Professor Stephen Olbrys Gencarella
Thursday, February 24
Distiguished Alumni Rm., IMU
“Cruelty”" is a concept that often goes unexamined; when it is used, it almost invariably carries a negative valence. This understanding of cruelty demonstrates the influence of both liberalism (for which, as Richard Rorty and others have noted, cruelty is the worst thing humans do to one another) and Kenneth Burke, who promoted an "essentially humane" mode of criticism that encourages people to picture disagreeable others "not as vicious, but mistaken." When critics habitually align cruelty with viciousness and inhumanity, however, they overlook potentially positive dimensions of cruelty that have been more productively explored by theater and performance scholars. This presentation will offer a case for the latter type of cruelty—characterized as aa “cruelty of affirmation,” by treating seriously the role of a critic as a social physician whose rhetorical expression operates as what the ancient Greeks called a pharmakon, a poison-medicine.
Professor Gencarella teaches rhetoric at the University of Massachusetts. He earned his Ph.D. in Folklore and Communication and Culture at Indiana University. His presentation is sponsored by the Department of Communication and Culture and the Robert Gunderson Forum in Rhetoric and Public Culture. The Public is Welcome.