This panel will chart recent movements in rhetorical theory, preferring papers that trace developments in rhetoric’s connection to materiality. Questions to be considered include: is “agency” is uniquely human? Does agency extend into the non- or transhuman domain? To what extent do objects, materials, and environments rhetorically impact human decisions? Finally, the panel will explore the consequences of conflicting answers to these questions, which bear on human agency: on our capacity to speak, listen, make arguments, persuade, and create change—on our capacity to act freely and effectively, that is to say rhetorically.
Panel: “Rhetorical Theory”
Location: San Diego, CA (November 14-17, 2019)
Chair: Dr. Ryan Leack
“[T]he power of a body to affect other bodies includes a ‘corresponding and inseparable’ capacity to be affected.”
—Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter (2009)
This approved panel invites papers that expand and sharpen recent movements in rhetorical theory. Rhetorical theory has exploded in recent decades in directions that are not always indexed to composition theory and praxis. Such is the motive to establish a panel specific to Rhetorical Theory. One mainstream direction is materialist and new materialist rhetorics, broadly speaking. Materialist rhetorics engage and expand the human’s relation to the non- or transhuman. The nature of human and transhuman relations impacts traditional rhetorical notions of selfhood, agency, free will, action, and motion. To define agency as exclusively human, and to neglect the impact of non- or transhuman forces on human action, is to craft a vision of human subjectivity that is impervious to the elements and to “outside” influences. However, materialist rhetorics from all times and traditions—reaching back 2,500 years to the elder sophists and to likeminded philosophers like Epicurus, the materialists, and the atomists—stress the material situatedness of human decision-making, personal and political, which constitutes the domain of rhetoric. Although the elder sophists and atomists were eclipsed, as Foucault notes, by succeeding traditions in philosophy such as metaphysics and analytical philosophy—which privilege an autonomous human subjectivity that is largely unaffected by its body and its environments (or at least can strive to be unaffected)—materialist rhetorics acknowledge the mind’s fundamental atomicity, its constitution in and through physical matter, and its capacity to be affected by surrounding environments and relations to other bodies and minds. New (or re-newed) materialisms bring such considerations once again to the floor after 2,500 years of taking the backseat to metaphysics and analytical approaches to rhetoric. As materialism has resurfaced in the past decade especially, rhetoric is in need of theories which complicate human subjectivity and action, which chart the role of matter in our lives, and which see the human body itself as material stuff affected by other materials and other bodies in motion. Bringing these issues to the surface, along with related currents in rhetorical theory, this panel offers not definitive answers but probing questions and provisional responses to some of the most difficult and significant concerns in rhetorical theory today, questions whose answers will undeniably impact our approaches to human action and reaction, to address and response—the most ancient of rhetorical concerns.
This panel invites papers which explore rhetorical theory in general, but prefers papers which relate rhetoric, specifically or generally, to the below topics:
Abstract Deadline: June 10th, 2019
Please Submit Abstract through PAMLA website: https://pamla.ballastacademic.com/Home/S/17884
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