Reading Response- Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon

In the journal, “Rhetoric and Competition”, author Linda Hutcheon discusses the state of the academic community and the ‘wolfish’ culture that has come to be within it. She expresses how academia has lost the sense of a group scholars learning and growing together, and become a battle for hierarchical status.

Bateson speaks about a similar sentiment in ‘The Myths of Independence and Competition’, although in relation to society as a whole. We are conditioned, from a young age, to thrive for independence, when in actuality we should be focussing on our interdependence. We can see the direct correlation here between what Bateson and Hutcheon are discussing. Thirteen years apart, both arguments seem to be very relevant in their respective times, and today. As we’ve all seen, Werron gives a much more analytical view of competition and expresses it as ‘competitions for the favour of an audience that are (re-)produced by public comparisons of performance’(Werron, 2015). Both what Hutcheon and Bateson touch upon falls into Werron’s definition of what modern competition looks like.

I’ve found it very interesting to think about the three dimensions of communication in relation to our readings. Hutcheon remarked how members of the scholarly community are constantly trying to tear down and disprove others work, instead of adding to it and constructively learning together. It seems to me that within this, scholars are all trying to individually communicate the most effectively. Communication being a seemingly interdependent activity has been turned into something thriving on independence. Bateson speaks about how we need to co-operate and communicate more effectively to have any chance of benefitting society. To tie it together, the competitiveness surrounding communication is quite prevalent in all three readings. Werron’s model of modern competition fits perfectly with this idea and can be looked at as competitors competing to be; the most relevant, the most credible, and have the most attention.

Communication is often something that is competed for. I think it is almost comical that we take such a confrontational approach to something that is completely reliant on others. As kids, we fight with our peers for attention, with the thought process of hierarchy within our relationships. As young adults, we do the same thing in many regards but especially on social media. Both of these examples are extremely normative phenomena that happen on a daily basis. I think it is interesting to question, not necessarily how we engage with it on a personal level, but how we judge the forms of competition we are regularly confronted with.

Competition is a very interesting topic of discussion and, as Werron mentioned, I also think it is very productive and necessary to continue the discourse surrounding the matter.

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