"It makes a world of difference to me": Recuperative ethos and vertiginous epistemologies in the everyday rhetorical practices of the mentally ill
In the literature on the rhetoric of mental health discourses, scholars have not attended to the rhetorical practices mentally ill citizens draw on in their everyday lives. This project is a naturalistic inquiry into the everyday language use of chronically mentally ill adults who are participants in the outpatient programs at Lighthouse, a clubhouse located in Springfield, Massachusetts. There, in keeping with protocol for research involving protected populations, I observed the everyday language practices of members, created recordings from selected frames of these, and produced copious field notes detailing daily talk that took place during the month of September, 2010. My findings highlight the types of rhetorical deployment most prevalent in quotidian conversing, which are at odds with the prevailing wisdom in the field of English Studies. Most writings in the discipline suggest that the mentally ill are best served through linguistic interventions designed to intercede in the negative mythos surrounding them by way of offering opportunities for the individual to come to voice via, for example, personal narrative expression or testimonies to one's illness experiences. Using contemporary definitions of rhetorical ethos as a starting point, I delineate the various appeals to ethos in the data, and I call these attempts to regain credibility in the wake of acute and highly-stigmatizing illness experiences "recuperative ethos;" I offer several types with examples from participants' language to support each. Likewise, I describe participants' several meaning-making tactics as "vertiginous epistemologies," or everyday knowledge creations that render listeners disarmed, and, as a result, more willing to accept disorientation and fragmented episteme.^ The data indicates a rich array of potent everyday rhetorics that do not necessarily draw on deeply personal and/or traumatic anecdotes for expressive or cathartic ends. In fact, these everyday rhetorics indicate a desire in the participants to recover lost ethos and to reintegrate into their various personal and social communities with dignity and with privacy. In this way, these rhetorical habits point to a need for audiences, particularly when they are in positions of political or social advantage over these individuals, to be noninvasive interlocutors to/for chronically mentally ill speakers and writers.^
Speech Communication|Psychology, Clinical|Language, Rhetoric and Composition
Cathryn S Molloy,
""It makes a world of difference to me": Recuperative ethos and vertiginous epistemologies in the everyday rhetorical practices of the mentally ill"
Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access).