No wonder we love to read them. Now, with the release of Where the Nights are Twice as Long, a collection of love letters from and sometimes to Canadian poets, readers can indulge their passion for passion, and at the same time get a glimpse of the literary — and extra-literary — lives of writers from across the centuries and across the country, including a handful from Kingston, too:
Asylum, letters, rhetoric, Syracuse, history Abstract This article looks to the genre of letter-writing and to epistolary rhetoric in order to recover perspectives seemingly lost amongst the medicalized discourse of asylum histories. These hard-to-find letters written in the nineteenth century by pupils, family members, and teachers open us up to new perspectives not available in other archival documents.
I give a brief introduction to the history and theory of epistolary rhetoric, delimit a disability epistolary, and then consider a group of letters in terms of the rhetorical action they perform.
I conclude by emphasizing the significance of this cross-disciplinary work for both rhetoric and disability studies. Introduction One defining characteristic of the writing of "New Disability Histories" and of Disability Studies more generally has been the move to be accountable to the perspectives of people with disabilities who are the subjects of historical recovery: Yet, to retrieve the past from primary perspectives, logically, we are more apt to document and analyze the lives of those who have left writing simply because of the understandable tendency to rely on written documentation.
But this inclination to focus only on written evidence is problematic and in need of circumspection. As we research and write histories, we must nudge ourselves further to ask: How can we dig through the layers of dominant discourse to reach submerged perspectives? How do we make historical that which is silent?
How can we "listen" to that which is seemingly not there? As Douglas Biklen and Christopher Kliewer point out, people with disabilities have historically been denied access to literacy practices.
This denial of literacy has made documenting histories from primary perspectives potentially difficult because the written evidence that remains is often not written by people with disabilities themselves and, in addition, writing by institutions is generally more accessible than writing by people with disabilities and their families.
In invoking Paul Longmore and Lauri Umansky who reveal that "Disability has been present, in penumbra if not in print, on virtually every page of American History" 2I urge us to think further about exactly whose histories have been present.
We must account for those who did not write or speak and for those who have not been able to insert their perspectives into the evidence that remains. In this essay, I argue that researching disability should involve an approach to evidence that recasts silence as a rhetorical device.
The letter-writing between the institution and Mrs. Thornton lasted eleven years betweenwhen "Jimmy" first came to the asylum-school, until when Superintendent Hervey B. That is, while I do not have written evidence from the family themselves in this set of letters, I do have remnants that necessitate some sort of assemblage.
To open up possibilities for recasting silence as a rhetorical device, I utilize methods of imaginative reconstruction claim-making based on contradicting possibilities and rhetorical accretion analysis of the layers upon layers of rhetoric and "voice" in the context of letter-writing at the New York State Asylum for Idiots at Syracuse This work allows me to confirm the notion that silence is rhetorical as much as articulation is rhetorical and to demonstrate how a deepening of our understanding of silence as rhetorical can open the path to retrieve the "voices" of people with disabilities.
Rather than defining rhetoric as simply verbal persuasion, a revised understanding values rhetoric as a complex and multi-layered epistemological and methodological tool for negotiating gaps and silence in historical evidence.
Rhetoric s are, as John Duffy has written, "the ways of using language and other symbols by institutions, groups, or individuals for the purpose of shaping conceptions of reality…rhetorics are the languages of ideologies and offer symbolic means through which ideologies become known and are imposed, shared, understood, and overthrown" 15, In other words, the "push and pull" of discourse that occurs between people has, in the past, often produced a "victor" in the sense that the dominant rhetorics come to be heard and seen more often than the non-dominant rhetorics.
Alongside Duffy and Glenn, rhetoric scholar James Berlin establishes rhetoric as "a set of rules to naturalize an ideology," the ideology generally being that of dominant culture "Octalog I," Berlin points to this sense of rhetoric as a "push and pull" or a struggle for power between individuals and groups: Why we need rhetoric is that we disagree, [we exist within] a probalistic realm" "Octalog," Rhetoric is the negotiation that we engage in with each other, privately and civically and individually and collectively, to attempt to reconcile our multiplicitous understandings of "truth" and "reality.
At first glance, when looking only to what is overtly written in these letters, pupils and families may appear somewhat silent and acquiescent. My point in this essay is to show how families and pupils may be silent in the extant historical record but in no way were they absent or entirely acquiescent.
In her work, Glenn explores the ways in which silence is rhetorical and the ways in which "speaking or speaking out continues to signal power, liberation, culture, or civilization itself…The dominant group in a social hierarchy renders inarticulate subordinate or muted groups any of the traditionally disenfranchised and excludes them from the formulation, validation, and circulation of meaning" 3, However, while the dominant group the institutional "voice" is by and large the primary voice left within the historical record of the asylum-school, that is not to say that the subordinate group families and pupils never spoke, wrote, or engaged in rhetorical practice.
Because it is imposed on people in the historical record, we can assume that, as Glenn suggests, silence could be an expression of a multitude of things: While Glenn looks mostly at tactical and intentional silence, I look at silence as: Thornton possibly decides not to write or where the asylum perhaps intentionally does not communicate certain things in the letters, and neither wholly imposed nor wholly tactical but as a "site of knowing, composing, generation" Glenn, 8.
This means silence can operate as a compass. Instead of thinking of silence as an imposition or a refusal, we might think of it as directing us toward knowledge of something new. By investigating the rhetorics of the letters, we learn that rhetoric is silence as much as it is articulation.
Rhetoric, then, can open a path to retrieve subaltern "voices," perspectives, or materialities of families and pupils of the asylum-school that are seemingly silent but definitely not absent.
Rhetoric s include language practices, bodily performances, and symbol usages that operate within systems of power, but they also entail barely audible traces, invisible performances, and non-extant experience that have no tangible evidence left. Rhetoric is multiplicitous uses of language utterance or enunciation but rhetoric is also the existence of silence that—and this is crucial—must not necessarily be confused with absence.
Scholars that work at the intersection of feminism and rhetoric have, in the last 20 years, taught us to listen rhetorically to silences, to follow minimal traces towards larger streams, and to unearth gaps in order to widen the perspectives we consider in our histories.
She explains how she uses the method of imaginative reconstruction: In bringing historical erasure to light, Royster writes that for her, "The immediate challenge is to make visible many features, factors, relationships, people, and practices, that heretofore were not visible—to articulate what is there and what seems to be going on…to make better sense" 8.
She goes onto explain how in the case of her research where there is much undocumented history, as a researcher she feels a responsibility to make inferences about the possibilities in a reasonable and useful way Home» Reading» Dear, Dear: The Intimacy of Letters.
Dear, Dear: The Intimacy of Letters. Author Letters make up only part of this story, but Munro makes the intimacy of letter-writing the story’s engine—an intimacy that turns out to be a risky sort of shortcut. but this is a Munro story, and there are seventeen other twists.
Gender, however, cannot simply be subsumed under class, as feminist critics and historians have demonstrated. 9 Moreover, in matters of language and discourse in particular, the primary analytic category of difference in Old Regime France was gender, not class.
10 Most notably, gender was deployed to distinguish letters from other "literary. Thomas Carlyle (4 December – 5 February ) was a Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician, and teacher.
Considered one of the most important social commentators of his time, he presented many lectures during his lifetime with certain acclaim in .
Letter Writing and the Emergence of Gendered Subjectivity in Eighteenth-Century France; Journal of Women's History; Volume 17, Number 2, Summer Letter Writing and the Emergence of Gendered Subjectivity in Eighteenth-Century France gender was deployed to distinguish letters from other "literary" forms of writing, and novel reading.
Thomas Carlyle (4 December – 5 February ) was a Scottish at this time he penned articles appraising the life and works of various poets and men of letters, including Goethe, Voltaire and However they criticised Carlyle's plan to use democracy to find the "Noblest" and the other "Nobles" that are to form the government.
This article looks to the genre of letter-writing and to epistolary rhetoric in order to recover perspectives seemingly lost amongst the medicalized discourse of asylum histories. These hard-to-find letters written in the nineteenth century by pupils, family members, and teachers open us up to new perspectives not available in other archival.