Did Bitzer Draw?

Did Lloyd Bitzer ever draw his situational model? Or are all of the
visually rendered triangles drawn from his textual account?

If he didn’t draw it (I can’t find evidence that he did), are responses to
the model’s viability fueled instead by its proliferation as an abstraction
pulled (like a rabbit from a hat) out of Bitzer’s textual account? How did the
textual model evolve into a disciplinary fixture, a visual commonplace?
How was it translated from text to geometric figure? Should we enjoy free license
to convert anything with three points into a triangle?

Rhetorical Situation

I’ve been reading a little bit (not nearly as much as I would like) about
models lately. There’s a small slot in the diss-as-proposed where I will account
for Flower and Hayes’ process model and the related fracas (simplistic! rigid!
universalizing! yeah, so?). I’m wondering whether it was a moment when the
baby (visual modeling) was tossed with the bath water (the critical rinse of
this one as simplistic, rigid, and universalizing). The Flower-Hayes
construct isn’t the only visual model floating around R&C. But what are
the others? Bitzer’s triangle. Burke’s pentad. Berthoff’s
ladder. Others? And so I’m thinking about whether these were first rendered
visually or textually, whether they were composed first as discursive or
presentational. The production and circulation of the visual derivatives is
curious, isn’t it?, if they manifest primarily as a readerly acts–as
interpretive moves or as gestures of uptake.

In "Modeling Theory and Composing Process Models," Michael Pemberton gives us
a continuum. Roughly:

Data – – – Models – – – Theories – – – Paradigms

The diss, as I’m thinking of it today, is concerned in an early chapter with
a portion of the tracks, a segment of the continuum (the Rochester to Albany of
Amtrak’s Empire route, we could call it):

Data – – – Models – – – Theories – – – Paradigms

Important to consider here is the reversal. The back track. Not
only the path from data to paradigms, from local to global (help me,
Bruno), but the return (chutes to Berthoff’s ladder). The re-volution (where local at all points crumbles the
grand empire, wherever you jump in). The trip from theories to models (home!),
as seems to be happening for Bitzer, Burke, and Berthoff (a la Langer), mustn’t
be glossed. But there I go, too easily conflating visual models and
textual models, too hastily treating them as twins rather than the cousins they
happen to be–a whole family of models live at that depot ("Models") in the continuum.
I’m trying to get acquainted with them, initially by searching for, among other
things, clues to "Did Bitzer draw?".


  1. I have distilled the first part of this post into Mueller’s triangle: there’s a question mark in the middle, and at each of the points respectively are creation, evolution, and “intelligent” design. When I animate it in Flash, the triangle (and the labels at the vertices) will rotate, but the question mark will remain upright.

    You may, however, wish to save the phrase “Mueller’s triangle” for something a little more groundbreaking.


  2. To my knowledge, Bitzer didn’t diagram the rhetorical situation. Kinneavy is the one who diagrammed his model as a triangle, which he derived from communication studies. I think Kinneavy also claimed his model ultimately came from Aristotle.

  3. I’ve personally always preferred a mobius strip decorated in the colors of the spectrum…

  4. Thanks, Jenny. I appreciate the lead. I looked at Kinneavy’s aims today to remind myself how he modeled the triangle.

    Susan, doesn’t the mobius strip go round and round and round…? Exhausting!

    And Collin, I’m saving the triangle for something grand. I’ll call this experiment Mueller’s Parabola–a line as of yet unconcerned with the shortest distance between A and B.

  5. Why do you *think* it took me so long to finish the $#!& diss?? 😉

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