Reading Response: Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon

    In the article ‘Rhetoric and Competition’, Linda Hutcheon addresses the current “wolfish” situation caused by the culture of competition, which has been deeply embedded in the academic society today. While Linda highly criticizes the ubiquitous competition in academy, she suggests some steps that the scholars could take to make academy a place of collective learning, rather than a competitive arena.

    Hutcheon begins her article with an incident of personal embarrassment to introduce her argument, effectively connecting with her audience at a personal level. She later elaborates how competition has made academy into “more of a combat zone than a place of learning together.” Her argument is rather convincing as she uses analogies and evidence to support it. Hutcheon made it clear that such an attitude in the academy, where a colleague is an enemy, had become a norm. It seems as if competition has become omnipresent in all fields, and academy is no exception. However, unlike Bateson’s ‘The myths of independence and competition’, she does not decry competition as much. It is apparent that Bates totally criticizes competition and brands it a ‘myth’, Hutcheon does not completely antagonize it. Her idea of using competition in a good way to make counter-discourses more “complementary and inclusive” is personally appealing to me. Tobias Werron in his research article ‘why do we believe in competition? A historical sociological view of competition as an institutionalized modern imagery’ explains the human nature and competition and how it has become a part of our everyday life. Despite the fact both Werron and Hutcheon address a scholarly audience, Werron presents a neutral and unbiased research, whereas; Hutcheon takes her argument to a personal level to express her concern about the “snake pit” academy has turned into. This makes Hutcheon’s text a more of an opinion article with all its content to support only her side of the argument.  

    Another reason I found Hutcheon’s argument enthralling is that I have personally experienced such effects of competition at a level as small as high school law class. In this class we usually had a day of the week for discussion about some topic which may interest the class. For the most part, this discussion day would start with a topic to enhance our knowledge about the application of Canadian law, but would end up being a debate and sometimes an argument, which my lenient teacher found hard to control. It was funny how students in that class were more concerned about next week’s “discussion” topic than their grades. A more relatable and familiar example of this has been pointed out by warnersam. We saw something similar in the 2016 US presidential elections where two politicians competed “in a zero-sum game for political victory.” This further shows us how the negative effects of excessive competition are present everywhere, from a small class in high school to one of the biggest and probably the most controversial  presidential elections in the history.

    To conclude, it can be said that Hutcheon’s article criticizes the current practice of competition in the academy and suggests more inclusive and respectful ways to interpret competition. Her argument is backed up by references from various sources which provides enough credibility for her audience.

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