Ohmann, Richard “In Lieu of a New Rhetoric”

From RhetorClick

Jump to: navigation, search



Ohmann is not interested in identifying a new rhetoric, instead he identifies the ways in which new rhetorical theories resemble one another. Ohmann points to five attributes that are common amongst proposed “new rhetorics.” The first commonality is that new rhetoric bridges the gap between rhetor and audience, allowing for “cooperation, mutuality, social harmony." [1] This is in contrast to traditional rhetoric which emphasizes the separation of speaker and audience. The second attribute is modern rhetoric’s pursuit of truth and right. Third, modern rhetoric is not concerned with persuasion, as the modern rhetor must seek self-discovery (which cannot be achieved through deception). Fourth, rhetoric is a “product as a revelation of the writer’s mind and of his moral character.” To modern theorists, rhetoric is a vessel for conveying the speaker’s genuine nature. And last, modern rhetoric creates community comprised of shared ideas, attitudes, modes of perception, though, and feeling--a world view.

In Lieu of a New Rhetoric

In “In Lieu of a New Rhetoric,” Richard Ohmann starts by acknowledging the past perceptions of rhetoric as a “mysterious power” and as a “calculated procedure” bond in the similar characteristic of dealing with persuasion (298). He continues by contrasting the views of many of the new rhetoricians like I.A. Richards, Daniel Fogarty, and Richard Weaver--to name a few. He then states his purpose: “suggest one way in which contemporary ideas of rhetoric...resemble each other more than any of them resembles older ideas” (300). This similarity between the contemporary ideas is that they open the term rhetoric to incorporate a broader spectrum of linguistic activity; this is different from the classical view of rhetoric as persuasion. Ohmann outlines these relationships using five aspects: the relationship between the rhetor and the audience in which new rhetoric encompasses a more mutual relationship, rhetoric as a pursuit versus the transmission of truth, candor as a necessary condition of making rhetoric, the attribution of how much a work reflects the author (only in style says new rhetoricians), and rhetoric reflecting the concepts of a world view (of the world, community, group, or an individual). Ohmann continues to discuss rhetoric in terms of teaching freshman-level college students. He states that the current methods of grammarian rules, etc. are not affective in the classroom. Rather, he proposes a “four-part framework” for teaching freshman. First, the students must understand “the relationship between a piece of writing and its content.Then, they should be taught the “relationship between a piece of writing and its author” and its relationship with the audience (304). And, final idea they should learn is that of the world views previously discussed by Ohmann.

Possible Implications

Ohmann’s final attribute of modern rhetoric, the ability to create a worldview, was most intriguing as there is evidence of this nearly everywhere. Of course, the most readily available example is social media. Online rhetoric has the ability to create communities, shape worldviews, and bridge the gap between speaker and audience. Take, for example, the “It Gets Better” campaign. It began as a series of online videos in response to some very publicized cases of teen suicide, specifically GLBT teens who had been bullied. The videos sought to create community between GLBT teens and older GLBT men and women who had experienced bullying or dealt with depression/ thoughts of suicide. This rhetoric was extremely successful at fostering both community and a worldview. Now, there is an “It Gets Better” reality show on MTV that will bring this message to a broader audience.


  1. [Ohmann, Richard. “In Lieu of a New Rhetoric.” Professing the New Rhetorics: A Sourcebook. Ed. Theresa Enos and Stuart Brown. Prentice Hall, 1993. Print. ]
Personal tools
Site Navigation
Wiki Help