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advisees. The following tributes come from his students who over the years have become an informal group. Unique and individual as our advisor himself, we find our commonality in our shared relationship with Ed — mentor, teacher, friend — and now, on the occasion of his passing, memory. This collection is dedicated to those who knew of Ed, but never knew him. From: John A. Campbell, University of Memphis “The Grandeur of a Life” Ed Black was an extraordinary teacher, scholar and mentor. No single person has had—indeed continues to have—so indelible an impact on my teaching, graduate and undergraduate or on my writing. For Ed Black rhetoric, spoken and written, was a performing art and public speaking, just about the only undergraduate course we TA’s taught at the University of Pittsburgh back in 1964, was an activity worthy of intelligent and sustained reflection. Before coming to study with Ed I had been conflicted about whether to pursue graduate work in divinity, history or, as it was called back then, “Speech.” When I first heard Ed effortlessly form words into memorable sentences, and observed how he moved and commanded by his mindful presence I gained a certitude I had not found in my other career options. Though occasionally austere Ed was also very personable. As I was about to teach my very first class Ed happened down the hall by the room in the Cathedral of Learning where I was nervously waiting for the previous class to leave. In a spirit mixing compassion with glee Ed glanced at me, sized up my trepidation, came over and said: “Be bold! Anything you could tell them would be news.” Out of context his comment may sound dismissive of the students; in context he gave a TA he scarcely knew a timely jolt of high voltage reassurance that his resources were more than adequate to the occasion. I have used his rationale for the basic course without alteration for four decades. “The aim of this course is not to make you eloquent but to enable you to get up and give something recognizable as a public speech without embarrassment to yourself or to your ideas.” Given the progress of the NCA tradition of rhetorical studies since my generation entered it, and how carefully graduate programs now prepare students for their theses, it is difficult for me even to conceive of the cluelessness with which I sat in Ed’s office after passing my comps. I had made an appointment to ask him what I should write on for my dissertation. With almost no hesitation he said “Why don’t you do a rhetorical analysis of the Origin of Species. Dumfounded I asked, “Why that one?” Without missing a beat he replied “It has never been done.” I see more clearly now as I could not then, having at that point never read the book, why that should be. An advisor with a narrower vision of the field, a more realistic assessment of the abilities of his student, or of the background required of the subject might have suggested an examination of the speeches of Dwight Eisenhower. It is often said that Ed Black freed the field from the 1
yoke of neo-Aristotelian criticism. As I knew that perspective only from his refutation it never oppressed or formed me—though I have often lamented our field’s want of a normative tradition. I see now how Ed embodied the best of Isocratean/Ciceronian practice and prepared me well to appreciate the playful seriousness of minds as different as that of John Henry Newman and Charles Darwin. With apologies to the thinker on whom I have focused most of my studies I say of my beloved teacher “There is grandeur in his view of life…” From: Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg School of Communication at the Pennsylvania State University “Remembering Edwin Black” Although the Department of Motor Vehicles stubbornly insisted that it was spelled “Angelo”, thereby changing my father’s ethnicity from English and Irish to Italian, my dad’s legal name was Wayne Angell Hall. The name “Angell” entered our family tree at my grandfather’s insistence. He tagged my dad with it in honor of the dean of the University of Michigan’s law school who near the turn of the last century helped a kid (who had earned tuition by selling encyclopedias door to door) secure a place there. My grandfather died when Wayne Angell was nine. I was the next in the family to go beyond high school. My father wore his middle name as reassurance that his kids could make it in college and even graduate school. So (pace Kenneth Burke) naming matters in my family. Accordingly, Bob and I named our younger son “Patrick” for Bob’s Irish rebel of a godfather and then added the middle name “Edwin” because what Dean Angell did for my grandfather, Edwin Black did for me. When Patrick received his Ph.D. a few years ago (which for reasons I won’t go into here was as unlikely as my grandfather’s conquest of the University of Michigan) he insisted that the graduation program read Patrick Edwin Jamieson. Aspirations are powerful forces. Edwin Black expected his students and the field he loved to “aspire greatly.” He wrote a paradigm shattering book before the field thought that it had the intellectual firepower to produce book length argument. He produced one magisterial essay after another. He told us by word and example that publishing well was more important than publishing often. His expectations raised our own. From: Lester C. Olson, University of Pittsburgh “Tribute to a Teacher” From 1980 until 1984, I had the privilege of receiving my doctoral training from Professor Edwin Black, who was my advisor for the course work and the director of my dissertation at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. 2
Long before I first met Ed in person during the chilly winter of 1979-80, I encountered his mind by reading his now landmark book, Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method. When I read Ed’s book for the first time, I realized that I was experiencing the scholarship of a man who did not merely write prose, he orchestrated it. Later, it seemed poetic to me that Ed usually had classical music playing softly in the background whenever he worked at his office. In most of his essays and both of his books, Ed had a penchant for writing clever antimetaboles, perhaps because he delighted in their formal symmetry, playful complexity, and memorable qualities. My undergraduate advisor, Professor Timothy Y. C. Choy, had directed my attention to Ed Black’s slender, green volume on Rhetorical Criticism while I was still an undergraduate major in Rhetoric and Public Address at Moorhead State College in the mid-1970s. I recall how apologetic the college bookstore’s representative was while she explained to me over the phone that, by then, Rhetorical Criticism was only available as a used, hardbound copy and that it was “expensive.” Today, when I look inside front cover, where the “MSC Bookstore” stamp is followed by the price, “$5.25,” I am reminded that “expensive” has not only changed over the years, it is oftentimes in the beholder’s eye. At the time, I was a young, first-generation college student, whose father had completed the eighth grade and whose mother had a high school diploma. We were farmers. Nobody in my family had ever gone to college. Moreover, nobody I knew went beyond the initial four years of training for an undergraduate degree. Had Tim not encouraged me to consider graduate school and educated me about the means of going (“I can’t afford more school,” I recall saying to Tim; “There are Teaching Assistantships,” he replied), it would not have occurred to me to enter graduate school. It may seem unremarkable today to some that Ed Black agreed to work with a student from such a modest background, but, at the time, I recall heartfelt appreciation for his advising and role model as a mentor. It had been my experience that relatively privileged and resourceful students tended to be noticed by teachers, not farm kids. It is noteworthy that Ed’s former doctoral students constitute a remarkably diverse lot, more than a couple of us from modest origins. It would be difficult, in fact, to find a quality that all of Ed’s doctoral students share beyond a sustained engagement with the practice of rhetorical criticism, pleasure in the experience of fine writing, and, of course, Ed. I first met Ed in the process of considering a few high profile Universities with top quality doctoral offerings in rhetoric. It was an inauspicious initial meeting. Nobody at the University of Wisconsin–Madison remembered that I had written to the department in advance asking to meet the faculty. So a hasty effort was made to ensure that I could meet the faculty, among them Ed. Though his stature towered, he was short. He was a balding, middle-aged man with only a halo of graying hair. He wore reading glasses that he looked over as he spoke to me. He wore a sport coat — tasteful and well made, so understated that it did not call attention to itself. I cannot recall ever seeing Ed without one. His origins, as a man from Texas, were undetectable, except for how he occasionally pronounced a single word. To Ed, metaphor sounded like “meta-fur.” Would there be a range of teaching opportunities available to me beyond Public Speaking, I recall asking him? “No,” Ed replied. So, on my carefully sketched chart of major factor to consider, teaching experience in the class room and the department’s overall hospitality both went into the less than positive column for the Madison campus. 3
In fact, I was entrusted with teaching other courses: Argument and Debate is one example. Another consisted of assisting Professor Donald Smith with Great Speakers and Speeches, for which I prepared and delivered a two session unit on the history of prominent women speakers in the United States. Only later did I realize and come to appreciate how careful Ed consistently was with other people’s expectations. He was the sort of person who would rather have another be pleased with more than was anticipated than disappointed with less. So when he later nominated my dissertation for a national award, he said emphatically, “Remember that it is a crap shoot.” And it was. But the recognition nonetheless delighted us both when it materialized. At Wisconsin, I took at least two seminars with Ed on rhetorical criticism. One still stands out because its format seemed so novel to me. Each week, Ed would present every student with a copy of the same speech text with instructions to write a criticism of it for the following week. We were given no information about the author, audience, occasion, date, or, for that matter, any feature of the speech’s context. As we wrote our weekly criticisms, we were, moreover, not to speak with each other about any aspect of our work on the speech in the meantime. During seminar, we would listen intently to each others’ papers one after another as each of us took our turn at trying to make sense of a rhetorical discourse. What was remarkable to me was the range of perspectives each of the graduate students articulated in response to the exact same materials. It was, moreover, invaluable training for strengthening our disciplined attention to elements of rhetorical action that could be inferred from a text apart from its context. As we wrote, week after week, I noticed how each student seemed to develop a distinctive voice or sensibility as a neophyte critic. Each of us was coming to voice as a practicing rhetorical critic. The simplicity, directness, and sheer brilliance of Ed’s technique made it unavoidable for each of us to endeavor to come to terms with individual texts. Over the years, I learned that Ed was not enthused about generating technical language. Nor did he think it prudent to begin an essay by sketching theoretical considerations before engaging a text. He derisively called such a sketch “scaffolding.” What bothered him about jargon and scaffolding, I believe, was that he saw them as overshadowing any generative insights concerning rhetorical transactions. They also made for wretched prose. More important, the scaffolding was dissatisfying to him intellectually in that he viewed any approach of that sort as a predictable, self fulfilling prophesy. To make this point, he would sometimes challenge doctoral students to identify an instance of rhetorical theory that had been discarded as a consequence of failing an application in criticism. None came readily to mind. Today, I am sure that I am here at the University of Pittsburgh, in part, because Ed’s careful training and his endorsement of my credentials helped to make it possible. My placement at one of the only two plum jobs available that year surprised me (and most everyone else, I imagine). Although Ed had written his landmark book as his doctoral dissertation under Herbert A. Wichelns, Ed completed and revised the manuscript during the early 1960s, while he was an Assistant Professor here at the “University of Pittsburgh,” a credential printed beneath his name on the dark green dust jacket. It is not so well known perhaps that Wichelns taught here at Pitt for a brief time, too, because his affiliation with the Cornell school has overshadowed other moments of his living. Though Ed left this institution during the mid-1960s, almost two decades 4
before I joined it in 1984 as an Assistant Professor, to me there is nonetheless an intergenerational, intellectual link, of sorts, to this place with its long history of rhetoric, public address, and argument scholarship. In the 1990s, I planned a couple of events at the National Communication Association to thank Ed and to honor his many intellectual achievements. One focused on the reception of his book over the decades and another brought his doctoral students together in one place for an evening meal with him. When I set about contacting his former doctoral students, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who is certainly the most famous of us all, was the Dean at the Annenberg School of Communication in Philadelphia. Generously, she offered to finance the entire event, if I would plan it. So, after consulting with James Darsey (who embodied worldly sophistication to me), the two of us settled on a place. At the expensive conference hotel, Ed, his wife Sharon, and most of his former doctoral students piled into several taxis who, in a caravan, took us across Miami to a famous Jewish deli. When we arrived safely there, Kathleen was visibly frowning. She had, after all, been willing to cover all costs to go to any of the finest restaurants in Miami. I am guessing that a Jewish deli was not high on her hunches for our secret destination. Bemused by the look of evident concern on my face, Darsey inquired, “Do you think she’ll have us all pile back into the taxis to go elsewhere?” As it turned out, we stayed at the deli in a special area of our own. The evening became one long, joyous occasion with many shared stories about Ed. The entire staff of waiters and waitresses had a theatrical knack that punctuated our festivities. At one moment, they came to the table and sang happy birthday to Ed. We howled. Another highlight was James Darsey’s recollection that Ed had once written on Darsey’s paper, “You write like Richard Nixon.” The memory evoked appreciative hoots and laughter. It was quintessential Ed. At one moment, I recalled how Ed had gone systematically through my paper to correct a now obsolete eighteenth-century English word, froward, which he carefully changed to forward throughout. By the end of the paper, he evidently decided to turn to his two volume edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, which he kept close at hand, and at the end of the paper wrote, “Ignore the corrections.” There, ordinarily one found “Study the marginalia.” Concision was Ed’s forte. Ed exercised one of the strongest vocabularies of any person whom I have ever known. So it was a rare moment, and somewhat reassuring, too. As we were piling back into the taxis, Kathleen mentioned to me that she wished she could have had a video recording of the entire event. She had that much fun. (I was so relieved!) In retrospect, I am glad we made the time to thank and to honor Ed while he was alive. Ed was a kind, generous, witty, and supportive teacher and mentor. Because of his legendary wit, the audience at one conference was so delighted with his humourous remarks that they insisted that Ed should re-read his entire paper from beginning to end another time. They wanted to enjoy it yet again. Now, of course, that will only be possible by reading Ed’s writings. I will miss him. From: Robert Iltis, Oregon State University “To Write is to Teach” 5
Rhetorical Criticism reminded the discipline, at a time when it needed the reminder, that criticism as an art depends on invention in performance rather than on adherence to technique. Like all artistic performances, criticism reflects the critic’s acculturation to technique and theory, but as Professor Black demonstrated, it ought not be inhibited by that acculturation. His own criticism displayed time and again how ably the dynamic forces of rhetoric can be disclosed by a skilled critic’s nuanced sensibility and appreciation for style. His work demonstrated that as we unpack the dynamics of rhetorical strategies good rhetorical critics provide access to both conscious and subconscious elements of public life that are unique to the rhetorical perspective. Professor Black enacted that attitude towards criticism for his students and his readers, and in so doing displayed rhetorical criticism, well executed, as a powerful force in the humanities. To those fortunate enough to study with him Professor Black extended charity, encouragement and great personal commitment, and thus taught what it means to be a teacher
From: Richard Morris, Arizona State University “For Edwin Benjamin Black” Some imagine that we recognize “great scholars” by how prolific they are. Some see greatness in the impact that a scholar’s work has on others. I have come to understand the greatness of a scholar through my association with Ed Black because he guided his students to search for and find their own voices, to compromise never, to expect much and to have the patience and forbearance to demand even more from one’s self. Ed was not especially prolific, as if quantity were a relevant measure, though he produced a substantial body of work; and he rarely inspired others to attempt to replicate his work, though generations of scholars held his work up as something toward which they wished to aspire. Scan the environment and you will find scores of students—and their students, and their students—who speak from an independence of thought, a sovereignty of spirit, a liberation of mind that poured from Ed, his sponsorship, and his scholarship. When I heard the sad news of Ed’s passing, only minutes ago, my first instinct was to award him the only gift I have that is worthy of him, and the only thing I have that is worthy of such a great man is what he helped me to find—an authentic voice that refuses to replicate or repeat or fall unthinkingly onto the page. I could not do what I do had Ed not shown me the way. I remember sitting in Ed’s office contemplating the row of dissertations he kept on the shelf directly behind him. One could not see Ed without seeing his students. I wondered at the time whether I would ever be worthy enough to have my dissertation staring back at some graduate student who very likely would be entertaining the same thought. The list was impressive back then in the mid-eighties, and it has grown since. 6
Ed’s students dot the disciplinary sky, bright stars every one, as do many of their students, as will many of their students. His is a remarkable legacy. Others will speak to Ed’s scholarship and impact, and they will do so because their love for the man cannot be otherwise. I do so here out of the same kind of love and because today something very, very large inside me has passed away. Bon voyage, old friend; you are with us always.
From: Philip Wander, San Jose State University “The School of No School” The hopples fall from your ankles—you find an unfailing sufficiency; Old or young, male or female, rude, low, rejected by the rest, whatever you are promulges itself; Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted; Through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, What you are picks its way. Walt Whitman1 To talk about one’s teacher and his or her teachings requires a language that goes beyond what was taught. However sincere the effort or moving the result, such writing is a kind of betrayal. This would be true if what Edwin Black taught was a body of precepts, something that could be written down, committed to memory, and faithfully recorded. This is not what Edwin taught or, at least, this is not what I learned from him. To make sense of this, I need to shift the discussion away from a sense of closure, into what is forever vital in the here and now. And further into a form of discourse that is familiar to me, as it was to Edwin from whom I learned it, the essay. I look up from my desk and out the windows. It is a gray, California day. Winter, a few leaves still cling to the trees outside my study. I am listening to Baroque dance music and thinking, remembering. My teacher, mentor, friend, Edwin Black, died. What do I say? How to say it? What follows does not so much answer these questions as to demonstrate that I recognize the feeling that I should, in this moment, remain silent. I live forty miles South of Berkeley, where Edwin as a young man, teaching a term at UC, encountered the Free Speech Movement, brought back a round, brass topped coffee table, and dark wood, African masks from Pier I imports. And fifteen miles East of Palo Alto, where William James, teaching a term at Stanford a half century before the Free Speech Movement, felt the great shaking of the 1906 earthquake. Unaware of what was happening in San Francisco, he found it exhilarating.
1 Quoted in William James, Pragmatism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975), 132.
William James quoted the lines from Whitman in “Pragmatism and Religion,” the last chapter of his book Pragmatism. Edwin was a serious student of James, which is to say he was inspired by and attentive to his work. In the early 1960s, during seminar, Edwin shared with us a title for a book he was someday going to publish, The Varieties of Rhetorical Experience. Edwin loved this title. He beamed when he said it. Rolled over each word, in turn, as though it were delicious to say. He had shared it with us, but made it clear that, however long it took to write his book, the title was his. The title recalls William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience, a book Edwin had urged us to read. In this book, James sets out to make sense of the ways people over the ages have talked about their mystical experiences. Again the book grows out of a lecture series, in this instance the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902. I note this because the affinity between James and Black transcends themes, though the link between religion and rhetoric is important. Both of them are best read aloud not only because they fuse eye and ear, but also because they cannot fully be understood, until their texts, entering into the here and now of discourse, evoke a response. Mystical and the practical, spirit and emotion, through angers, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks the way. Lionel Trilling, whom Edwin had us read in seminar, thought the practical value of literature lay in what it revealed about human potential. Edwin, years later, spoke of humanity in relation to rhetoric, where he identified being in the text as a potential “you.” He called this being the “second persona.” This “you”—anything and every thing we are, through language, being invited to realize—carries with it the possibility for becoming. Still, not everything crafted in and commended through the text, language, or discourse is good, thus the “second persona” calls for and forms the basis for moral judgment. Beyond the implied auditor, the second persona, remains the reason you ought to become and how you might go about becoming such a person. Edwin was born in 1930, during the Great Depression. He was ten years old, when the United States entered into the Second World War. He was twenty when it ended which means he had lived through not only the rise, but also the triumph of modern science and technology. He majored in philosophy at the University of Houston, where he also participated in intercollegiate debate. He took courses in philosophy at Cornell, where he did his graduate work. He once mentioned an exchange he had with the logician, Max Black (no relation), in which the latter recalled a philosophical disagreement they had and, in a note, called attention to a recent article appearing in an important philosophical journal which advanced Edwin’s solution to the problem. Academic philosophy during this period in the United States was profoundly influenced by the success of the natural sciences and mathematics and the unlimited possibilities that came with the use of the scientific method. Edwin’s book had not yet been published when I came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1963. He had the page proofs. He read them to us. He began with one of the most memorable passages I had ever heard or read. It had to do with the relationship between science and criticism: 8
The scientist is one of the cultural heroes of our age. He is consulted by senators, courted by corporations, and exalted by the popular mind. It is no wonder that we respect the office of scientist, for one mystery after another has yielded to the formidable machinery of scientific method. And with the mysteries, so also numberless human afflictions are closer to our control: hunger and squalor, pain and neurotic anguish, enervating toil and terrifying superstition, perhaps, as Bergson once dared hope, even death itself. Having as it sometimes seems, the key to the universe in its very techniques of investigation, science is on a progress of discovery that has no conceivable limit, unless it is the mushroom cloud on the horizon. The triumphs of science seem inexorable as the tide.2 Edwin was one of the few scholars in our field who thought through things deeply and systematically over a long period of time. And the only one I ever knew who changed his mind about his earlier work and made a point of it publicly. When Rhetorical Criticism was republished by the University of Wisconsin, in 1978, the only change Edwin made was to add an “Author’s Foreword.” In it he wrote: It is neither possible nor desirable for criticism to be fixed into a system, for critical techniques to be objectified, for critics to be interchangeable for purposes of replication, or for rhetorical criticism to serve as the handmaiden of quasi-scientific theory.3 Between 1965 and 1978, the United States had gone through a series of escalations trying to “win” a war in a former French Colony. It cost thousands of American and an estimated two million Vietnamese casualties. The justification for this ongoing social, moral, and economic disaster—the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted destroyed all hope of meaningful social and political reform in this country—was couched in the rhetoric of science. There were body counts, tonnage dropped, surgical strikes, troops interdicted, percentage of infrastructure destroyed. And statistical estimates of the number of hearts and minds being won over by PR campaigns and by the promise of reconstruction, cheap electricity, and democratic elections after the war. Science, in our civil discourse, went from being the promise that science and the scientific method held for the future to becoming “science,” a rhetorical strategy for persuading an audience about public policy. A powerful strategy employed by administration officials to guarantee a military victory and, during a trillion-dollar arms race with the old Soviet Union, to guarantee our national security. Edwin changed his mind. Five years after the United States withdrew its troops from Vietnam, he rejected the assumption that there was an approach, a series of steps, or a method akin to the scientific method that made for objectivity and better criticism. Method-driven work, he concluded, endangered independent thought and, in criticism,
2 Edwin Black, Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1965), p.l. 3 Edwin Black, Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), xi.
transformed discovery into finding out and following the rules. It was no surprise, he now wrote, that criticism conducted on mechanist assumptions will result in mechanistic criticism (p. xii). As for schools of criticism, they were a franchise operation. They enabled a student to enter the job market with a brand name, ready to use approach to any and every text. Schools of criticism guarantee two things: hackwork and bad writing. Edwin once remarked that he took pride in the fact that none of his students had accused him of founding a school. Yet, for all this, it would be wrong to conclude that Edwin did not, in fact, found a school. Of course, Edwin’s school was not founded on rules for doing research, analyzing texts, or writing up the results. It is a school that calls traditional schools into question. I call it the school of no school. This school is grounded in an ancient tradition and, at the same time, in face-toface exchanges in the here and now. It has to do with a process of question and answer about social, political, and moral issues. Aristotle called this kind of exchange dialecktic. This was the way he taught his philosophy students to dispute issues of a political or ethical nature. The counterpart to this, in rhetorical studies, lay in making extended speeches on the same subjects.4 Edwin’s school exists. It reaches back into antiquity in a number of cultures, but it has no name. And the one I have given it, the school of no school, has no currency. Naming a school study presents an impossible problem for one wanting to preserve the work of someone he or she admires. The preservationist approach to naming a school is to name after the founder (i.e. “Burkean criticism”). Or after a method of analysis (a “dramatistic” criticism”), an organizational device (“pentadic criticism”), or an important linking term (“identification,” “consubstantiality”) appearing in the founder’s writing, the school’s canonical work. Edwin asked questions, but they were not designed to catch one up. In the Midwest, where I grew up, we called them honest questions. Membership in the school of no school is open. There is no hazing, no hierarchy, and no attempt to police the membership. Kathleen Jamieson, longtime Dean of the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, arranged a dinner to honor Edwin in Chicago at an NCA conference several years back. As we walked in together, she stopped, looked about the room and observed that most of us do not know each other and that our work ranges over several fields. If there were on thing characterizing members of this school, it would be an aversion to quick and dirty and measuring one’s worth on the number of pubs or the standing of the journals in which they appeared. The relevant questions: Is it good work? Does it bring us news? There was, for Edwin something about being a scholar that bordered on the sacred. He labored over a metaphor, over individual words and sentences; he spent time putting together titles. He loved his work, but writing, he once told me, was painful. It did not come easy. Perhaps it was the care he took, the honest, unpretentious way he talked about it, or the pride he took in it. Or perhaps
4 See George Kennedy, Aristotle on Rhetoric: A Theory of Civil Discourse, Second Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 263-265.
it was the fusion of Edwin’s teaching and work with James that led me to make this link. But this I know: Edwin led me to understand something about scholarship that rises above fashion, success, and ideology. It also enabled me to understand something about critical theory and the importance of building coalitions. Scholarship may offer a space for resistance, and a scholar may, in moments of crisis, make moral judgments and undertake actions that run contrary to personal interest and social class. I do not mean by this that there have been and are now academics who have shown courage in a good cause. I mean that the “you” communicated through deeper and more ancient notions of what it means to be a scholar can make a difference. Before I left for San Jose State in 1966 for my first job, with only my prospectus in hand, Edwin took me out for dinner. We argued in the car, at dinner, and back in the car as we drove back to his place where, over wine, we continued our exchange over the wisdom of Martin Luther King’s decision to oppose the war in Vietnam. I argued that it was a mistake, because it threatened to divide the civil rights movement. After three hours, as I was leaving, Edwin looked up: “Perhaps the point does not lie in the continuity of the movement?” I was speechless. I had never looked at it from that angle. Edwin for a time, owing I think to his admiration of Lyndon Johnson, the liberal President from Texas, for his efforts to support the civil rights movement in this country, refrained from criticizing the war in Vietnam. At a national conference in the early 1970s, we went out to dinner together and argued, for three hours, over the merits of the anti-war movement. He thought the movement quite dangerous, recalling in considerable detail, the recent bombing of a physics lab at the University of Wisconsin which cost the life of a graduate student who had working late at night. I agreed that bombing was wrong. It was a-theoretical, much more likely to sway people away from opposing the war than to draw multitudes into the streets to stop it. “Your morality,” I told Edwin, “is based on propinquity. Life was lost on your campus. But this serves as a kind of bill board, allowing you to ignore than loss of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese men, women, and children’s lives three thousand miles away.” Another time, visiting, Madison, Ed, Sharon, and I went out to eat. Ed and I took up a political issue; I do not now remember what it was. But we did so with such vehemence and over such a long period of time that, afterward, Sharon said, the waiter asked her whether or not Ed and I were having a fight. She told him no, they were just arguing. In retrospect, I have come to realize that we left out Sharon, also a friend, and an assistant Attorney General for the State of Wisconsin and who had tried cases in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin. Edwin was not reluctant to take on feminism. I remember a conference where Edwin was presenting. In front of me sat Christine Oravec and two female friends. Christine was a professor at the University of Utah and one of the founders of the study of environmental communication. 11
Edwin began innocently enough by talking about a famous feminist scholar’s introduction to what she hailed as one of the most important novels of the 19th century. Having identified this claim, Edwin then proceeded to talk about the novel, in particular about the fainting and weeping of the novel’s protagonist. The tears streamed, they were copious, the trickled down her cheeks, they flooded forth, on and on he went with great relish, delighting not only in damning up the novel, but also in devastating the critic who commended it. I knew Christine, so as Edwin was performing, I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She and her two friends stiffened, as they followed the drift of the argument. Periodically, Christine put her hand up to her mouth. Even she could not completely suppress her amusement. After all, it was Edwin at play, charming with alliteration to charm, even as he drove his argument home. I caught him as he was walking out of the room. “Brilliant presentation,” I said, “but I do not believe you will convince many feminists with your argument.” Edwin looked up, twinkled: “Who said I wanted to convince feminists?” I could only smile and shake my head, as he strode on out the door. Did I win any of the arguments? Was Edwin ever left speechless? But that was not the point. Neither of us expected the other to echo the views of authority, curse, shake a fist, or take away a turn. As we emptied the second bottle of wine, our exchange more nearly modeled an ideal speech situation. Each of us brought the best we had to the table. What Edwin thought about it I cannot say, but I loved it and even now can remember and relish the exchanges. But can you imagine what it was like, as a graduate student, to think through such questions in seminar or in private conversation with a powerful and influential scholar? Can you imagine what it meant to a young assistant professor to be able to dine with such a teacher and be expected not only to argue, but also, over the most important moral, social, and political issues of the time, to disagree? And to disagree vigorously, with all the resources ready to hand, including those we buried in a tradition that we were, unselfconsciously, doing in the here and now? When I last talked with Edwin, it was on the phone. I had heard that he was seriously ill. “You are so young to be stricken,” I blurted out. “Oh,” he said, “I am seventy-seven years old.” “Well,” I responded, that does not sound so old to me any more.” I wished that my words and my ability to continue the conversation could have been, well, more helpful. But I had done my best and had, in my simple-minded way, been honest. No sense of decorum in that moment spoke to me. There was no school of thought I could turn to for consolation. The teacher had long ago removed such props. And so, I find myself trying, even now, to come to terms with thoughts and feelings that lie beyond me, through words and words about words that are becoming easier and easier to forget. Too many words to get to this point, I suppose, but I have done my best to continue the conversation. Whether or not the conversation in the school of no school includes some and, thoughtlessly excludes others, here there is a choice to be made. There are 12
others in this school who do not know and may not care. But what the others have to say may enrich and deepen, I’ve seen my darkness mirrored in the death of my dreams. Like a prophet running down shadows of words to meaning I tell you ‘Fight in the endless war of truth against truth.’5
From: Cecil Blake, University of Pittsburgh “Edwin Black: Forever Present” I heard about Ed’s ailment late last fall. It was painful news because I was told that his chances for recovery were not good. Then came the news of his passing earlier this year. I grieved. I studied under Ed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my doctoral degree. Not only was he my adviser, he was my mentor. I make the distinction between an adviser and a mentor because one can work with an adviser and after graduation that adviser disappears from one’s intellectual and other environments. The mentor, particularly of the caliber of Ed, stays forever because he or she remains in the mind’s eye, as well as “voicing” every now and then his or her recommendations on major decisions one has to take. From that standpoint, all mentors are clearly not of the same ilk. I may be perhaps among those few he advised and mentored, who had the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of my professional life outside of the confines of the “regular” university as a faculty member or an administrator. Ed prepared me very well to be an academic. I worked in the academy and continue to do so. But he prepared me effectively as well to work in supranational organizations such as the United Nations University, a think tank, and eventually as a Cabinet Minister in Sierra Leone, a country that was then in transition from war to peace after a gruesome civil war that lasted ten years with over forty-five thousand dead and thousands more maimed. I mention the above because Ed was in so many ways consistently “present” during delicate deliberations on life threatening and life saving issues, during which I had to make critical assessment of the context, content and probable outcomes of any decision I had to make. Essentially, his “presence” was in the form of the mental discipline he inculcated in me while studying with him. I always recollected the days in his class on rhetorical criticism; his comments on my report on independent readings he supervised. Disciplined thinking was the norm. In that regard, it was not just an issue of disciplined thinking in rhetorical criticism, but disciplined in all contexts – such as in government and the international system.
5 Rita Mae Brown, “Darkness, Dreams, and Death,” Poems (Freedom, California: The Crossing Press, 1973), n.p.
Ed has left us. But for me he will always be there during critical periods of decision-making. He did his work well. It is up to us to continue to live up to his expectations of us. From: Christine Oravec, University of Utah “On a Personal Note: Ed Black” By the time I knew him, Ed Black stood for three things: opportunity for the less privileged; political and moral rectitude; and passion for open thought and exchange. He also embodied the contradictions that such principles by their nature generate in our very human efforts to apply them to our practical lives. He was a conscious supporter of those who needed support. My student experience with Ed spanned the years 1972 through 1979. That first year I had a Master’s degree in English and no employment prospects. I first met Ed in a summer readings course in which I was the only student enrolled. He had me read Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Wayne Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction, and Kathleen Jamieson’s self-typed dissertation. I wrote a paper, and my application for a teaching assistantship was accepted. Like Lester and Kathleen I came from inauspicious origins, being the first in my family to go to high school, let alone college. By being my patron Ed gave me and my immigrant family our culminating boost into the American middle class. His tastes, however, were elite; the best food and drink, the best dress, the best writing. His frequent term for the best of anything was “brilliant.” Ed was a radical in a classic way. For example, he had an intense, almost nostalgic fondness for the pre-Stalinist Soviet revolutionary period. During most of our acquaintance he sported a beard that made him look like Lenin, which pleased him immensely. When the beard started to come in gray, he shaved it off (bluntly, he explained “I looked into the mirror and saw an old man”), and that was that. Yet Ed’s radicalism allowed him to be the only faculty member to approach the teaching assistants picketing Vilas Hall as part of an AFL/CIO affiliated strike against the university. In a scene reminiscent of Emerson’s famous question to the jailed Thoreau, he walked up to me and asked “Why are you doing this?” I gave him the argument that administration had neither kind feelings for teaching assistants nor for the faculty, either. After our batting the subject around a bit out there on the sidewalk, he insisted on the independence of the group with which he identified, and then crossed the picket line. He did not join us, but he engaged in our discourse. As Philip writes, he was a being in dialectic. That dialectic extended to his personal commitments. He was particularly torn between what was right and what was good. He loved the music of Richard Wagner, specifically Siegfried’s Funeral March. He insisted that Wilhelm Furtwangler, the Third Reich’s favorite, was the best conductor of all time, when he could have chosen the more popular and politically correct Leonard Bernstein. He, did, though, distinguish genius gone bad from mindless anti-Semitism. When I referred to the “love story” of the Prince of Wales and his American wife, he dismissed them and me with a growl and a snort. Only later did I learn that the two luminaries had been rather routine, unreflective Nazi 14
sympathizers during the mid-twentieth century. Such apparent contradictions in Ed’s devotion to excellence (arête, the good) often became personal, and led him to agonize over making the most defensible moral decision in countless practical circumstances. Ed was relentless in his quest for significance, deliberately finding reasons for us, his students, to pursue our sometimes feckless passions. John mentions the “dissertation topic presentation” appointment, and when my turn came I suggested a rhetorical study of the early Conservation movement as a consequence of having watched a television documentary on the subject. I received no discernable response. A day or two later he stopped me in the hall, doing one of his sudden, flat-footed double takes as though struck by inspiration from the gods. Bulging out his eyes, he proclaimed, “This is your question: What. . . Is. . . Natural???” In the course of justifying yet another movement study, he had identified and articulated the philosophical crux of environmentalism. As a result, the topic of the rhetoric of conservation was approved. The real question was obviously too big for me at the time, but I often wonder what that other dissertation might have looked like. I have trouble conceiving of a world without Ed Black in it. Perhaps that is because, as Cecil describes so eloquently, his persona is inside my head, so intertwined with what I write and say and teach that his physical presence is not required for me to consult with him when I most need help. Maybe, just maybe, that’s how immortality works. I am certain it is how excellence is perpetuated.