Fostering a Healthier Rhetoric in Competition : Reading Response

Hutcheon’s article addresses the consistent tendency of the academic communities rhetorical engagement defaulting in competitive nature. Hutcheon argues her point of competition as rooted in upstaging, discrediting and demolishing those around us. Where our once department colleagues were seen as scholarly neighbours, they are now posed as potential threats to our individualistic goals and future success. This competitive rhetoric breeds a destructive environment for present day and future scholars as its approach yields combat and contempt – fundamentally, hindering the progression of academic discourse.

Throughout her article, much of Hutcheon’s idealistic side shines as she questions why in all that we do, does there need to be a winner and a loser? Cooperating and collaborating with one another in the field of academics fosters an inclusive and additive culture which cultivates an environment better suited for intellectual debate and possible progression. This approach has been twisted at all levels of learning, which has contributed to our present day social functioning concentrated on one-upping our peers. Our interactions are devoted towards aggressive attacks undermining one another, tearing apart counterintuitive opinions and perspectives and creating an argumentative culture.

Hutcheon presents this growing ideology to her audience, followed by a call for change. Similar to Bateson’s article, Hutcheon stresses the need in practicing interdependence. As Bateson put it, we need to learn to “rejoice” in needing one another, in depending not only on ourselves, and in promoting a positive co-presence where academic discourse is seen as an “additive” process. Hutcheon and Bateson’s perspectives overlap as they theorize about future reforms for social interaction. By focusing on what makes us different and instilling walls from the very start, future cooperative social interaction will be nearly impossible, never mind when faced with conflict. With slow change dedicated towards the realization of what we do share, collaborative reform may commence.

Bateson’s article caters toward a different audience than that of Hutcheon. Bateson generates a more informally structured article, generalizing her arguments against the ideas of individualism and competition as she addresses an array of specialists from differing discourse backgrounds. Hutcheon steers more stiffly on the road of academy only as she writes for the readers of Common Knowledge at Duke University. Bateson’s main argument generalizes how competition impedes societies ability in working collectively towards solving global-scale issues such as climate change. As for Hutcheon, her article takes this very broad, general view of thee effects competition has on the world and provides a specific example as to how its affects the academic field. In doing so, My peer Ryan Sum illustrates in his blog post how Hutcheon’s reform centralizes on the idea that the competitive rhetoric must not always be utterly negative. He states that by “consider[ing] the benefit of the existence of diversity”, ’agon’ will be seen “as a gathering place instead of contest and conflict”. With a change of mindset, competition and rhetoric can propagate constructive and fruitful discourse in the academic field. A degree of healthy and optimistic competition can be achieved in the right environment.

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  1. Hey there!

    First off, lovely post. This is written in a cohesive, academic tone with valid and supported points. You nailed the description of Hutcheon’s desire for an “additive culture” and opened the article strongly.

    However, I disagree with your claim that Bateson’s article is loosely structured with a general tone. I found that Bateson’s specific examples referencing biology, religion, evolution, etc. gave the article a highly structured feel, whereas Hutcheon’s broad-stroke approach to supporting her claim was structured in a looser way. Hutcheon claims that academics have become too “wolvish,” and supports that claim with broad ideas that appeal to her audience of academics, such as referencing the Greek root ‘agon.’ Her ideas are broader than Bateson’s, but your perception that her point is more specific is valid in that Bateson argues that the nature of competition in society can relate to larger global issues (broad claim, specific evidence), while Hutcheon’s claim that academics have become less about learning and more about winning presents a specific argument that is supported from a broad perspective.

    You make a strong point about the structures of these two compared articles and summarize/analyze them in a beautiful and elegant way.

    – Ava


  2. Hi Ava!

    Thanks for your reply!

    I totally see the point you’re questioning in regards to the structure of both articles.

    When stating that Bateson’s article was more informally structured, I was referring to the fact that I felt she was jumping from one point to another in order to cater to her widely constituted audience. I see Bateson as trying to give reason to her main argument by including the aforementioned examples of biology, religion and evolution as that is where her audience all derive their discourse backgrounds from. By stating that Hutcheon’s article was more formally structured, I was trying to convey that Bateson was addressing a greater variety in audience with a more global-scale issue, with more general examples, whereas Hutcheon was bringing attention to the idea of competition on a more personal level by structuring her paper with a focus on the academics.

    I believe their respective audiences account for a large part of their structural differences – in terms of argument specifications, which is what I was trying to convey, and may have been a better term to use.

    Thanks for clarifying!

    – Mila


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