While Invention in Rhetoric and Composition certainly wasn't the most compellingly written text for this week, it was the text I chose to focus most closely on because it was, in many ways, the text I needed to read and a text that I would like to do some writing on. What I appreciate about Lauer's book is its (seeming) comprehensiveness which helped me put some of the ideas I've been thinking about in greater historical context.
Lauer's main project in her book seems to be to historically trace the history of invention and to see that history in ways that speaks to crucial differences in the nature, purpose and epistemology of the concept. She notes the notion of invention is one that has been contested in ways that extend back to the Sophists and, for me, some of the most interesting discussion in Lauer is in regard to divisions between heuristics and hermeneutics and between debates over inventional pedagogy. What is useful for me in Lauer's work is the way in which the complicated history of "invention" itself helps to clarify what exactly is being highlighted in current work on invention and how we might more clearly understand pedagogical disagreements, for example, through considering the varying notions of invention at play between pedagogies.
After laying out some of the major contestations over the term "invention" in the first chapter, Lauer goes on to offer some broad definitions and a bit more contextualization for the study of invention in Chapter 2. Here, she explains classical terms used by the Greeks. Lauer explains that, "inherent in the notion of invention is the concept of process that engages a rhetor (speaker or writer) in examining alternatives: different ways to begin writing and to explore writing situations; diverse ideas, arguments, appeals and subject matters for reaching new understandings and/or for developing and supporting judgments, theses, and insights; and different ways of framing and verifying these judgments" (7). This definition of invention, though, becomes complicated by where in the composing process invention gets most heavily situated. Lauer introduces the concepts of kairos and dissoi logoi to discuss the ways in which the context of situation to determine the truth or falsity of a particular kind of claim. Most interestingly in this section, Lauer discusses Aristotle's work on topoi, "lines of argument and categories of information that were effective for persuasion, listing and grouping these topics so that they could be taught to others. Aristotle distinguished between common topic types that could be used universally and special topics that related to specific discourse. In contrast to these heuristic views of invention, Lauer also briefly lays our hermeneutic ways on seeing invention proposed by Burke and others who have, since the 1960s, shifted to looking at invention in ways that highlight its context-dependence.
In Chapter 3, Lauer throughly traces out the shifts in notions of invention throughout the times of the Greeks and throughout the Roman period and into the Renaissance. She argues that the importance of invention was lost (with the exception of in Greek society and in the Renaissance rhetorics taking up those Greek ideas) and that notions of invention were replaced by intuition and imagination, logic and discovery. I need to go back and read this chapter a bit more carefully, but I am confused at this point about how replacing invention with logic and discovery would remove the onus from invention since logic and discovery are related to invention. However, I do see how placing importance on intuition and imagination/creativity would stifle a serious attention to work on invention. As Lauer moves into her next chapter, she argues that invention remained dormant through most of the 20th century until, most notably, the 1960s where there was a major shift to hermeneutics and epistemological senses of invention seem to have taken hold.
After reading Lauer's chapter, I'm interested in looking more closely at how a shift from a heuristic approach to invention to a hermeneutic approach has relocated how we identify the work that invention does and where it happens. Although Lauer does explore this, I found her text to be too broad to see how this happens in a specific context such as, for example, pedagogical disagreements. Additionally, I would like to look more closely at the implications for Burke's work on invention. Most importantly, though, I'd like to look at theories of composition that are prominent within our field and trace out how they are defining invention and where they locate it and to use these observations to think about how each of these theories might successfully (or not) provide a way of shifting social structure by operationalizing (and teaching) invention in the ways that they do.