A Chinese rhetorical tradition? Case studies in the history of Chinese rhetorical theory and practice
AuthorCai, Guanjun, 1964-
AdvisorMiller, Thomas P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation investigates rhetorical theories and practices in Chinese cultural history. I examine the rhetorics that are explicit and implicit in Chinese philosophical, political, and academic theories and practices. Based on my case studies in Chinese history, I argue that rhetoric is a social, cultural, and historical construct, and rhetoric in the Chinese context is better understood as the study and practice of putting philosophy into social action for practical purposes. These case studies also illustrate that since assumptions about rhetoric are integrally related to particular cultural assumptions, the conventions of "good writing" are also culture-specific. I begin by refuting the notions that rhetoric is entirely Western and that Western rhetoric is universal. Rhetoric is better understood as having a cultural dimension. In the succeeding chapter, I examine the rhetorical expositions and implications of Han Fei-tzu's (c. 298-233 BCE) legalist philosophy. A concept of rhetoric, I argue, is explicitly developed in Han's theories of quan-fu or the art of speaking to convince and shui-shu or the art of advising. I also explore the conceptions of rhetoric that is implicit in his legalist theories of fa, shu, shi, which assume that persuasion and coercion are used simultaneously to preserve social order. In Chapter 3, I argue that the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) provides a good example of how ideology functions as a system of rhetoric. I analyze The Little Red Book as an exemplary ideological discourse to show that the Thought of Mao Zedong, which was the dominant ideology of the Cultural Revolution, determined what was discursive, what was possible, and what was acceptable. In Chapter 4, I argue that Chinese academic writing has always served clearly defined sociopolitical purposes that have historically adapted with changes in political ideology. My analyses in the preceding chapters should give readers an historically grounded sense of Chinese rhetorics. With my case studies as points of reference, I conclude by exploring the implications of this project for the theories of rhetoric and comparative rhetoric. I examine how theories of comparative rhetoric can be developed with historical research on rhetorical conventions, cultural assumptions, and social practices. I also show how such an historically informed comparative rhetoric can be applied to teaching students to negotiate cultural differences in their writing.
Degree ProgramGraduate College