whither ethos?

One imaginary project of mine is the “Blogging in Unusual Places” gig.  Well, not objectively unusual places–mystery spots, haunted houses, or the like.  Just places that are unusual for me to blog from.

This just as preamble to note that today I’m blogging from the second floor of the Purdy-Kresge library on WSU’s campus.  I miss my MacBook.

The real reason for today’s post: trying to work through conceiving the celebrity-ethos project for the RSA submission.  As I see it thus far, there are a few different ways to do this:

  1. To look at popular (online?) discourses surrounding politically active celebs as a venue for popular/non-academic argumentation about the nature of ethos.  Obviously, folks like Sean Penn, the Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith et al. have used their celebrity visibility to share their views.  Do they do so persuasively, or is celebrity rhetoric more epideictic?  If so, do we still need to consider ethos’ role in epideictic rhetorics?
  2. On a similar note, I could turn from the star-discourse to the star himself or herself (though we can argue to what degree the two are separable).  In this case, I could offer a case study of one particular star/celeb’s use of mediated ethos/media ethos etc. in furthering his or her chosen causes.  To me, the most limited direction so far.
  3. Alternatively, I could look at the way ethos has itself developed in rhetorical theory and ask if the very nature of celebrity itself can be understood within its terms.  From this stance, the inquiry is situated in asking about the power of ethos as a rhetorical appeal–and how that power is affected by being delivered (another canon!  Yes!) through mass media rather than through personal delivery in the agora or marketplace (Hawhee’s influence from recent reading).
  4. As a converse of that idea, I could turn my focus to star studies and other, more filmic/media-driven understanding of the nature of the star.   Here, the question might be (similar to #3 above) whether/how celebrity (as off-shoot of ethos?) is a viable persuasive appeal–or how–given the sort of obvious answer to that question–how can we begin to theorize why celebrity works persuasively?
  5. In all of this, of course, I’m alluding to questions of performativity and identification.  At present, I wonder if trying to address those concerns in a 15-20 minute talk is feasible. . .but at article length they might be.

Much thanks for all who recommended texts in previous post.  Again, as always, feedback is appreciated.

Y’know–not to get ahead of myself or anything–but stretch each of those ideas out to a 30-40 page chapter and I’ve got at least the vaguest outline for a possible direction for a dissertation. . . .

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2 Responses to “whither ethos?”

  1. newmediagirl Says:

    One of the threads that may come up in the dissertation I’d like to write is how celebrity affects absolutely “ordinary” individuals who choose to write online.

    In many ways, the way in which we respond to other people online is very similar to the way we respond typically to celebrity. If people are posting anywhere, at any time, they must *want* our attention. And the godawful things that we do and say to/about celebrities are also pretty commonly heaped onto people with blogs or that post on discussion boards.

    Which, of course, is interesting in light of your post. If what I just said is true (or can be considered true), and the reader looks to the blogger as a kind of celebrity, but the blogger does NOT consider his writing part of that system, how does that change the rhetoric of the blog?

  2. M. L. McGinnis Says:

    These are interesting questions that might come up in Kim’s presentation in this panel–she’s looking precisely at blog celebrity ethos, part. how it is manifested in blogrolls, I think.


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