If you’re still confused about all that a “rhetorical view” of communication might mean, don’t worry … we’re only beginning to introduce that concept. Lanham provides a key foundation for what a “rhetorical view of life” might look like (even if it’s a shaky foundation right now) and we will keep building and adding concepts to this way of thinking about communication all semester. That’s why this difficult article is important.

In the meantime, here’s another example that might help you practice recognizing some of the attitudes about communication that impact how we think about the world (and help you think about your next assignment.

Beyonce, “Listen” from Dreamgirls

Listen, To the song here in my heart
A melody I start but can’t complete
Listen, To the sound from deep within
It’s only beginning to find release

Beyonce expresses views that resemble the “serious premises” of communication. There are songs and ideas coming from “deep within” her “heart” as if they were natural and appeared without any influence of communication. Lanham says that when we accept the “serious premises” of communication we talk about our identity and our ideas that way–as if they belonged to a “central self” that has always existed outside of communication. Beyonce creates that image and attitude with these lyrics. Her True self or ideas (the sounds deep within) are “finding release,” presumably because she has found the right words or the clearest style or the most transparent style to express those.

Oh, The time has come for my dreams to be heard
They will not be pushed aside and turned
Into your own all ’cause you won’t

She suggests that ideas, knowledge, or dreams exist deep within her. “The time has come” implies that those dreams and ideas have always existed, that they were already there before communication ever took place. And now she has found the right words (or song or voice) for transmitting those dreams clearly. All we have to do is listen–we’re just receivers for the message.

Listen, I am alone at a crossroads
I’m not at home, in my own home
And I’ve tried and tried
To say what’s on my mind
You should have known
Oh, Now I’m done believin’ you
You don’t know what I’m feelin’
I’m more than what, you made of me
I followed the voice you gave to me
But now I gotta find, my own..

She tried to communicate effectively and “say what’s on her mind,” but barriers (noise? unclear communication?) got in the way. Her message wasn’t sent efficiently or effectively and that caused a breakdown in the transmission.

You should have listened
There is someone here inside
Someone I thought had died
So long ago …

Once again, she seems to express that if only the person (Jamie Foxx in this case) had listened or if only communication had transmitted the ideas correctly and efficiently then he would have understood her “true” central self.

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