Reading Response: Rhetoric and Competition by Linda Hutcheon

Competition has big influence on humans behaviour, it can turn a friendly talk into a fight pit with people trying to hurt each other both verbally and physically. But it also can help people in doing their best to achieve their goals by triggering motivation, ambition and enthusiasm. Bateson and Hutcheon’s work help us understand what competition is and give us more insight about its effects on our societies.

Hutcheon and Bateson’s writings are, ultimately, two faces of the same coin. Although they have different start and ending points, independence to interdependence, contest to cooperation, they both aim to achieve the same goal, which is solving global problems that will make our earth a better place, by getting rid of competition. One thing they both agree about is the cause of the problem of competition, “individualism”.

Hutcheon structures her article on other theories either to support her ideas, like the conference scenario by Jane Tompkins, or to compare her ideas with others, like Terdiman’s idea of counter-discourse. She first refers to competition as a weapon that turned the education system into a fighting arena where people are trying to overcome each other to reach the top of the “hierarchy of higher education”. Competition also changed how humans used words like “agonistic from its meaning (per-taining to athletic feats) to its meaning (in the context of rhetorical feats)”. As my fellow student said in her response , she further analyzes competition as a reason why criticism became verbal duels and combative arguments. Finally, she asks us to find and explore ways to be more additive than subtractive, more collaborative than competitive, “can we collectively explore ways to return to the notion of agon as a gathering place, not a place of contest and conflict?”.

Furthermore, Both Hutcheon and Bateson’s articles, starts by them talking about them selfs to give them credibility, but Hutcheon uses this trick to also grab the audience attention by further analyzing that mistake she made in her speech. Also, they both use a lot of examples as well as rhetorical questions to relate to their broad audiences and to draw their attention.

Hutcheon and Bateson did a great job in discussing the dangers of competition, and they suggested reasonable ways and solutions for us to explore and try to apply to solve this problem.



  1. Hi Yasser,

    that was an interesting response, as you mentioned, Hutcheon argues that criticism becomes a type of “verbal dual” instead of carefully listening to the others point of view and add substantial contributions. What was also interesting in her article, was the how she described the lack of attentiveness in competitive discussions, only to focus on a zero-sum game approach to win an argument over another. As you said Hutcheon gave many historical philosophical examples which solidifies her argument, and makes one reflect on how we can collaborate different worldviews within the education system.


  2. Hello, this was a very interesting response to Hutcheon and Bateson’s research articles.
    I found it very nice how you pointed out the powerful impact of competition in distorting meaning, such as with the word ‘agon’.
    I also found the use of addiction and subtraction with formulating criticisms very interesting. It makes me think that competition is the result of poor wording in criticisms, and that perhaps delivering criticism in a more positive way can cause in turn lead to cooperation and improvement.


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