Current Rhetorical Theory: Material Rhetorics
If rhetoric is commonly defined as the art of persuasion, then work in material rhetorics urges us to account for how persuasion operates in excess of rationality, communicative aims, symbolic content, and human agency altogether. Focusing on rhetoric’s materiality attunes us to the material conditions and constraints of rhetorical invention; the effects and consequences of rhetoric in the world; the dynamic means and modes that “sustain the production, circulation, and consumption of rhetorical power” (Selzer 9-10); the deep enmeshment of discourse, materiality, and ideology in everyday life; the role materiality plays in shaping dispositions and reproducing particular ways of knowing and doing; the rhetorical qualities of things, objects, matter and built environments; and the rhetorical force of bodies, emotion, and affect.
Some of the questions that we will explore in this seminar include: How might adopting a material approach shift our conception of key concepts in rhetorical studies—such as the rhetorical situation, agent/agency, audience, invention, persuasion, argument, and so on? What methodologies are available and best suited for studying rhetoric’s materiality? How might a focus on materiality help us better persuade, lead, communicate, cooperate, and/or teach?
In this seminar, we will explore rhetoric’s materiality through research on performance, embodiment, built and natural environments, ecologies, networks, multimodality, post-humanism, and objects. Readings will be quite theoretical, but our aim will be to ask how our theories might be grounded, challenged, and studied, as well as used as tools of intervention within classrooms, publics, workplaces, and other everyday contexts.
Some Core Texts Under Consideration:
Kristin Arola and Anne Wysocki, Eds. Composing (Media)=Composing Embodiment (2012)
Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (2010)
Barbara Biesecker and John Lucaites, Eds. Rhetoric, Materiality, and Politics (2009)
David Bleich, The Materiality of Language: Gender, Politics, and the University (2013)
Sharon Crowley and Jack Selzer, Eds. Rhetorical Bodies (1999)
Rebecca Dingo, Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public Policy Writing (2012)
Deb Hawhee, Moving Bodies: Kenneth Burke at the Edges of Language (2012)
Phaedra Pezullo, Toxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Pollution, Travel, and Environmental Justice (2009)
Thomas Rickert, Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being (2013)