Reading Report Week 3 – Rhetoric & Competition

Common Knowledge is a journal that discusses the academy through a model based on conversation and cooperation. The article is written by Linda Hutcheon and discusses rhetoric and competition and how they work together. Right from the start, Hutcheon asserts her position as an expert in this field, by announcing a speech she made at the Modern Language Association of America. She then opens up about a mistake she made at that speech, making her all the more relatable to the reader. Throughout the article, Hutcheon asks lots of rhetorical questions about a range of topics. She finishes the first paragraph by asking a question that becomes fundamental to the article: “Why is it that rhetoric ad competition seems to go so well in our current academic context?”. This question introduces her argument and supports her opening remarks in the next two pages with reliable and knowledgeable sources.

Hutcheon argues that competition works best when both parties compete and share knowledge throughout the duration of the interaction. I fully agree in saying that a great way to learn is to listen to others, and this is most applicable in an academic discussion.

Further on in the text, Hutcheon discusses the academy losing its “society”. At any level, competition can deliver both success and failure, but when managing a classroom, office or even academy, it is fundamental that competition creates success. Competition can at times create tension, which can add a negative atmosphere to the academy. One of the fears that Hutcheon discusses is an academy with no societal feel to it, ultimately caused by competition.

Further questions suggest that Hutcheon is always trying to find ways to research this topic, and at the bottom of page 46, she asks questions regarding learning, talking and listening. One of the questions she asks discusses how long each party should spend talking versus listening in an argument or discussion. I personally believe it is as important to listen as it is talking. Talking is great, but an individual cannot learn anything by talking. A proverb I found explains this point perfectly. “No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen”.

Throughout the reading, I was reminded over and over again the importance of learning from other people; and by the end of the reading, I had formed a statement that I think represents the conversation of rhetoric versus competition. The best way to learn, and to come out of an argument, discussion or debate feeling like you have won, is to feel like you have learned something; and this ultimately comes down to listening. Listening to someone else’s opinions don’t only tell you they have thought and what they have learned; but also gives you ideas to base your arguments off of.


  1. Hey Jack,

    I would agree with your point that a “great way to learn is to listen to others” and I think this is, in a way, intrinsic to Hutcheon’s main point. You said that in the process of listening, you obtain contrasting ideas to base your argument off of. I think this is in line and is contrasted with what Hutcheon discussed about “destructive disputation” and how it does not require serious listening. I just had a few clarifying questions about your work:

    You mentioned that Hutcheon noted that “the academy has lost its society”, that “competition can deliver both success and failure” and that “[…]in the academy… it is fundamental that competition creates success.” I was just wondering where in the article this was claimed or if it wasn’t, how you came about this conclusion. Do you think that the loss in in reference to the violence mentioned? Some would argue that to succeed is sometimes to fail, what do you think about this?

    Looking forward to your response!


  2. Hey Jack,
    I found your response to Hutcheon’s question discussing how long each party should spend talking versus listening in an argument or discussion interesting. I agree with your statement that the best way to learn is by listening and then forming your argument. As then as Hutcheon says we can put more effort into finding more constructive ways of responding. As when learning at school, often times we just listen about the material being presented and then at the end, ask questions.
    One example I found interesting and shocked me was her experience of listening to a lecture and having the audience responses be counter arguments or aggressive attacks. Then having the colleague in the philosophy department explain: “we listen to try to prove-and then show- that the speaker is entirely wrong”.
    Building on Jaren’s question of where that claim came from. I believe it may be from when she talks about how “any sense of genuine community might be missing from the academy today”. However, I cannot find where she says “competition creates success”. As in the article this competition of belittling one another and trying to prove the other wrong is the result of losing a genuine community.


  3. Hi Jaren, I really appreciate your comment and love the fact that we see eye to eye about my main point on listening to others, and learning through listening. I saw your questions regarding my work and wanted to thank you for asking them!

    To answer your first question, I got my information from the second paragraph on the fourth page of the article, which I think is the 45th page in the journal. Throughout this entire paragraph, I built up the idea that Hutcheon was testing out the waters in terms of the academy being a successful place and having that sense of community within it. Further on in the paragraph, Hutcheon says “it is no wonder that any sense of genuine community – intellectual or social – might be missing from the academy today”. I took this as a way for Hutcheon to state that the academy is losing, and has lost a certain element of the academy. For the second part of that question, that was a claim that I stated after having analyzed this part of the paper. Throughout the discussion on competition in the academy, I think it’s worth building up competition to a certain degree, but not to a degree where it will limit the success of the academy.

    To answer your next question, I think that when the word “loss” comes into action, the loss implies a change. In some situations, a loss can mean losing an argument, or losing someone in your life, or even losing your temper in a discussion which can eventually lead to violence.

    Finally, I believe that on a personal level it can be very beneficial to fail before succeeding. Failure can impose a great deal of self-reflection, and through self-reflection comes learning. Learning is a fundamental part of education and I believe that through learning other people’s views; your own perspective will be enriched and you too will grow. On the other hand, it might be impossible, but if one can create an environment where the work is successful 100% of the time, there would be no need to fail before succeeding.

    Liked by 1 person

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