Reading response: Linda Hutcheon


This journal article, written by Linda Hutcheon in 2003, has opened up a completely new and interesting perspective about competition in which I had never encountered. Throughout the text, she guides her audience to find an answer to her initial proposed question – “why is it that rhetoric and competition seem to go together so well in our current academic context?” – while exploring the idea of “critique scholarship” and “wolfish” in higher education.

The articles begins with her explaining the origin of the title as an incident when she was giving the presidential address about “rhetoric and composition”. It immediately draws my attention and starts me thinking about how human’s unexpected mistakes can open up different perspective of underated issues in which we, as a society, tend to avoid. Leading the audiences to her question mentioned above, Hutcheon brings up her concerns that higher education is losing its “novitiate culture”, where scholars no longer collaboratively work together but “to prove – and then show – that the speaker is entirely wrong”. This ideology that she brings out scared myself as I thought competition in education was only about grades and ranking, which turned out to be where you are publicity criticized and belting your own edifice. And the only survivors in this educational environment are those that “enjoy, or can tolerate, a contentious environment”. Due to this competitive human nature, words also began to change its meaning, as Hutcheon proposed, for instance “argon” – where its original meaning, gathering in the case of public games, has shifted to be associated with aggressive lexical “polemical, combative, and striving”. This example may show us how in its subtle ways, the semantic field of words that we use may also somewhat influence how we behave and interact.

Critique mode, as Hutcheon suggests, has become a “contentious and competitive form of social interaction”. Throughout the article, she continues to view criticizing in academic discourse results competition and combative arguments. Nevertheless, I personally think that it lies within the language and how we deliver our opinions that define whether if an opinion is “subtractive” or “additive”. As Terdiman’s argument suggests, “or every discourse, a complementary and inclusive counter-discourse”. Conflicts are inevitable, especially in an academic environment as there will be options coming from different backgrounds or even disciplines, and it is also inevitably lead to contentious competition. Nevertheless, we do not need to view criticism or academy as an aggressive and “wolfish” place, but rather be aware of the potential outcome and change the way we, as scholars, approach to others’ works.

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