Monthly Archives: October 2018

Commonplace Book- This is America

Listening to Childish Gambino’s song “This is America”, I found a lot of the lyrics to be very impactful. This song has been critically acclaimed for being charged with a lot of underlying meanings. Childish Gambino littered the lyrics, as well as the music video, with ideas that reflect the current state of our society. The lyric that stuck out to me the most was “This a celly (ha) That’s a tool (yeah)”. In this line the artist refers to a cellphone as a “celly”. Thus, he is saying this is a cell phone and it is a tool. Within the context of his music video and in the context of the rest of his song he is referring to the role that cellphones play in modern society. When this lyric is said, the scene in the music video is of a bunch of chaos happening and people filming it on their phones. You can see a police car, fire, violence, and overall disorder being filmed. I think that all of this refers to issues such as police brutality and general violence. This lyric, in the context of the music video, shows that cellphones can be used as a positive or negative tool. On one hand filming these events can give them exposure and make the rest of the world aware of these issues. However, on the other side of the coin is the idea those who sit and film these events occur are doing so instead of actively trying to solve the problem. The side that Childish Gambino sits on is not too clear, although it can be inferred that he thinks that exposing police brutality and other types of violence is a good practice. Overall, I think that the power of this rhetoric comes from the way it is seamlessly put into the song. It is very catchy and repeated by millions of people. Also, I think that the music video visualizes the point that Childish Gambino makes in a very powerful yet discreet way. Incorporating pop culture with current issues was a very effective form of rhetoric that sparked a conversation over the events that were happening at the time.

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Commonplace Book- Augustine

This weekend I was reading Augustine’s Confessions. In Book Five Chapter III Augustine is met with a sage named Faustus who tries to show Augustine the truth behind Manichee belief. Describing their encounter Augustine says “There had just come to Carthage a certain bishop of the Manicheans, Faustus by name, a great snare of the devil; and many were entangled by him through the charm of his eloquence. Now, even though I found this eloquence admirable, I was beginning to distinguish the charm of words from the truth of things, which I was eager to learn” (Augustine 55). I found this quote extremely relevant to our course because Augustine is making direct reference to the rhetoric that Faustus was utilizing to try and convince Augustine. By saying that many were entangled by the charm of his eloquence, Augustine is essentially putting rhetoric in a negative context. However, by utilizing the word entangled and describing him as a great snare of the devil, Augustine is also implementing rhetoric into his own writing. He is trying to convince the people that read his work to believe that Faustus, and the Manichee beliefs, are rooted in convincing other people through manipulative language. Augustine goes on further to say that he was beginning to distinguish between rhetoric and the content of language. In other words, he was more concerned over what Faustus actually had to say rather than how he said it. It is interesting to note that Augustine mentions that he was aware of Faustus’ rhetoric yet still admired it. It goes back to what Fish says about being aware of rhetoric; although you can be aware of someone’s rhetoric, it is still not a defense against it.


Rhetoric is everywhere. While Augustine is bashing Faustus for his use of rhetoric, he too is utilizing it. He starts by presenting Faustus in a negative connotation through his word choice. He says that many were “entangled” and that he is “a great snare of the devil” (55). Furthermore, Augustine says that he admires the eloquent language of Faustus but then proceeds to say that he was aware of this and was eager to learn the real truth. This is also a form of rhetoric. A modern comparison of the tactic that Augustine implements in his writing is a “straw man”. He is essentially praising Faustus’ eloquence only to then put himself above it. Through these two statements Augustine pushes Faustus’ credibility down so that his readers will believe Augustine’s future arguments above Faustus’. It was fascinating to see how influential the role of rhetoric was even over a thousand years ago.

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Commonplace Book- Kavanaugh

With everything going on with Brett Kavanaugh right now it seems as if Washington, DC is going to explode. Everyone has an opinion on this court case and most people hold their opinions very strongly. Recently, I was doing a project for my real estate course and was tasked to go into the city. While I was by Washington Circle, I saw people holding up signs urging others to side with Dr. Ford. I found the rhetoric that was being used in some of these signs very interesting.

The sign that I found to be the most interesting said, “Stop Kavanaugh, our kids don’t deserve this”. At first I was confused as to why children had anything to do with the court case. I then realized the social implications that would come about from not convicting Kavanaugh. What people who are against Kavanaugh argue is that if Kavanaugh becomes a supreme court justice then it sends a social message to people everywhere that his word was more influential than Dr. Fords. The problem with this is that it discourages survivors of sexual assault to come forward because they think that they will not be heard or believed. So in a way this does affect society. It creates a social impact that surpass the political sphere. In fact, it could be argued that this court case will have a social implication that will directly affect our children. However, I believe that the reason behind the word “kids” in this poster is more about rhetoric than it is about anything else. With the word “kids” come feelings of innocence. It is almost like saying that children had nothing to do with this court case, however if Kavanaugh does not get convicted you are hurting those innocent kids. It makes the argument much stronger. It maintains an aspect of logic, but it also brings into play the emotions of other people reading it. Overall, I think that this poster was one of the most effective ones I have seen.

Being that it was a poster, the syntax behind it was little to none. It was just a short and concise statement, but that within itself is a very powerful usage of form. It is short and concise because nothing else needs to be said.

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Commonplace Book- The Problem of God

In my “The Problem of God” class each one of us is tasked to give a presentation over one of the readings. For me, that day was on Monday. I was tasked to present an analysis over the ideas presented at the Second Vatican Council. Within the Second Vatican Council came a document titled Nostra Aetate. Delivered by Pope John VI, Nostra Aetate is a document which describes the Catholic Church’s relationship between Christians and non-Christians. From this document came the quote “No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned” (Nostra Aetate). This quote comes after explaining why Christians should not discriminate against people of other religions, and rather why they should come together and interact peacefully with them. The Pope brings up the past issue of Christians blaming Jews for deicide, and the horrors that the Jewish community suffered because of this. Thus, he argues that it is the role of all Christians to love the members of other religions. The quote listed above that summarizes this point stood out to me because it reflects the overarching idea that society has today. The push of society to be more inclusive and not to discriminate is something that is seen everywhere. From the political movements going on now to the fact that a Jesuit university values diversity in religions, this idea of inclusivity is everywhere.

Looking more at the syntax of the quote I found it to be written very meticulously. Being that this quote comes from the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope needed to make sure that each word carried the correct meaning. Thus, as is seen in this quote and throughout all of Nostra Aetate, the language is charged with religious connotations. Words such as “dignity” and “flowing” bring to mind religious connotations. Being that this document comes from the Vatican, this is not surprising. The rhetoric used in this document comes from religiously charged words, and the position of authority that the Pope holds.

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Commonplace Book- Kanye West

Going through Instagram last week I was shocked to see that Kanye West had posted a vast amount of pictures in a short period of time. The popular rapper is typically very inactive on Instagram, however every once in a while he will post a lot of pictures in a very short time frame. Often times, these posts are very confusing or just unusual in general. Furthermore, he typically deletes his posting spree within a few weeks. This week he posted a picture with five lines of words and no caption. It said “purchase dictionary highlight positive words craft language charged by African parables will universal power manifest world peace”.

This post caught me very off guard. Recently Kanye West has been undergoing a lot of backlash for supporting Donald Trump and tweeting ideas that go against what most other African American rappers believe. He has overall upset his minority fan base and this post might be a subtle attempt to regain his popularity.

The rhetoric that Kanye uses is very powerful and influential. Starting with his fan base, Kanye West has over 3 million followers on Instagram. Thus, anything that he posts is read by literally by millions of people in seconds. Secondly, being very inactive on Instagram, when he chooses to post his following pays close attention to what he has to say. More so, he chose to post this picture with no context and no explanation.

I think that Kanye West is trying to show his desire to obtain world peace and is trying to reconcile himself with the African American community. He says that we should highlight positive words and then craft language charged by African parables in order to manifest world peace. This idea ties back in with Fish’s argument of objective language. Trying to craft a new language that is free from racist connotations is the foundation for finding truth. Contrasting with Fish’s idea that language should be free any sort of underlying meaning, Kanye argues that our “new language” should be charged by African parables. Kanye always focuses his purpose of a new language to seek world peace, not truth. Through this he is asserting that African parables contain purely positive messages for all members of society, and that it is the foundation for world peace.

I found this post to be very odd and so too did his fan base. The comments under this post contain a variety of statements ranging from “You are not stirring conversations, being technological, being forward, spreading love. You are a narcissist. The people are tired of you” and “can you stop posting random stuff to make it seem like it has a hidden message” to “Kanye, you’re this generation’s greatest philosopher”. Despite the true purpose of Kanye’s post, he has nevertheless effectively used rhetoric to stir up conversation amongst millions of people.

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Commonplace Book- The Great Gatsby

Before coming to Georgetown I had spent a week deciding what to bring to campus. I knew that most of my materials from high school would be useless here, however, I did decide to bring my extremely annotated copy of The Great Gatsby. Skimming quickly through this book I turned to the last page to reread one of my favorite quotes. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (Fitzgerald 180). I had written an analysis on what this quote meant in terms of the novel, however, I also remember thinking about where I was in my life at the time and how this translated. I thought about the college application process and how I was starting this new journey, yet in order to apply I needed to go far back into my past to find stories, events, and accolades to try and convey why I would excel in a particular institution. Looking at this quote now and ignoring its meaning in context of the novel, I read it much differently. I understand it as being pushed into a new city, a new school, a new family, and effectively a new world. And while this journey continues forward there are parts of my life back home that I want to keep close and cherish forever. While I am not beating on against the current nor borne into the past, part of me will always cherish past memories.

I think that the rhetoric behind this quote is very powerful. Fitzgerald describes the action of being thrown back into the past as a group. He says “we beat on”, and in a way implies that everyone in one form or another reflects, or is stuck in the past. By doing so, not only is there meaning within the context of his novel, but also in the context of the lives of his readers. I also find it powerful that he describes us as being on a boat, and actively trying to be in the past. I think that it is very powerful to think that holding onto memories or people from the past is something that one has to actively pursue, for better or worse.

It is interesting to see the relationship that this quote has in different stages of my life. The meaning is different in context of the novel, it is different in context to my life as a high school senior, and it is different now as a first-year college student.

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