Teaching and studying “Rhetoric” in Canada is different from doing so in the U.S. because of Canadian “rhetorical culture” within which we live and work.
Rhetorical study has flourished more in the U.S. because there is less social stigma against using and studying rhetoric in the U.S.
Consider one small segment of our rhetorical culture — among academics. The rhetoric we are accustomed to use in our colleges and universities as students, teachers, academic colleagues, and academic presenters. Our cultural context beyond the university/college makes a difference in how we organize and deliver our presentations. It probably impacts the way we do “small talk” and network and give feedback among colleagues at academic conferences.
In his blog post on the CSSR (Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric) conference in 2010, David Beard (alias syntaxfactory) describes how his experience at our Canadian association conference differed from his experience of the RSA (Rhetoric Society of America). He writes,
The feedback was neither agonistic (as so many conference Q&A become competitions between audience and speaker) nor was it skew (as so many conference panel Q&A become about “the paper I wish you’d written instead”).
Why was the feedback not agonistic or skew at the CSSR? Because that’s a norm of our rhetorical culture.
Thinking beyond our academic worlds to the societies that support them, I often meditate on the differences in the “rhetorical culture” of Americans and Canadians. There are negatives and positives on both sides, but the Americans have an advantage over us because they actually study their own rhetorical culture in a focused and open manner.
Canadians need to catch up with the U.S. in their study and refinement of rhetoric. And when we do that, we may actually excel in the quality and broad impact of our rhetorical accomplishments for the betterment of society.