10) When History Comes Alive

Lexi Yost. “Archeologists Make Great Storytellers.” Boyne Valley. Ireland, 2016
We’ve explored how the past is often resurfaced through revisiting texts and other forms of written or showcased representations. But history can also be demonstrated through visual presentation and storytelling. And, if my travels to Ireland taught me one thing, it’s that the Irish have a wonderfully exciting knack for sharing stories. An example of this is when we were traveling across the bogs of Inishbofin, and following a seasoned archeologist with never-ending jokes and a constant twinkle in his eye. The archeologist lead us up a small mountain (knok, as the locals call them), to sites where the remains of Viking walls, a roundhouse, and an ancient stone cross is located. Instead of just pointing out their locations, the archeologist blindly had us stand in different directions and hold our arms out (which we felt ridiculous doing, but complied). But, like the starry constellations, the distance between our outstretched arms marked the beginnings and ends of the walls, as well as the circumference of the ancient Viking roundhouse. This activity not only engaged us as an audience, but put us physically into what we were learning from the archeologist. We felt like explorers, rediscovering history that seemed, in the moment, almost tangible.

These different approaches appeal to different types of people, and one reason they’re so effective to certain individuals is because of discourse and speech communities. The Irish, although they are a culture, can be seen linguistically as a speech community. Their accents can be adapted, almost every man and woman I met had some sense of humor in everyday conversation, and most (like the archaeologist) enjoyed storytelling. From what I’ve seen, regardless of the general stereotypes of Irish culture, John Swales, an author of “The Concept of Discourse Community,” encapsulates its definition well: a speech community is made up of “shared linguistic forms, shared regulative rules, and shared cultural concepts” (Swales, 470). Because of the definition of speech community as being adaptable and not inflexible like a discourse community, the adaptability of the Irish culture points its community more towards a speech community. Also, since rhetoric, according to Aristotle, relies on the consideration of audiences, having an array of persuasive and educational tactics makes teaching people truly effective. This versatility is key in teaching in an ever-adapting environment, and approaching situations in a way that appeals to a certain audience(s) makes rhetoric possible.

Lexi Yost. “Trim Castle.” Boyne Valley. Ireland, 2016
On my final full day in Ireland, was able to take a day trip to visit Trim Castle (one of the locations where Braveheart was filmed). In front of the castle was a “knight”, greeting the tourists. He not only talked like a medieval soldier, but fully adapted the role. This not only added to the experience of the castle, but gave us a glimpse into what it would have been like in its hay day. Even though the knight was but a single actor, he was able to help our imaginations jump right back into the middle ages, and was able to teach us some linguistic/geographic history while he did so.Because we live in modern times, we retain histographic notes, or over-simplified versions of history, since we are looking back to the past, but can’t see it directly. Our modern lenses don’t allow us to fully envision what living back in medieval times would have been like because of modern influences that make up our psyche. And even though img_20160808_192547the knight actor can’t magically get rid of our lenses (because its obvious he’s an actor), he can fade them a bit, especially for children, through his rhetoric to help us understand a glimpse of what time was like before ours. This just comes to show that rhetoric doesn’t have to be just written literature. It can be found in relaying messages, our interpretations of events, constructed models and charts. It can be found in engaging people to participate in activities, and hands-on learning. And, last but not least, it can also be found in taking on a role (however extreme that may be)that you are deeply passionate about.








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