Reading Response to “Rhetoric and Competition” by Linda Hutcheon

It would be almost impossible to compare the literary work of Bateson, Hutcheon, and Werron, on anything but a purely foundational level. Despite the fact that these works all try to disentangle the core definition and purpose of competition, their unique perspectives and versatility in both form and content make these works each constructive in their own right.

Beginning with an analysis of form, all three are written as in different academic genres. Primarily with Bateson, the commentary, or scripted speech, was limited by an inability to reference deep contextual literature, making the commentary more anecdotal, the speech flows with a general structure building up to the main point. Werron, writing a research paper, writes a heavily sourced analysis, clearly outlining his writing at the beginning and throughout the paper. Lastly, Hutcheon writes a more personal article on her academic experience with competition, while still putting forward a theory on the direction in which competition is moving.

Moving onto content, the unique perspective of each of the authors influences the direction of their arguments and the conclusion they lead to. Bateson, with her context as an Anthropologist and daughter of an anthropologist approaches competition from a behavioral standpoint, understanding competition negatively as a societal complex that needs to shift to cooperation and \for us to move forward as an entity rather than as individuals. Werron, as a professor and political economist, explains a clear definition of competition as (the favor of an audience that is (re-)produced by public comparisons of performances) in order to specifically explore this aspect of the phenomenon and explore that in depth. He continues to branch out to understand this in economic, societal, and political fields. Whereas Hutcheon, describes her experience with competition and how she has viewed competition in her field and has drawn from that and multiple sources the idea of cooperation and a new concept in favour of academic competition.

The variety and diversity in the exploration of the different themes behind competition by each of these authors is admirable and they are all definitely contributions to the literary discourse around competition each in their own way. But at the foundation of their arguments they are either being led to the same conclusion or the same. They root their arguments in the same place only to expand in their own ways.

Hutcheon reaches the same conclusion as Bateson but places it directly in the theme of her literary work. Her oxymoronic theory of “counter discourse” is placed perfectly placed in the genre of post-colonial literature.

As a dedicated fan of Edward Said myself (I think Orientalism is a book everyone should read!!), I find this theory not only useful and effective for the comparison of work and the advancement of research, but also much more practical than the similar conclusion that Bateson reached, providing more detail and a much more realistic approach to a problem that has faced the academic research community for a long time will probably continue to in the future if not properly attended to.

My ability to relate to the theme of competition through personal experience and culture helps answers my friend Felicity Cheung’s question “to what extent do our environment shape the way we define competition?” Personally, I’ve always believed that where you come from will have significant effect on where you go with what you make of that experience. Each author approached this from their own background, and so will each student and professor or individual, just because of the way they were socialized to think about it, so I would say yes it does Felicity!



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