A Reading Response to “Rhetoric and Competition” by Linda Hutcheon.

An “embarrassing verbal slip” during an important speech is what ultimately prompted writer Linda Hutcheon to explore the topic of Rhetoric and Competition. The prominence of the things we say in relation to how we act in the academic fields of our society is the building blocks of the thinking that allowed for this piece of writing to form. Essentially, author Linda Hutcheon strongly believes that academic discourse in our present day has become extremely wolfish, in the sense that it is a constant battle between people in various academic fields. She believes that the goal shouldn’t be to use rhetoric in order to attack someone else’s perspective, but rather to delete this idea of enmity in our daily discourse and constructively present arguments in order to gain new perspectives.

“Why do we believe in Competition? A historical-sociological view of competition as an institutionalized modern imagery” by Tobias Werron, “The Myths of Independence and Competition” by Mary Catherine Bateson, and “Rhetoric and Competition” by Linda Hutcheon all essentially explore the concept of competition through a modern, present-day context. The first piece by Werron differs from the other two pieces as it is a research article which doesn’t provide the opinions of the author, but rather provides an abundance of empirical research for the argument. Whereas, the other two pieces use first person text in order to proclaim their opinions while simultaneously attempting to convince their audience that their perspective is valid through anecdotes, critical analysis, and criticisms of the modern academic system and the world.

Critical thinking is seen as a highly approved value in our present academic scene, but according to Linda Hutcheon, critical thinking is wrongly used as a means to oppose and demolish someone else’s point of view and work towards proving them wrong. I find that this connects to a concept that we talk about often in Political Science lectures–binary thinking. In our societies all too often, we tend to look at things in extremes. One example of this is the idea of having a Political Left and Right. When we critically think in classrooms, we often believe that we must disagree with the perspective of the speaker/writer using as much conviction as possible, but perhaps our analysis may be more sophisticated if we are able to recognize that the possibility of a third perspective exists.

This touches back on the concept of collaboration over competition. Essentially, my opinion does not differ much from the writer, as I believe knowledge comes from the sharing of ideas and thoughts, and not from verbal attacks and “sustained counter arguments aimed, it appeared, at undoing the entire edifice of the speaker’s argument.” (Hutcheon). When thinking about this concept, I remember our very first ASTU class in which we discussed the question “Is an argument a fight? (Is an argument always competitive?).” The conclusion that we arrived at by the end of the class was that an argument is not necessarily the same as a fight, as arguments don’t need to be competitive but can rather be a display of facts and valid information that could provide a contrast against the argument exhibited by the speaker/writer. This conclusion is highly supported by Hutcheon’s piece.

In conclusion, I think the authentic meaning of competition throughout history has been lost. The statement “No competition means no progress,” by Hutcheon is something I agree with if we were to define and act as if competition were a critical and constructive display of counter opinions, and not as attacks to the argument presented by the speaker/writer.

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