From Vico to Grassi: toward a rhetoric of openness
Hodges, Karen Anderson
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This research fuses humanist concepts of language with chaos theory to move toward a rhetoric of openness. Like other dynamic systems, metaphoric/poetic language generates concepts and discourse which interact with each other and change each other over time. Such a non-rigid, flexible view of language rejects the static while it generates strategies which disclose actuality, illuminate being, discover presence, and penetrate the unknown. Giambattista Vico and Ernesto Grassi valorize the ever-expanding possibilities in language; like the early sophists, they call for discourse which uses details and examples in narrative, mythic, and allegorical modes. Vico's Imaginative Representation expresses poetic, imaginative forms of thought or discourse through which an individual senses a world of forces and emotional qualities. Ingenium, a faculty which links one person perceptually with others and with the natural world, flourishes in such metaphoric thought and discourse. It breaks down boundaries of binary thought as it sanctions limitless interplay between concepts and relationships. With fantasy, innovation, and the play of folly, the writer/rhetor interprets and invents discourse which persuades a reader/audience by forming immediate identities between elements. This study grounds its language research in a review of cognitive sciences to understand how the brain functions as an integrated whole, not as divided into left and right hemispheres. The burgeoning cognitive model indicates a paradigm shift which conceives cognition as a specifically human capacity. Fusing metaphor with fractal into a dynamic semiotic system, the meta-fractal process generates exploratory interpretation and invention which activate expressive communication. Through its quadrants (the Physical Body, the Socio-Cultural Situation, the Idea Realm, and Time and Place), collaborating participants generate complex, dynamic interchange. Student writing provides a pool of rich data through which this dissertation demonstrates the validity of myth, allegory, and narrative in forming and communicating meanings. Such rhetorical strategies present new insights and probable knowledge that promote a generative array of possibilities between imaginative and referential discourse. This demonstration substantiates Vico's and Grassi's calls for discourse modes which rediscover genuine persuasion and move toward a rhetoric of openness.