Democracy Roundtable: "PlastiDuditude: Harry Shearer’s Democratic Voices"
My work on Harry Shearer dances across the histories and theories of rhetoric in all of rhetoric's embodied forms up through the "digital" ‐‐ so rich is Shearer's rhetorical practice. But my central focus is interrogating Shearer's vocal and sonic practices on "Le Show" in the context of Isocratean tropos.
Unlike his intellectual step‐grandbaby Aristotle, Isocrates did not theorize as "ethos" what is usually translated as "character". What Norlin, Too, and other translators call "character" in Isocrates is not "ethos" but almost always "tropos". Whereas "ethos" is dwelling, "tropos" is turning: quite a distinction at the ancient heart of Western conceptions of self.
Are we one? Or are we many? How might rhetorical acts serve as integrative, however ephemerally?
I started reading about the social construction of identity after my undergraduate degree. Life as a reporter and writer being the second best way to ensure a life of learning, I was doing freelance writing as well as working as a news editor. It was during this time that I interviewed methodologist John Nesselroade for an article I was working on for the PSU College of Human Development magazine. Nesselroade's newest methodological work questioned the very idea of the consistency of the individual across the lifespan, an idea that set off ‐‐ if I may say ‐‐ howitzers in my head. Remembering the nature and consequences of Nesselroade's methodological and theoretical work is the best way I can think to describe the potential insights of the ethos/tropos distinction for social scientists interested in methodology.
In any case, in Shearer's practice, there is something to teach and delight scholars from any discipline.