Beyond Utility: A Humanist Philology of Technical Communication

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Technical communication is a translational activity with a traditional motivational locus in utility. However, most translation theorists’ efforts to fold technical communication into translation studies deal with translating technical documents from one national language to another. In contrast, this lecture engages translation theories to reassess some foundational technical communication principles that stem from classical deliberative rhetoric. In the end, this lecture advocates a wider-spread awareness of Aristotle’s terms for deliberative rhetoric in their original undomesticated foreignness. This is an important step toward reappropriating rhetorical principles that can redress various abuses that have been facilitated by technical communication’s dependence on a Roman inherited deliberative ethic of utility.

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Dr. Ethan Sproat is Assistant Professor of English at Utah Valley University where he teaches courses in technical communication, rhetoric, editing, and composition. He is the Program Chair for the 2017 Triennial Conference of the Kenneth Burke Society and the Curator for the Kenneth Burke Digital Archive.