3/10/16 Reality is Rhetorical: Making Sense of Buddhism and Language

Reality is Rhetorical: Making Sense of Buddhism and Language

When: March 10th, 2016  during common hour (1:50-3:15)

Where: DAC 209


As rhetorical studies globalize, they are encountering societies with very different notions about language. The risk is that Western scholars will domesticate everything that challenges or resists their familiar categories. The Western encounter with Buddhist rhetoric is a case in point because Buddhist rhetorical tradition is far more radical in its claims than its Western counterpart: it views reality itself as thoroughly rhetorical. Starting with Aristotle, Western rhetoric has maintained a bright line between language and reality. For Aristotle, effective speech depends on our ability to harmonize the properties of language with the intrinsic form in things. But Buddhist rhetoric insists that the “form in things” is a reification. Any properties we attribute to the world, are always already categories of understanding itself.   My talk will explore some of the implications that follow from this claim.

Kurt Spellmeyer, a professor of English, has directed the Arts and Sciences Writing Program at Rutgers-New Brunswick for thirty years. In addition to publishing many articles and book chapters, he has written two books in the field of rhetoric/composition: Common Ground: Dialogue, Understanding and the Teaching of Writing and Arts of Living Reinventing the Humanities for the Twenty-First Century. A Zen priest, he has practiced Zen/Ch’an meditation for forty years, and has written on Buddhism in a variety for a variety of publications including Tricycle: the Buddhist Review. He has also written a book on Zen’s encounter with the West, Buddha at the Apocalypse: Awakening from a Culture of Destruction.

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