ERIC Number: ED348669
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Mar-19
Scenes from the Civil Courtroom: Rhetoric, Expertise, and Commonsense Narratives.
Professional and disciplinary rhetoric often breaks down when texts cross professional boundaries. An ethnographic study conducted in an Indiana courtroom during a civil trial demonstrates the failure of disciplinary rhetoric. Despite the fact that the plaintiffs in a personal injury case had demonstrated the negligence of the defendant according to the rules of legal logic, they lost the case. The jurors were following their own narrative script of the events portrayed in the courtroom. If the testimony, expert or not, did not fit that script, they did not consider it. The trial highlights a scene in which the rhetoric of expertise, the very thing taught in textbooks, does not work, does not apply, and is not convincing. In four composition textbooks, logical reasoning and textual authority is the privileged form of argument, if not the only form. Argument by narrative, so important to the jury members, is banished from most courses about academic argumentative writing. It is time to recover the commonsense narrative, letting its voice compete with that of academic reasoning and the rhetoric of expertise. (A figure presenting the competing schemata in the civil court case, and a figure offering brief defining quotes from the four composition textbooks are included.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A