notes on the BSU web text

BSUFrontPageAndLandingPageTexts2008

a few tentative analytical generalizations




The poetic: the sermonic

The poetic is prose that systematically departs from the everyday so to declare itself a special kind of prose for a special occasion. It calls attention to itself as prose, often to be memorable - although that can fail as the prose calls attention to the speaker or to the prose itself.

The poetic suits the epideictic / ceremonial genre of prose but also pulls the epideictic out of the mainstream ceremonial.

The home page panes

There's a shift from the panels text to the main pages text

Panes refers to we, us, the university as a whole. But the distinction between reader and "we" is unclear, ambiguous. Might come of false deixis. Might come of sentences with ambiguous agents and agency, which looks like disjunction between subject and verb, and some delayed comprehension in modification -

The University provides the touchpoint for
people,
new technologies,
and ideas that explore our full potential to shape the future.

"ideas that explore our full potential" gives agency to ideas that ideas don't have, reverses agent and agency: Ideas don't explore people's potential; people explore ideas and by doing so (perhaps) explore their full potential. In this phrasing, ideas are active, agents, even proactive.

The sprung phrasing is a form of catachresis. Being notable, this might be the way the prose is moving readers to interpret it as (typically?) poetic.

Perhaps the writers are reaching for the poetic, poorly?

Reciprocity
Theme of reciprocity recurs, carried by words (pronouns) and syntax rather than figure.

Another slightly sprung agency: Strengthening the bond ... our environment enables us.
Environments typically don't enable; they are spaces we occupy.

More sprung metaphors (catachresis from another angle) -
shedding light > we pursue > we elevate
cultivates > link > prosper and enrich
strengthening the bond > enables us to discover and engage

esp the cultivates > link tints the idea of link with organic overtones, then with prosper and enrich with business overtones.

Pattern: Sprung agencies, metaphors, and syntax
Look at these departures in more detail.

catachresis: sprung metaphor
The use of a word in a context that differs from its proper application.
This figure is generally considered a vice; however, Quintilian defends its use as a way by which one adapts existing terms to applications where a proper term does not exist. (Silva Rhetorica)
alternative read: dialogia - heteroglossia
might be read as a mix of two terminologies (mainly verbs?) mixed with
accompanying images
Not sure if the placement of the text and the relation of text and image mutes the poetic language or raises it.

Set of panes is sermonic prose
mock heroic - mock poetic
but also uses promotional business lexicon
full potential to shape the future

There's a big push towards befriending institutions. The ethos of BSU is that the Institution will be your friend - of you only trust it. this is mainly in Be Real
Sincere. Steadfast. Authentic. The qualities we admire in people are the same in institutions.

As a claim, that's dubious, so it moves towards the poetic interp for a truth. It also replicates the catachresis.

Main texts

Characteristics of the texts
Refers to BSU as "our".

This strikes a more traditional relationship between reader and rhetor. Places reader as an outsider, new to BSU, reading about BSU. The prose uses the authoritative institutional ethos to inform (rather than influence) the reader. This is more the voice of the communicator, the factual voice constructed to trust for objectivity, completeness, fairness.

Here, we're not supposed to notice the prose but see through it to the claims. The voice is there more to carry authority of the claim: monological.

Part of the construction is done to conceal or naturalize the voice/ethos. This is not the poet of the home page, and it's not a supposed to be a rhetorically shaped presentation.

But a close look at the claims shows they aren't very big, and while not un-trustworthy, they aren't very specific, either. generic claims - with some carefully placed and worded qualifiers -

In these sections, the formal shift in prose stands out - from the Alumni page

From the friendships forged and the gifts so generously given, Bemidji State has become a place where lives are forever changed.
and the reversal changed forever -


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