The Turkish rhetorical tradition spans centuries starting from the Orhon inscriptions of the 8th century to the times of the 21st century modern republican era. The Turkish Language Association1 defines rhetoric, known as belagat in Turkish, as good speech and the ability to speak persuasively; a scientific inquiry into speech arts; the art of giving an account of a subject matter thoroughly without leaving the audience confused, in need of asking a question or making a comment; deep meanings embedded in language.2 Additionally, belagat is also considered as the foundation of the art of hitabe, the art of speaking influentially.3
Three primary time periods provided the political, social, and intellectual basis for the development of the Turkish rhetorical tradition: the pre-Islamic, the Islamic, and the republican eras. The earliest forms of the art of hitabe as practiced by the Turks of Central Asia in the pre-Islamic era are the Orhon inscriptions. Written in the old Turkic runic alphabet by the Göktürks in the Orhon valley in Mongolia, these inscriptions provide an account of the establishment of the Göktürk Empire, their social and political conflicts with the Chinese, their resilience against Chinese invasions, and their military triumphs in securing their independence from them. The inscriptions, replete with elaborate similes and metaphors, are noted for their rhetorical qualities in using the word Türk (Turk) and for describing the evolving unity among the Turkic tribes in the region4 which had a significant impact on the hitabe tradition in the 20th century republican era—especially in developing a Turkish national consciousness and the idea of a national solidarity for the continuity of the Turkish state following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.5
The expansion of Islam among Turkic tribes in central Asia is known as a transitional period when contact between Turks and Muslim Arabs occurred and intensified. An essential work concerned with hitabe during this period is the Kutadgu Bilig, written by Yusuf Has Hacib in the 11th century. Referred to as the first work of Islamic Turkish literature, Kutadgu Bilig is an extensive poem written in the mesnevi/masnavi style that is concerned with the happiness of the masses and instructs extensively on how to use language as well as on ideas regarding morality, law, politics, social issues and rule of the state. As in the Orhon inscriptions, it deals with the ideals of Turkish töre (law), egemenlik (sovereignty), and yönetim (rule). It was written in couplets by using the old Uyghur alphabet. Yusuf Has Hacib describes the use of language as a form of art that must be used with caution. Language must not be used to persuade but to instruct and share knowledge. Truth must be known and knowledge must be obtained to be able to use language and convey ideas. Speaking without knowledge and being trivial will lead to the loss of one’s credibility.6
The 10th century marks the time around when Turks began to convert to Islam. In the 11th century, Mahmud al-Kashgari (Kașgarlı Mahmut) wrote the first dictionary of Turkic languages, Kitabu Divanü Lügati’t-Türk, with the intention of teaching the language of the Turks to the Arabs. The dictionary included Turkic names of geographical locations, Turkic phrases, and proverbs. To convince the Arabs to learn to speak the language of the Turks, he quoted hadiths of prophet Mohammed such as ‘learn the language of the Turks because their sovereignty will prevail’7. In the 14th century, Arabic and Persian languages were highly influential over the language of Seljuk Turks due to the expansion of Islamic religion. The poetry of Turkish folk poet Yunus Emre (Turkish folk poetry was in the oral tradition until the 19th century) in this period played a critical role in the development of the Anatolian Turkish. With his plain and simple style, his poetry marked the beginning of an era in Anatolia in which a linguistic movement to prioritize the Turkish language and its written form over Arabic and Persian began. Yunus Emre composed his poetry in the sehl-i mümteni form, a rhetorical style in Arabic literary tradition that is composed of expressing thoughts and emotions in such a way that at first it appears to be an easy task but nevertheless difficult to imitate. The emphasis on the Turkish language continued over to the 15th century among poets like Ali Şir Nevaî who argued for superior and rich linguistic qualities in the Turkish language over Persian and wrote extensively in the Muḥākemetü’l-Luġateyn about the ways in which the Turkish language offered more opportunities for self-expression. The Dedekorkut epic tradition of the 15th century is also considered as representative of Turkish hitabet and research reveals that it shares common characteristics with the Gökturk hitabet tradition as well as with the religious discourse of the republican era where a religious text always ends with a prayer (Uzun).
On his discussion of hitabet, Mustafa Uzun points to the history of the Turks in central Asia and to the ways in which warfare played a crucial role in its development. Uzun quotes Nihad Sami Banarlı to argue that because for centuries the Turkish central Asian history was informed by warfare, it was particularly army commanders and leaders who were trained to lead the armies to victory and persuade them to face death in warfare. He concludes that it would be misleading to compare hitabet with the Western rhetorical tradition to understand its characteristics and evolution. He argues that such comparisons may result in inaccurate conclusions as in the case of studies conducted by Mithat Cemal who asserts that hitabet did not fully evolve because of particular circumstances such as the lack of freedom of speech. Uzun points out that hitabet has always been an essential component of Turkish daily life and ceremonies such as șölen, toy, sığır, and yuğ that were organized to observe important life events such as marriage, childbirth, death, and departure for war. The speech Alparslan composed in 1071 prior to the Malazgirt victory (also known as Battle of Manzikert), is considered to be one of the best examples of military hitabet which is composed of religious themes8. During the Ottoman era, mehter music is a rhetorical tool composed to accompany the Ottoman army to the battlefield. The music was composed with the intention of increasing the strength, courage, and morale of the Ottoman army. Hitabet was widely utilized in the Ottoman divan, the imperial council, and also for the holly commandments of Ottoman emperors called fetva. In the republic era, the discursive field is highly influenced by an anti-colonial discourse.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s address to the Turkish army in 1922 during the Turkish Independence War is representative of the Turkish military hitabet and anti-colonial rhetoric of the period. The well-known address is noted for the final sentence of the address which orders the Turkish army to attack the Greeks and to end the Greek occupation in western Anatolia as follows: “Armies! Your first target is the Mediterranean Sea! Attack!” (Ordular! İlk hedefiniz Akdeniz’dir. İleri!9). Atatürk rhetorically used the word ‘Mediterranean’ instead of ‘Aegean’, a term that Greeks used in their maps to claim Greek sovereignty in the region. Since 1081, Turks had referred to what is known as the Aegean Sea as the Mediterranean (the White Sea) and Atatürk’s use of the word Mediterranean was a move towards subverting the Greek colonial ambitions in Western Anatolia.
The rhetorical tradition in the republican period highly values the idea of a national language. In this period, the national language is directly linked to national values (milli değerler), emphasizing the idea that language should be used ‘beautifully’ because it carries ideals of national culture and national identity. While writing continues to be regarded as a form of art that encourages the use of rhetorical tropes such as metaphors and similes, works of literature are sources of inspiration. However, as the influence of the Arab/Persian belagat tradition extends to the republican era, the new republic invents new rhetorical models in trying to build its national identity. Writing instruction and the rhetorical tradition in this period presents new rhetorical and alternative discourse choices, and ways of speaking and creating for public rhetorics. Atatürk’s Nutuk is representative of this tradition whereby it uses rhetorical strategies towards building an anti-hegemonic discourse to subvert colonialism and to promote national consciousness.
Turkish Composition Instruction in Turkey
Writing in Turkey has been taught in Turkish language and literature courses, which have been part of the core curriculum in the educational system through high school and have been mandatory courses for first-year college students. As of 2011, an additional mandatory course called ‘Dil ve Anlatım’ (Language and its Expression) has been added to the curriculum in high schools which focuses on reading and listening comprehension skills, writing skills, and on the development of speaking skills. The Ministry of Education in Turkey explains that the goal of the new course is the development of cultural and national identity in students by encouraging them to explore the ways in which they can think in Turkish and express themselves by using the Turkish language10. Additional goals are listed as the ability to engage in philosophical inquiry in Turkish, to be able to express emotions in Turkish, to be aware of the national identity, and to pronounce the Turkish language correctly. Writing instruction continues to be taught in Turkish literature classes as well as in the new Language and its Expression course.
The terms belagat and hitabe in Turkish rhetorical theory are closest to the Western notion of rhetoric and define the ways in which language is defined and studied in written communication and speech. Rather than a systematic study of practices and techniques that are named and defined as in Greek rhetoric, Turkish rhetoric is less methodical where oral and written texts provide a comprehensive picture of the study and function of language in society. This is similar to Lu Xing’s analysis of Chinese rhetoric. Xing explains that although rhetorical terms are defined with clear phrases in the study of Western rhetoric, such definitions in Chinese rhetoric do not exist and that “rhetorical themes are embedded in texts which do not treat rhetoric as an explicit topic of discussion” (2). Hence, students in Turkey are not introduced to a set of terms and phrases of rhetorical theory in the writing classroom. Rather, literary works are introduced in the writing classroom to teach students about discourse and the ways in which Turkish language can be used for self-expression. The writing of Turkish students closely represents the Continental (German-Romanic) writing model that Lotte Rienecker and Peter Stray Jörgensen discuss in ‘Teaching Academic Writing in European Higher Education. In the analysis of the Anglo-American and Continental writing models Rienecker and Jörgensen make a list of the characteristics that define student writing in both traditions. While defining the writing models in the Anglo-American system as “empirical, based on real-world objects, people, and events, methodologically oriented, systematic, methodologically written, in a clear concise, unmistakable and often quite impersonal language”, they trace the characteristics of the Continental writing style as “interpretative, hermeneutical and epistemological in nature” (102) and “ripe with metaphors typical of literary texts, and always linguistically demanding” (103).
Problem-solving texts, problems in the foreground; facts, realities, observable matters, empiricism; emphasis on methods; concepts, theories; new understandings, evaluations, and actions; controlled and purposeful epistemology; one point, one claim, one conclusion; linear structure, digressions are discouraged; academic writing as learned craftsmanship.
‘Think’-texts; sources in the foreground; philosophy, the history of ideas, epistemology, culture, spirit, and mind, arts and aesthetics; emphasis on concepts and theories; interpretation (preservation) of traditional culture; contingent epistemology; numerous points, claims, conclusions around the subject; often non-linear, discursive structure; academic writing as art and inborn ability (103).
The reading and study of literary works such as poems, novels, short stories, essays, and film play a primary role in Turkish writing instruction. They are selections from various sources such as Turkish folk songs (türkü) and poetry (oral tradition), Turkish epic tradition such as Dede Korkut (oral tradition), translations of excerpts from Honoré de Balzac’s works and Michel de Monteigne’s essays, mystical poetry of Yunus Emre and Rumi, Turkish gazel, traditional Turkish shadow plays, Satire (Turkish fıkra), translations of excerpts from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, pre-Islamic Turkish sagas (destan), and translations of excerpts from works of Sophocles.
The goals in Turkish language and literature classes and in the newly introduced Language and its Expression courses are defined by the Ministry of Education and the authors of the text books as ‘to teach the close relationship between language and culture because a nation’s emotions and thoughts are embedded in language and it is through language that they are carried over to future generations’. The study of language and literary works are emphasized because, writing as defined by Mehmet Kaplan, is a means to record a nation’s language. But, it is language that records a nation’s culture.
The way writing instruction takes literature as its starting point is best exemplified in a section of a ninth grade literature book11 that starts with a quote by Ludwig von Beethoven: “Why I Write? I write because what is in my heart must come out. This is why I write.” A writing exercise follows: Analyze Beethoven’s words and explain why works of art come into being (17, Turkish Literature-9). Typical writing assignments will have the following prompts in the Turkish writing classroom: “Analyze the proverb and write about your thoughts and emotions in the form of a composition”12.
Another sample writing assignment:
Is it possible to live without using one’s imagination? Analyze and discuss the poem titled ‘Life is meaningful only if we use our imagination’ (İnsan alemde hayal ettiği müddetçe yașar) by Yahya Kemal Beyatlı and write a short piece describing your thoughts on this subject matter (4, Turkish Literature-9th grade).
The following are additional sample activities used in the teaching of literature and composition. With the Western audience in mind, we use the noun ‘rhetoric’ and phrases such as ‘rhetorical analysis’, ‘rhetorical appeal’, and ‘rhetorical style’ to explain the characteristics of composition studies in the Turkish context. Turkish students are not presented with any terminologies, definitions, or phrases when they engage in these activities. However, the Western terms and phrases point to a rhetorical tradition that shares similar qualities with the West which can be productive in starting and expanding the conversation about rhetoric in the non-Western contexts.
Sample rhetorical analysis activity:
Discuss the reasons why you think the essays were written?
What are the differences and similarities between the two essays?
What are some of the elements that give the essays cohesiveness?
What are some of the expressions that are used in the text with the purpose of allowing the reader to engage in an analysis with conscious reasoning and instinctive feeling13? (15, Turkish Literature-9th grade)
Read the text about the Taj Mahal. What can you say about the social and cultural environment of the time when the text was written? Why do you think the text was written? What kind of a relationship does the text have with its audience? Write a paragraph about your thoughts and emotions regarding the text.
Sample activity regarding rhetorical appeal:
Why are ceremonial marches appealing to the audiences? (45, Turkish Literature-9)
Think about a Nasreddin Hodja satire (fıkra) and explain why they have been appealing to audiences/ have been affecting audiences for centuries? (86, Turkish Literature-9)
Read the Oghuz Khagan saga and determine if you can find out anything about the Turkish nation and culture of the ancient times. Do you think the goal of the author was to give an account of Turkish culture? (116, Turkish Literature-9)
Sample activity regarding rhetorical style:
Imagine that you made a scientific invention. How would your writing differ if you wrote about this invention and also wrote about the feelings you experienced in your birthday? (164, Turkish Literature-9)
On a subject matter that your teacher determines, write texts (yazı) addressed to your school principal, family and friends. What are the differences between these texts?
Find texts that write about the same subject matter from different newspapers. In what ways are the texts different? Write your observations.
Sample activity for determining the main idea of a text:
Read a column from a newspaper and determine the message the writer wants to give to the audience. (168, Turkish Literature-9)
One of the essential elements that writing instruction focuses on in Turkey is the idea of being well read, cultivated, and cultured to be able to write14. In a Turkish literature and composition textbook, this idea is conveyed by means of introducing students to a Turkish proverb that emphasizes the importance of knowledge and experience in achieving success in writing. The original proverb Boș çuval ayakta durmaz, which translates to ‘an empty burlap bag cannot stand on its own’, is converted to ‘Boș çuval nasıl ayakta durmazsa belli bir birikimi olmayan insanların yazıları da kompozisyon olarak değer kazanmaz’, meaning ‘Just as an empty burlap bag cannot stand on its own, the writing of a person who is not well read, cultivated, and cultured cannot be considered as good composition’. The Turkish Ministry of Education Commission on the Development of the ‘Language and its Expression’ (Dil ve Anlatım) core curriculum focuses on the need to teach students the importance of gathering knowledge about the subject matter before writing as follows: It is necessary to emphasize the importance of being cultured and well read, and to be able to utilize one’s personal experiences as well as knowledge of the social environment” (40)15.
The art of listening is another component in Turkish writing instruction. It is taught as a means to learn from a text to acquire knowledge (birikim) from it and to critically analyze it. One of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi’s (also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī) statements on language points to the importance given to listening in Turkish rhetorical tradition. Rumi states that to be able speak, one must first listen16. A Turkish Composition book for high school students quotes a Turkish proverb to highlight the importance of listening: Allah gave us two ears and one mouth so that we may say one thing but listen twice17. Rumi’s ideas further echo the proverb: “The most valuable language is the one that is uttered the least because it is easier to understand it and regardless of how much you know and regardless of how beautifully you say it, what you have said is limited to how much your audience has understood”18. Karacaoğlan, one of the leading 16th century Turkish folk poets of the oral tradition elaborates on the importance of listening in one of his poems: “Be insightful and listen to those in the gathering/group; When others say two, say only one”19. A Turkish composition book categorizes listening into groups as istekli/isteksiz (when audience is willing/unwilling to listen), amaçlı/amaçsız (when audience has/does not have a goal), and disiplinli/disiplinsiz (when the audience listens/or does not listen with discipline or interest). According to the book, these elements in listening determine the speaker’s success and instructs students on how to be good listeners so that they can understand a text and engage in its critical analysis. Turkish composition for grade 12 writes that when audiences listen superficially, speakers fail to reach their goals. The book explains that to be good listeners, students should read and gain knowledge about the subject matter in advance.
Knowledge about the socio-cultural context plays a crucial role in Turkish writing instruction. This entails being informed about the Turkish language and its usage in different contexts (dilin incelikleri), having knowledge about the social and psychological state of society, and recognizing national values and promoting them. Turkish language is viewed as the means by which culture and national values are conveyed. According to the book, the most important cultural issue in Turkey is without doubt the issue of the national language20. The central idea on the importance of focusing on the national language in teaching composition is that language allows individuals to learn about the cultural and moral values, history, and philosophy of the nation-state. These are listed as vatan (homeland), mother (love and respect for one’s mother), love of the flag, justice, religion, history, art, and traditions (gelenek/görenek)21. Because the nation cannot survive without its national language, students must learn how to use the Turkish language effectively. In this process, literary works are sources that are utilized because “every nation’s art and literature are born out of that nation’s experiences. Within the possibilities granted by language, a nation’s thought system, philosophy, emotions, dreams, and expectations are embedded in literary works such as poems or prose22.
Turkish composition is not taught as a process but rather as a means to express one’s thoughts and emotions. Works of literature are sources in the writing classrooms which are utilized as examples that students are asked to analyze. Questions often focus on how, when, and why the literary texts were written within particular literary and historical periods often examining the socio-cultural context (the rhetorical situations if we were to use Western rhetorical terminology). Instead of teaching discursive conventions of academic discourse, Turkish composition pedagogy brings together language, literature, and writing with the goal of teaching students about their national history and language so that they can think and express themselves in their own language both as readers of literary works and as critical thinkers. This methodology provides a model to explore how we may move beyond the literary/composition binary in the U.S. context. Over the course of the past several decades, the struggle between the two disciplines has been a topic of discussion among scholars such as Michelle Ballif, D. Diane Davis, Roxanne Mountford in ‘Women’s Ways of Making It in Rhetoric and Composition’, Winifred Bryan Horner in ‘Composition and Literature: Bridging the Gap’, Gary Tate in ‘A Place for Literature in Freshman Composition’, Erika Lindemann in ‘Freshman Composition: No Place for Literature’, Peter Elbow in ‘The Cultures of Literature and Composition: What Could Each Learn from the Other?’, Mark Richardson in ‘Who Killed Annabel Lee? Writing about Literature in the Composition Classroom’, Rosa Eberly in ‘Citizen Critics: Literary Public Spheres’, Sharon Crowley in ‘Literature and Composition: Not Separate but Certainly Unequal’, and Tony Scott in ‘Dangerous Writing: Understanding the Political Economy of Composition’. Looking at the tension in debates regarding writing about literature in the composition classroom, Mark Richardson asks if “college is to be an education in humane knowledge and the values of an examined life, or is it to be training for a successful career?” (279) and continues: “Is there a way of teaching literature that keeps the focus on writing, on making meaning, and that minimizes the other objections while maximizing the benefits of working with literary texts? (279- 280). Rosa Eberly looks at literary public spheres as discursive spaces “in which private people can come together in public, bracket some of their differences, and invent common interests by arguing in speech or writing about literary and cultural texts” (9). Teaching the rhetorics of literary public spheres and encouraging students to practice rhetoric in local literary public spheres offer promise as a post-English studies pedagogy because these practices allow literary and other cultural texts to matter-to become inventional prompts not to mere contemplation but to public rhetorical exchanges and action (9). Turkish writing instruction reiterates Eberly’s observations as follows: “those who enter the magical world of literary works will find the strength to do great deeds for the present and future of humanity. These individuals will be the pride of the nation they belong to. It is the emotions, thoughts, and behavior that allow humans to socialize. Hence, literary works allow us to socialize and become excellent individuals. Therefore, literary texts play an important role on the development of national, moral, and humane values”23.
Alternative Rhetorics: Teaching Turkish Rhetoric through Atatürk’s Nutuk
Atatürk’s Nutuk is an exemplary work utilizing elements/characteristics of hitabe or Turkish rhetorical tradition. It utilizes an anti-colonial rhetoric and narrates a nation’s history as well as its moral and cultural values. It teaches about notions of nationhood, ideas regarding independence, love of the flag, and what it means to be a ‘Turk’, destabilizing the hegemonic colonial and Orientalist discourse of the period. It is a subversive voice that Western colonialism seeks to silence. It rhetorically constructs a national identity that carries the nation’s cultural and emotional features.
This part of our study is concerned with the way Turkish rhetorical tradition or hitabe offers possibilities for public rhetorics in the Anglo-American composition classroom. We present Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Nutuk as a primary source in our discussion of Turkish rhetoric and explore the ways in which it can be utilized in the US composition class. We argue that the anti-hegemonic an anti-colonial rhetorical features in Turkish rhetorical tradition offers alternatives in teaching public rhetorics in the US composition class. Nancy Welch in ‘Living Room: Teaching Public Writing in a Privatized World’ states that neoliberal privatization presents a rhetorical conundrum,’ that we do not have the tools or need new tools to engage in public argument, to participate in civic life. She explains that she turns to models, lessons, and questions of twentieth century struggles for living room-historical case studies in rhetorical action against war, oppression, and exploitation. In this study, we argue that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Nutuk is a prose of a twentieth century struggle for the living room Welch passionately seeks. Atatürk’s Nutuk is the living room that offers rhetorical alternatives and possibilities against oppression and exploitation. Nutuk is a rhetorical action in the Turkish tradition that promotes voice, public visibility, and rights as well as anti-colonial24 and anti-patriarchal rhetorics25.
In ‘Alternative Rhetorics: Challenges to the Rhetorical Tradition’, Laura Gray- Rosendale and Sibylle Gruber quote George Kennedy’s well-known statement “some might argue that rhetoric is a peculiarly Western phenomenon” to explain their goal of devoting a section of their study on non-Western rhetorics. In the edited volume, essays by Huining Ouyang and Hui Wui which explore Japanese and Chinese literary, cultural, and visual texts effectively move towards exploring alternate non-Western historical accounts of rhetoric:
Although we recognize that no historical account is without a complex system of motives, this part of the book is premised on the notion that history writing operates to control the past and that what has counted as worthy of historical examination in rhetoric and composition until recently may at times have been too limiting. Instead, this section seeks to explore alternative historical accounts, accounts that push against ready answers for questions such as the following: What are the historical origins of rhetoric? In what ways do we need to revise the traditional, canonical views of the history of rhetoric we have received? ….We need to ask questions of context, ethics, and power: In what context is this history or rhetoric produced and normalized? Whom does it benefit?” (15-16).
It is our goal in this study to look at Turkish rhetorics and Nutuk as an alternative historical account of rhetoric to be able to move beyond the canonical and normalized views of the history of rhetoric so that new possibilities towards public rhetorics can be accomplished in the composition classroom.
Contextualizing Nutuk (The Great Speech)
Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the occupation of Anatolian territories, Ottoman representatives agreed to the colonial partition of Anatolia and signed the Treaty of the Sevres on 10 August 1920. However, a national resistance movement had already taken its course and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his military colleagues stepped ashore in Samsun, a northern Anatolian town, on 19 May 1919 to set up their quarters and start the Turkish Independence War. After a long and arduous war, the Turks triumphed on 9 September 1922. The following year on 24 July 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed and the Treaty of the Sevres was annulled. Within a couple of months on 29 October 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic. The Sevres Treaty did not merely mark the annihilation and colonial partition of the Ottoman Empire. Rather, it was an ambitious project that manifested and extended European colonial interests to the Middle East such as the founding of French mandates of Syria and Lebanon, the British mandates of Palestine and Iraq, and the establishment of an Italian colony named Lycia along the Mediterranean coast in Turkey. It was indeed a crucial time at the turn of the century when the world witnessed the birth of this revolutionary republic that became a source of inspiration to the colonized regions of the world such as the British India, Morocco, Indonesia, the African continent, and China under British treaty ports.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk delivered Nutuk in 36 hours within a 6-day span at the congress of Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party)26 in 1927. The speech gave an account of events starting from 19 May 1919 to the foundation of the republic on 29 October 1929. Atatürk’s speech ends with Gencliğe Hitabe (Address to the Turkish Youth) which is printed in all textbooks published by the Ministry of Education and it is taught in schools as one of the best examples of Turkish hitabe.
Introducing Turkish Rhetorics into the American Composition Classroom
The data to be collected and analyzed for this study include students’ responses to an instructional unit on non-western rhetorics; the responses will be gathered from class discussion notes and writing assignments. The data was collected during regular class hours in rhetoric classes that one of the co-authors taught in the fall semester of 2014. In class, the principal investigator have presented students with excerpts from Nutuk translated into English from Turkish with the purpose of teaching students the rhetorical models at play in Nutuk. Students in class have read the text and the teacher engaged students in a rhetorical analysis of the text – students have been asked to analyze the text in groups. Following this exercise, the teacher has lead a class discussion and asked students to share their ideas regarding the text’s rhetorical characteristics. The next part of the instructional activity has asked students to apply in their writing the Turkish rhetorical models discovered in Nutuk by composing a text for US audiences and discussing its implications for civic action.
Once students have completed this assignment, the teacher has collected the assignments.
The responses collected from students will be accessible to and analyzed by co-authors through qualitative research methods, primarily discourse analysis and rhetorical analysis, to study the texts written by students to gain an understanding of the ways in which Turkish rhetorical models could enhance students’ notions of rhetoric across cultures in a US context.
***The results of Longwood University experiment will be introduced here.
Examples from the data:
One of the groups mirrored the structure of Ataturk’s Nutuk speech to address the board of visitors about high tuition rates.
O, Board of Visitors!
Your first duty is to provide an exceptional and affordable education to all students who attend Longwood University.
While this institution’s preservation relies on its students, they cannot be expected to withhold its principles alone. To attain a brighter future, students rely on leaders to provide an affordable learning experience. Tuition steadily rises each year. If tuition keeps elevating, then students will be forced to dissociate from this university or to rebel against the authorities created to protect them. There may come a day when scholarships are limited and students have exhausted all their financial resources. At this point, students will no longer be able to give sufficient payment for the education and materials they so desire, and as a result they will not attend and preserve Longwood University’s unique culture. And sadder and graver than all of these circumstances, Longwood and Virginia will revert back to a state where only few, select, elite can afford the luxury of higher education and benefit from its esteemed accolades. Furthermore, potential students may instead align with those who are against the educational system and those who have been betrayed by the system of higher education.
Even in these circumstances, it is your duty to remain aware of your actions’ influence on higher education as a whole. Simply being affiliated with this great university empowers your ability to defend the educational and cultural experience that so many treasure and that so many have yet to treasure.
Another group chose to use some of the strategies from the speech to address their fellow students at Longwood University (a.k.a., Lancers).
Dear Longwood Lancers,
We have a Call to answer. A Call to lower tuition rates in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A Call to redefine what higher education means. A Call to take action.
The people need to recognize that the high cost of tuition is creating a challenge for us to pursue higher education. This high cost leaves the students unable to cope with all of the financial responsibility of attending college by requiring us to depend on our parents or guardians who may or may not wish to honor our wishes. Our independence is being taken away from us little by little. We need to be prepared for what matters in life: the late nights of studying, preparing for those comprehensive exams, finding our soulmate, and facing the harsh realities of being an adult. But, it can be too much all at once.
We Don’t need those loans, We Don’t need the mounds of student debt. We Don’t need the wrinkles of worrying about how to make ends meet, making us old before our time.
Like those politicians, the Bourgeoisie of modern American society. They say that keeping the cost of education high makes the whole experience more worthwhile; lowering the cost of bachelor degree is going to break the system. We the Proletariat do not have time for this hogwash. The price of education is rising like the price of McDonald’s fries; pretty soon, we are going to be looking for another restaurant to eat at.
We take pride in the hard-work we will accomplish. We will have the strength; the blood will pump through our veins with the intensity to reach the goals which may seem unobtainable. We will finish strong, even if we are paying off our loans into our Social Security days without the guarantee we will even receive the compensation.
We propose that by moving beyond the divide between literature and composition as in the Turkish model, students can be presented with a wealth of material in the writing classroom that they can read, analyze, and enjoy. Reading literary works, writing about poems, and exploring the relationship between ideas, context, culture, and language can connect students to larger issues in society, teach them about taking rhetorical action, and make the writing classroom a place of public rhetorics.
Equally, non-Western texts can also offer alternative discourse strategies in the composition classroom. We argue that rhetorical models found in texts such as the Nutuk can teach students about alternative discursive conventions and allow students to write for change. In a Rhetoric and Public Action seminar at Longwood University, students analyzed a translation of Nutuk in groups and they identified discourse strategies about social responsibility, empathy, sense of pride for one’s country, and knowledge of history. Using the same discourse strategies, they composed texts in the hitabe style to protest college tuition hikes at their own college. Introducing an anti-colonial text that was written in a non-Western context presented the students at Longwood with a new set of rhetorical conventions. This new language challenged them to write outside of the rhetorical conventions they were used to and allowed them to mobilize a new discourse for inquiry and public action necessary for a critical citizenship. In the introduction of the ‘Public Work of Rhetoric’, David J. Coogan and John M. Ackerman state that “required rhetoric courses in public speaking and writing are often the only exposure most students receive to those skills necessary for them to function as effective change agents. In these required courses, as well as in courses that emphasize writing within the discipline, the main attention usually is on the demands of academic writing over the needs of our communities, which need future civic leaders who are both informed and capable” (cite page number). We propose that introducing non-Western rhetorical practices and texts such as the Nutuk to the US context can enlarge our understanding of how our students can become explorers of ‘rhetorical geographies’ so that they can move beyond the demands of academic writing and become critical citizens. Turkish rhetoric is a source of inspiration for public rhetorics in the writing classroom because it promotes creativity, a skill necessary for critical citizenship, without relying on a systematic set of rules to be mastered.
Ackerman, John, and David Coogan. The Public Work of Rhetoric: Citizen-scholars and Civic Engagement. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010. Print.
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