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Rhetoric, Discourse and Knowledge

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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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Sociology of excellence(s) in the knowledge society (Izabela Wagner)

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Izabela Wagner

University of Warsaw

Sociology of excellence(s) in the knowledge society

Abstract: The author claims that ‘excellence’ is a socially constructed, discursive phenomenon. The analysis unveils a complex system of reward attribution, the importance of significant others, and institutional frames that determine this process. Such sociological constraints are also reflected in persuasive practices through which scholarly excellence is argued in academic discourse.

1. Introduction

The chapter traces a broad sociological picture that permits to deepen understanding of rhetoric as applied to and within the discussion of science issues. In the knowledge society, in which science occupies such a prominent place, the overt and covert processes of persuasion shape our visions of scientists: who they are, who they should be. The main concept considered in this chapter is excellence: a quality requested from scholars who aim to become top scientists. Although the analysis is conducted mainly from the sociological perspective, it addresses also important rhetorical issues. It is concerned with reconstructing modern realizations of rhetorical genus demonstrativum, i.e., evaluation practices: praising, blaming, applying old and creating new standards of evaluation. The term excellence evokes also the rhetorical concept of ethos, considered in relation with authorship of scientific texts.

2. Excellence and scientific work: An ‘old’ subject of reflection

“At any given time in a particular society the idea of what constitutes excellence tends to be limited − but the conception changes as we...

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