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Rhetoric, Discourse and Knowledge


Edited By Maria Załęska and Urszula Okulska

The authors of this volume explore rhetorical and discursive strategies used to negotiate and establish legitimate knowledge and its disciplinary boundaries, to make scientific knowledge interesting outside academic settings as well, and to manage (c)overt knowledge in different social and political contexts. The volume focuses on the cultural concept of knowledge society, examining diverse linguistic means of knowledge transmission from the perspective of the complex interplay between knowledge and persuasion. The contributors discuss both sociological and philosophical issues, as well as textual processes in different genres that aim to communicate knowledge.

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Rhetorical and discursive perspectives on knowledge and knowing (Maria Załęska / Urszula Okulska)


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Maria Załęska & Urszula Okulska

University of Warsaw

Rhetorical and discursive perspectives on knowledge and knowing

Abstract: The chapter offers a conceptual map that shows interrelations of the three key notions: knowledge, discourse, and rhetoric. The overview of the definitions and of the theoretical frameworks illustrates the complexity, variety, and even incommensurability of the available approaches. Their synthesis allows for contextualizing the research presented in the chapters of this volume.

1. Introduction

Sapere aude. Do dare to know. The inscription from the Delphi oracle is but one of various reminders that evoke the challenge, the temptation and the promise of knowledge. Knowledge informs the daily activity of any person. Shared common knowledge permits to coordinate interlocutors’ activities, while specialized knowledge constitutes the basis of single professions and academic disciplines.

The rhetorical point of view points out the relation between language, interactants and reality:

When taken together, writer, reality, audience and language identify an epistemic field – the basic conditions that determine what knowledge will be knowable, what not knowable, and how the knowledge will be communicated. This epistemic field is the point of departure for numerous studies. (Berlin 1982: 767)

A part of these “numerous studies” are chapters in this volume that problematize different aspects of the relation between knowledge – in particular specialized, academic knowledge – and ways of its communicating through resources of rhetoric and discourse.

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