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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Presentation Details

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Neocolonialism, Globalization, and the Discourse of Modernism:: A New Rhetorical Analysis of The Book of Wisdom for Eskimo

Richard M. Coe.

The discourse of modernism supports neo-colonialism and the global homogenization of cultural values. This paper will present a New Rhetorical analysis of The Book of Wisdom for Eskimo in order to demonstrate the neo-colonialist implications of modernist discourse and, by extension of the rhetorical method, how a perspectivist pragmatism serves to preserve social and cultural heterogeneity. Based in Kenneth Burke’s spins on Bronislaw Malinowski’s concept of discourse as symbolic action (as motivated, situated, and social), this paper analyses how modernist discourse works to erase a culture in the Canadian arctic. Both close reading (by cluster-agon analysis) and contextual analysis (by Pentadic analysis and juxtaposition with other texts) will be used to demonstrate how, in the service of neocolonialism, an apparently innocent “how to” handbook produced by the government of Canada embodied modernist “monotheism,” neo-colonialism, and potential disaster in its very discourse. Like all discursive forms, “how-to” manuals not only fulfill, but also create desires. By looking at the rhetorical imposition of ecologically and culturally inappropriate desires in the Canadian arctic, this paper will demonstrate the potential of persuasive modernist discourse to evoke desires that contribute not only to cultural extinction, but also to physical destruction (including literal death).


Richard M. Coe  (Canada)
English Department
'Simon Fraser University

Richard M. Coe, professor of English at Simon Fraser University, has taught in Canada, China, and the United States. He founded and until 1990 chaired the Canadian Council of Teachers of English Commission on Public Doublespeak; he was also a Director of the British Columbia Plain Language Institute and served as Canadian stringer for a U.S. newsweekly. Together with two graduate students, he recently published an edited collection, The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre. He has also authored two books and published many articles on rhetoric, literacy, composition, drama, popular culture, and literary critical method. At present, he completing Toward a Better Life: How–and Why--to Read Kenneth Burke and preparing to write The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre.

  • Rhetoric
  • Inuit
  • Desire
  • Modernism
  • Neocolonialism
  • Perspectivism
  • Pragmatism
  • Kenneth Burke
  • How-to manuals

(30 min Conference Paper, English)