W.Scott Poole's and Richard Kearny's Unique Take on Monsters

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Monsters, as explain by Richard Kearney, are, “…something in us, made manifest in our response to certain experiences of ‘chaos, disorder and desolation’ in nature’” (Kearney, 39). In this sense, our responses to situational conflict can provide the building blocks for monsters; our anxieties from tragedy, horror, and terror will transform reality into fictional and horrific monsters. Poole further solidifies this argument in his essay ‘Monsters in America’ by providing us with a brief examination of America’s bloody history, and how radical ideals of colonials provided a lens to justify their inhumane actions. Both Poole and Kearney effectively use historical exigence as a rhetorical mean to appeal to the reader- in conjunction with either logos or pathos- before delving into their true arguments; this strategy primarily allows us to view history- something that has happened and is solidified- before delving into more abstract concepts of fear and monstrosity; both authors ground their readers in the real world before we enter into the abysmal ideologies of monsters. Although both essays are riddled with powerful language, often-times religiously based, the strength in their rhetoric arises from the links they apply between exigence and logos or pathos.

It is often argued that learning from history is key to survival. But what happens when history in itself is too heavy upon our conscious? Is it not the case that the most brutal aspects of history are the most important for us to learn from? Kearney discusses these very questions by stating that, “…the imaginary can furnish access to the heart of darkness which remains intolerable in the flesh” (Kearney, 30). Poole further emphasizes this fact through explaining how, through vilifying African-Americans, the slave trade and horrendous past of America was easily justifiable. Though Kearney looks not at the justification of monstrous acts but, rather, at terrorism and war, both provide us a clear scope of how our deep-seated fears are the means by which we create monsters. The contextual approach they take is far better at painting us a picture, of vividness and clarity, that we can understand. Take, for example, a powerful quote by Poole: “Friar Bartolomé saw the very air of the New World teeming with evil spirits who tempted and destroyed the unbaptized” (Poole, 31); because Poole provided us primarily with historical context on slavery and the inhumane actions based in religious fanaticism, we are better able to view this quote as a mindset of the populace instead of simply a viewpoint of a crazed friar. The context is of uttermost importance for both ‘Monsters in America and ’Terror, Philosophy and the Sublime'; if we lack an understanding of what happened, then, why it happened would simply be an inconceivable ghost to us. The exigence of both essays lends meat and meaning to them, strengthening what would otherwise be skeletons of an argument.

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Now, what is unique between Kearney’s view on monsters and Poole’s? The answer lies into where they transition their arguments after providing context. Kearney’s essay is powerful because it brings us from history into the appeal of our logos. Not only does he provide various quotes from President Bush following 9/11, but he gives us a very wholistic view of how 9/11 shaped the attitude of America. Through letting us see the logistics behind the tragic event, we are better able to understand Kearney when he brings up the main argument of his essay: why monsters and fear are metaphors for our anxiety. This also is effective in emanating his distinction between our fear and enthrallment of monsters; had he gone for a pathos- appeal many may have found themselves disagreeing with having a love for monsters. Poole’s essay, on the other-hand, seems to hit close to home; this is because of his appeal to pathos. By using brutally honest language and a viewpoint that strongly demonizes the acts of colonial America, he is able to make us feel his argument before we are given a chance to think about it. Though there are logistics involved in the essay it is very prominent in providing us with a powerful feeling that flips the argument in-and-on itself; we go from seeing how American’s saw native peoples as monsters to feeling that colonials themselves were the real monsters. It’s a powerful realization that stems from Poole’s appeal to emotion. Had he simply stated that colonials were monsters, his argument may have been less effective; in fact, it may have been met with much argument. In allowing the reader to feel the repulsion of the acts provided, we can conclude the argument he sub-consciously provides us without having it directly spelled out for us.

“Very often, history is a means of denying the past” (Jeanette Winterson). Monsters and the taboo are often things that give us terror, other times, they are a means of therapy in dealing with real-life horror; in this sense, backhandedly denying the past. Poole and Kearney both understand this fundamental value when dealing with the fantasy and mythology underlying monsters. The efficacy of their arguments lies in first understanding the what before the why. If we are given a snapshot of a monsters before understanding its origins, we may discount any arguments, claiming them to be as fictional as the monsters they represent. Further strength is provided with appeals to logos and pathos, however this distinction is the underlying difference of both Poole and Kearney’s arguments. The missing piece to each puzzle- for Poole being pathos, and Kearney, logos- is provided in such a way that buffers their hypothesis of monsters ten-fold. The language of each is powerful despite, but, language would simply be a means of flowering it up; without the rhetorical strategies underlying each, there would be no grounds through which the flowers of their language could bloom.

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W.Scott Poole’s and Richard Kearny’s Unique Take on Monsters. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/w-scott-pooles-and-richard-kearnys-unique-take-on-monsters/
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