Rhetoric of heritage preservation

Update: A Feb. 21, 2014 New Yorker article is entitled: “Why is academic writing so academic?” [End of update]


We can speak of rhetoric from a variety of perspectives.

Rhetoric is a great topic for academic study. By way of example, early in his career Marshall McLuhan developed expertise in rhetoric as a field of humanities research as a browser search for “Marshall McLuhan rhetoric” indicates.

The previous sentence includes three links, all of which are of interest.

Rhetoric has two standard meanings

A dictionary definition – as in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition (2004) – characterizes rhetoric as (1) the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing; and as (2) language designed to persuade or impress (often with an implication of insincerity or exaggeration etc.)

With regard to the above-noted second meaning of the word, we can add that in everyday life, we are required to distinguish between rhetoric and substance – between what is claimed and what a given state of affairs actually entails.

Nature of reality

When we speak of substance, and what a given state of affairs entails, we’re also referring to reality. Many definitions of reality are available; the Canadian Oxford Dictionary refers in its first entry, regarding reality, that the word refers to what exists or is real; it refers to that which underlies appearance.

We’re aware of the aphorism that perception is reality; we’re also aware that in quantum theory, the presence of an observer, and the way in which an observer frames a question, determines the reality that is perceived. With regard to social relations, Erving Goffman has addressed the definition of social reality – which he conceptualizes as the consensually created “definition of the situation” in which a social exchange occurs – within the framework of symbolic interactionism.

As a June 30, 2013 CBC article notes, perception has practical consequences.

It’s useful if we begin by defining our terms, and possess awareness of our frames of reference.

Rhetoric of heritage preservation

I have, since February 2012, been following the Wesley Mimico United Church redevelopment story with interest. I have attended meetings and read accounts about the unfolding story, and about the general framework within which church-conversion decisions are made.

I’ve been following the story as a result of my previous involvement with heritage preservation topics.

That involvement began in October 2010, when I learned that the former Parkview School property in Long Branch was in the process of being sold by the Toronto District School Board.

Prior to that I had many years of experience in community organizing, media relations, and writing. That experience came in handy during the Parkview School project, and has been helpful in my efforts to keep track of the unfolding story of the Wesley Mimico United Church.

Church conversions in Toronto

All stakeholders bring a measure of rhetoric, in the two senses in which the word is defined as described above, to church conversions.

In the blog posts that follow, I will focus on the rhetoric of heritage preservation, in particular as it applies to the concept of adaptive reuse of heritage buildings.

Heritage preservation is concerned with the application of specified legal principles, by a range of stakeholders, in the course of addressing the adaptive resuse of historic places of worship.

Such processes typically come into play when a congregation lacks the financial resources to address the long-term costs of maintaining its property.

Such an application of legal principles involves two matters. One concerns the letter of the law. The other concerns the spirit of the law.

I’m pleased that I have the opportunity, through previous and upcoming blog posts, to share what I have learned.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *