The art of listening has been long forgotten in the study and teaching of rhetoric, according to Krista Ratcliffe in her 2005 book on rhetorical listening. Historically, the spoken word has played a significant role in conveying ideas, but Ratcliffe contends contemporary U.S. American culture has become dependent on the visual, such as images, reading, and writing. The role of listening, however, has not figured prominently in either contemporary or historical western thought. Ratcliffe's book on rhetorical listening offers insights about the value and possibilities for listening through identifications, disidentifications, and non-identifications. Ratcliffe's primary examples of listening in public debate, scholarly dis-course, and pedagogy are of particular interest to argumentation scholars. Given the number of controversial issues related to race and gender in contemporary U.S. American culture, "Rhetorical Listening "is also important for discussing these race- and gender-based topics. Examples such as the discourse surrounding the 2008 bids of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obarna for president of the United States, the 2009 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., beer summit with President Mama, the 2010 controversy over the firing of Shirley Sherrod at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the controversy over the Islamic cultural center in New York City, and Dr. Laura Schlessinger's use of race-based slurs on her radio program are just a few recent controversies that illustrate the continued relevance of Ratcliffe's book. Ratcliffe defines rhetorical listening as "a trope for interpretative invention and as a code of cross-cuItural conduct . . . [which] signifies a stance of openness that a person may choose to assume in relation to any person, text, or culture" (p. 1). To illustrate what she means by this definition, she focuses on gender and race cultural logics to explore how we might invoke listening to create better cross-cultural relationships. Shec
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About the Author
Krista Ratciffe is an associate professor of English and the director of the First-Year English Program at Marquette University. The author of Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions: Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, and Adrienne Rich and coauthor of Who’s Having This Baby? Perspectives on Birthing, she has written numerous journal articles on feminism and rhetoric.