werron is definitely not as strong as your comparison between Hutcheon and Bateson, because you touched on an important similarity between the stance of the two authors, but I believe that for the example you used (modern politics), looking at how politics has been transformed by “the stage” from a discourse of productive discussion into a discourse of belittlement where individuals compete for an audience, is better accomplished by comparing Hutcheon to Werron.

    If you consider the value of Werron’s argument to be the lens he creates for looking at competition as a conflict over an audience, how can you apply that to the academic stage that Hutcheon describes, as opposed to the political stage you describe?

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  2. I believe that Werron’s point of competition in our modern day taking place on a very public stage is something that is very influential in the behaviour of politicians in our current times. In this day and age we are treating politicians more and more like we would celebrities, as we are able to follow their everyday lives through things such as social media and the internet, thus giving them much more public exposure and larger crowds causing more/stronger opinions. I believe this is something you touched on in your response and something we can both agree on. My response was focused more so on the similarities and differences of Hutcheon and Bateson rather than Hutcheon and Werron.

    However, when we look at the belittlement of people in academic society, as Hutcheon addresses, we are looking at obviously a much smaller audience than the political one. It is in this community of academic elite where we would think there would be a much more professional and respectful discourse. Although this seems to not be the case and I believe that it is within the more controversial the topic to be in this setting, the less people are willing to listen to the others opinion. When we look at topics such as immigration laws or abortion neither side will realistically ever actually “discuss” with the other and will look to instead tell the others why they are wrong. It is in the other worldly issues where I think people can be more open minded with as they are less threatening to our own beliefs. In conclusion, I believe the application to my argument in modern political belittlement can be shown in the academic audience through people receiving the same mistreatment for their unpopular opinions on controversial topics.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, that clears up my question. I think this discourse is the antithesis to the toxic environment that Hutcheon described, so it should be continued after I finish my response. If you don’t mind I would like to use some points you made in your comment inside my own response.

    Liked by 1 person

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