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Putting Rhetoric, Bodies, and Environments Back Together Again
English 604 Spring 2012 TH 6:00-8:30 Adorjan 341 Nathaniel A. Rivers email@example.com @altrhet Office Hours: TH: 4:00-5:30 (and by appointment)
The anthropologist Tim Ingold, in his voluminous essay collection The Perception of the Environment, poignantly argues, “Something, I felt, must be wrong somewhere, if the only way to understand our own creative involvement in the world is by taking ourselves out of it” (173). That is, Ingold challenges the view that the human experience, by virtue of language, technology, culture, etc., is marked by a fundamental disconnect from its surroundings. Ingold’s task, then, is to position human creative involvement in a world that is constitutive of and constituted by human activity (alongside the activity of the many nonhumans that likewise inhabit it). Such an understanding of human involvement in the world informs rhetorical theory, as it is itself articulated by and as rhetorical theory. In bringing humans back down to earth, Ingold challenges typically Western binaries between nature and culture, subject and object, human and nonhuman—binaries that have likewise been used by and since Plato to circumscribe Putting human activity back into the world, Tim Ingold rhetoric’s creative potential. This course, uses The Harvesters, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1565), to argue that “the landscape is constituted as an enduring following Ingold’s lead and the lead of those record of—and testimony to—the lives and works of past whom he echoes, aims to put rhetoric back into generations who have dwelt within it, and in so doing, the world. have left there something of themselves” (189). This Re-placing rhetoric can be accomplished if reading of landscape offers much to rhetorical theory— its ends are extended to include not only our much that is new and much that is familiar. symbolic interactions, but also our nonsymbolic dramas as well. Additionally, we must include the dramas, “the ontological adventures” (Barnett), of nonhumans as well. Recent cognitive, biological, and environmental science allows us to do just that: to persuasively regain for rhetoric its creative force in the lives of individuals and groups and to informatively re-place rhetoric in the social, biological, and environmental contexts from which it emerges. We should not enact rhetoric as merely the subjectification of humans and/or the objectification of nonhumans, but the many, sometimes agonistic ways that the world is cobbled together through the interplay of social, biological, and environmental relations. Without remaking the rational subject, without reifying the “real,” and without privileging the “ideal,” this course proposes that we (and this “we” might very well include humans and nonhumans alike) navigate and negotiate the formation of the world that form us, and, in doing so, reconsider the alternative shapes rhetoric takes and the work rhetoric accomplishes.
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The title of this course—“Alternative Rhetorics”—suggests not just other ways of figuring contemporary rhetoric, but of figuring Rhetoric, from the beginning, as always already alternative. The rhetoric articulated through this course is, in several important ways, not the “rhetoric” left to us by a dominant, Philosophical tradition. Since Plato and his student Aristotle, rhetoric has often been cordoned off as a type of discourse that is at worst deception and at best ornamentation. This view, found at several points in Plato’s dialogues, seems to represent rather well contemporary The figure of the cyborg—in this case a attitudes toward rhetoric. Equally important is how Plato’s female cyborg reflecting historical figurations of rhetoric as feminine—works to resist philosophy—and the key binaries upon which it is binaries between self and world, human and predicated—informs our understanding of the “natural” nonhuman, and between body and world, our place in it, and the science with which we environment: binaries that work to both investigate it. Indeed, as we shall see in our interdisciplinary circumscribe rhetoricʼs creative potential and readings in biology, cognitive science, sociology, and to disconnect humans from the world. anthropology, many of these key binaries have shaped the development of intellectual pursuits other than rhetoric. Plato’s treatment of rhetoric is comprehensive, and the realms he creates—the bins he fashions—work to control the slipperiness of rhetoric, of human relationships, and of the shape of the world. This is, in short, how Plato delimits Being. However, the sophists, Gorgias in particular, offer an already present alternative tradition. Whereas the Platonic tradition, which includes Aristotle, would control rhetoric by anchoring it to Philosophy and the “logical architecture of reality” (White 27), Gorgias harbors forth rhetoric into the flux of Becoming. Rhetoric, then, becomes something other than a “handmaiden to morality and politics” (White 22); it becomes, in a word, cultivating. From within and as part of “an unending flux” (White 16), rhetorical action is “determinative” and “essentially creative” (Lanham 156). However, in arguing that rhetoric is “essentially creative” we must hesitate before making ourselves masters of the universe. For as rhetoric gains ground, so to does the rest of the world and the things that constitute it with us. There are, of course, numerous ways to chart the history of rhetoric. Our point of sail, pursuing in large part the question posed by Victor Vitanza of what rhetoric will have been, is but one. The present course is charted through common topics in rhetorical theory: the rhetorical situation, subjectivity, agency, invention, kairos, and others. We revisit early figurations of these topics and, then, explore alternative re-figurations. For instance, how has our understanding of invention changed over time and in what ways will our understanding of invention evolve? Is invention the act of an individual rhetor determining the available means of persuasion, or is invention a distributed activity in which the individual rhetor is but one participant along with audiences, environments, bodies, and technologies? Likewise, does the rhetorical situation call the rhetor to speak, or is the rhetor the creator of the situation through rhetorical action? Is it something in between or entirely otherwise? The course, as a whole, echoes this structure: we start with Plato and the Sophists, move further back to the Pre-Socratics, and then grapple with contemporary treatments of the above topics. The course moves through history by continually returning to it: not a moving beyond but a moving through and with.
Ways of Proceeding
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There are five assignments in this course. The first three papers, each to be written on one, singlespaced 8.5x14 sheet of paper (legal size), synthesize readings that fall within a particular phase. Students should address as many of the readings as possible (rather than simply doing a close reading of one text): connections are key. I expect that composing and fitting this synthesis onto on sheet of legal-sized paper will be difficult. Rather than simply demonstrating mastery of the material, these papers should perform the Assignments course readings in ways that Paper Day Papers 20% x 3 make them salient for an Dwelling Exercise 10% audience of peers. In addition to Final Paper 20% salience, students should Online/In-Class Participation/Presentations 10% engaging the readings affirmatively. Affirmative readings are an alternative to common, critical engagements with texts that operate in the negative register (e.g., what this text leaves out, overlooks, or otherwise excludes, simplifies, or glosses?). This is not to say that such readings are unproductive or unnecessary (as such readings are often both productive and necessary). It is to suggest other ways of reading that mine each and every text for something that can be “taken away,” “augmented,” “adopted,” or “utilized.” It is a way of reading that leaves the reader open to persuasion—to approach a text perfectly willing to be “converted to the enemy’s camp.” Affirmative readings generate new questions, new ideas, and new ways of thinking. Rather than privileging certain texts, ranking them, or replacing them with one another, affirmative readings allow us to see each reading as contributing to our understanding of particular issues or themes. These papers are then shared with the class on “paper day.” That is, students read aloud their papers. I cannot stress enough the performative nature of this assignment: papers should be written to be read aloud and to engage other students. Papers not presented do not count. There is also regular online discussion throughout the semester, which will take place via Twitter (#altrhet12). We might also very well use Twitter to foster backchat during presentations and the occasional film screening. To help guide in-class discussion, each student will be responsible for introducing one of the week’s readings. This introduction can take any number of forms, but it should address and integrate all of the City Museum. We will explore this site, which collects and repurposes architectural and industrial objects from the city assigned readings for that week. There is of Saint Louis, as “an enduring record of—and testimony to— also a collaborative assignment. As a class, the lives and works of past generations who have dwelt we will visit the City Museum in downtown within it.” Saint Louis. For those unfamiliar, the City Museum is an interactive space built entirely from repurposed architectural and industrial objects found within the city limits. Called the “Dwelling Exercise,” the activity asks students as a class to engage the space in terms of course readings and concepts. The final paper is an extended exploration of one of the topics covered during the course.
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As a graduate seminar driven by student discussion, attendance and participation in all facets of the course are essential. Given the vital importance of student participation, I expect every student to attend every class. If an absence is unavoidable, students are asked to discuss it with me beforehand so that alternative arrangements can be made.
All readings will be made available online through Dropbox. Free accounts are available at www.dropbox.com.
This list organizes the course readings into three phases. These three phases articulate related readings and direct our attention to specific issues in rhetorical theory. These phases are not mutually exclusive; they necessarily bleed into one another. Note: some of these readings are optional (these will be so indicated on the course calendar). Students will find many of these readings difficult. The density of the prose, the abstractness of the concepts, and the confrontation of divergent viewpoints and values make this reading list equal parts challenging and rewarding. I fully expect, however, that genuine and generous engagement with these texts will see students through the semester. Phase One: Rhetoricʼs Contested Roots Anonymous. “Dissoi Logoi.” Aristotle. Selections from Rhetoric. Auden, W.H. “Unpredictable Bur Providential.” Burke, Kenneth. “(Nonsymbolic)Motion/(Symbolic)Action.” Gorgias. “Encomium of Helen.” Gorgias. “On Not-Being.” Heraclitus of Ephesus. Fragments. Ingold, Tim. Selections from The Perception of the Environment. Isocrates. Against the Sophists and a selection from Antidosis. Jarratt, Susan C. Selections from Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured. Kelley, Donald R. Selections from The Human Measure: Social Thought in the Western Legal Tradition. Lanham, Richard. “The ‘Q’ Question.” Latour, Bruno. Selections from Pandora’s Hope Lovejoy, Arthur O. “The Meaning of Φυσις in the Greek Physiologers.” Plato. Gorgias (in The Rhetorical Tradition). The Rhetorical Tradition. “General Introduction” and “Classical Rhetoric Introduction.” Welch, Kathleen Ethel. “Keywords from Classical Rhetoric: The Example of Physis.” White, Eric Charles. Selection from Kaironomia. Woodbridge, Frederick J.E. “The Dominant Conception of the Earliest Greek Philosophy.” Phase Two: Rhetoricʼs Environments Biesecker, Barbara A. “Rethinking the Rhetorical Situation from Within the Thematic of Différence.” Bitzer, Lloyd F. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Burke, Kenneth. Selection from A Grammar of Motives. Consigny, Scott. “Rhetoric and Its Situations.” Edbauer, Jenny. “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.” Fredal, James. Selection from Rhetorical Action in Ancient Athens: Persuasive Artistry from Solon to Demosthenes.
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Ingold, Tim. Selections from The Perception of the Environment and Being Alive. Marback, Richard. “Detroit and the Closed Fist: Toward a Theory of Material Rhetoric.” Marback, Richard. “Unclenching the Fist: Embodying Rhetoric and Giving Objects Their Due.” Porter, James E., et al. “Institutional Critique: A Rhetorical Methodology for Change.” Rickert, Thomas. “In the House of Doing: Rhetoric and the Kairos of Ambience.” Rickert, Thomas. “Invention in the Wild: On Locating Kairos in Space-Time.” Rivers, Nathaniel A. “Some Assembly Required: The Latourian Collective and the Banal Work of Technical and Professional Communication.” Sunstein, Case and Richard Thaler. Selections from Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation.” Phase Three: Rhetoricʼs Bodies Ballif, Michelle. “Writing the Third-Sophistic: Periphrasis on an [In]Tense Rhetoric.” Barnett, Scot. “Toward an Object-Oriented Rhetoric.” Bennett, Jane. “The Force of Things: Steps Toward an Ecology of Matter.” Brooke, Collin Gifford. “Forgetting to be (Post)Human: Media and Memory in a Kairotic Age.” Burke, Kenneth. Selections from Attitudes Toward History and Permanence and Change Chambliss, Daniel F. “The Mundanity of Excellence: An Ethnographic Report on Stratification and Olympic Swimmers.” Clark, Andy. Selections from Natural-Born Cyborgs and Being There. Cooper, Marilyn. “Being Linked in the Matrix: Biology, Technology, and Writing.” Cooper, Marilyn. “Rhetorical Agency as Emergent and Enacted.” Corder, Jim W. “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love.” Covino, William. “Grammars of Transgression: Golems, Cyborgs, and Mutants.” Davis, Diane. “Identification: Burke and Freud on Who You Are.” Derksen, Maarten and Nathaniel Rivers. “Ecologies of Deception: Psychology, Rhetoric and Agency.” Derksen, Maarten. “Cultivating Human Nature.” Geisler, Cheryl. “How Ought We to Understand the Concept of Rhetorical Agency? Report from the ARS.” Geisler, Cheryl. “Teaching the Post-Modern Rhetor: Continuing the Conversation on Rhetorical Agency.” Haraway, Donna. “Cyborg Manifesto.” Hawhee, Debra. “Burke on Drugs.” Hawhee, Debra. Selection from Moving Bodies Hayles, N. Katherine. “Flesh and Metal: Reconfiguring the Mindbody in Virtual Environments.” Herndl, Carl and Adela Licona. “Shifting Agency: Agency, Kairos, and the Possibilities of Social Action.” Ingold, Tim. Selections from The Perception of the Environment. Lundberg, Christian and Joshua Gunn. “Ouija Board, Are There Any Communications?’ Agency, Ontotheology, and the Death of the Humanist Subject, or, Continuing the ARS Conversation.” Maturana, Humberto and Francisco Varela. Selections from The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Miller, Carolyn. “What Can Automation Tell Us About Agency.” Muckelbauer, John and Debra Hawhee. “Posthuman Rhetorics.” Rose, Nikolas. “The Politics of Life Itself.”
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