Comparative Possibilisms In the Form of Historiography

Comparative Possibilisms In the Form of Historiography


Matter is a tendency toward spatialization.

Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter

Setting up Space for Historiography

In questioning how to do historiographic work, the emphasis of do encapsulates and conflates method/ology, subject matter, and evidence all into a single word. Debates on how to do historiographic work raise as matter of concern who or what is being researched, how the text is being written (through what lens is the history being seen), and what the history contributes to knowledge in the discipline of rhetoric. The histories of rhetoric could fill volumes of text categorized by time, subject/object, method, methodology. Histories invoke other histories as acts of carrying forward, of pausing, or even revising, but this relationality of texts is based on events in time. While methods of historiography continue to work towards attention to the agency of objects and space on an event (a shift in perspective from human to nonhuman) and to look at events as more ecological in composition (made up of many elements), the form these histories take, the space they occupy, is bound by lines in time.


Rhetorical texts occupy rectangular fields in books and journals, with the occasional rupture of this rectangular frame in digital publication environments. I am curious what historiographical texts might be able to take as matter of concern if they are able to matter, to occupy spatiality. Writer William Burroughs developed a concept of media being, that he described as an individual who mixes and is mixed, who composes with media by commutating, appropriating, visualizing, and chorally structuring knowledge. The concept of chora, credited to Plato, designates  a receptacle, a space, or an interval; the space creates time and place conditions. In “Toward a Post-Techne Or, Inventing Pedagogies for Professional Writing”, Byron Hawk, through posthumanist theory, discusses the concept of ambience—of a relationality from emergence that attunes to environment. He explains “This view sees cognition, thinking, and invention as being beyond the autonomous, conscious, willing subject. A writer is not merely in a situation but is a part of it and is constituted by it. A human body, a text, or an act is the product not simply of foregrounded thought but of complex developments in the ambient environment” (378). In a rectangular frame of text, even reference and contradiction as integral to argument or as footnote or bibliography entry are limited through construction as lines in the “temporal” present that allude to something beyond that they cannot call upon. I question the affordances of constructing texts as spatially minded (acknowledging that all texts are spatial in consideration of layout); what can the form of texts make available to historiographic work?

In this text/as this text, I will experiment with spatiality as form and as method/ology for doing historiography. My purpose is to provoke considerations in historiographic work in opening up texts as demonstrative of spatiality through cut up and juxtaposed elements of comparative rhetoric, Victor Vitanza’s Third Sophistic and Post-Philosophical Rhetorics, works of literature, sound bytes, glitched images, Twitter bots, and texts altered by various enhancing or disruptive processes of web 2.0 tools.


Mattering of Spatiality in Historiographic Research

I want to first acknowledge historiographic research that takes as matter of concern mattering—elements of ambience, environment, and spatiality that lend me space to form of work as significant. These scholars destabilize more traditional notions of historiographic work to draw attention to what is eclipsed in predispositioned views of time and space in not only the event being researched, but how the historical text of that event is constructed. In “Thinking beyond Aristotle: The Turn to How in Comparative Rhetoric” LuMing Mao describes comparative rhetoric as an inherently interdisciplinary research method, and as “committed to different ways of knowing and speaking and to different forms of inquiry, investigates across time and space communicative practices that frequently originate in noncanonical contexts and are often marginalized, forgotten, or erased altogether” (448). Citing emphasis placed and propagated by Aristotle’s work to define proper and essential subject for the art of rhetoric and on the body of proof for its demonstration, Mao illuminates the emphasis on a perpetual want to claim a set of concepts for rhetoric, despite the competing meanings that have accumulated over time. Mao attributes this emphasis to the need to claim intellectual progress, and as a result, disciplinary legitimacy as study. Instead of fixating on facts of essence, Mao suggests a shift to focus on facts of usage to develop a more informed understanding of the conditions of historicity, specificity, and incongruity.


Mao invokes Jenny Edbauer Rice’s rhetorical ecologies as a way of envisioning history that permits and frustrates the available means and models of discourse in the “shifting and moving, grafted onto and connected with other events” and lined “to the in-between en/action of events and encounters”. Rice’s rhetorical ecology reimagines rhetorical situation—kairotic moments of rhetoric— as “a framework of affective ecologies that recontextualizes rhetorics in their temporal, historical, and lived fluxes”. This new ways of seeing matters of fact can lead to the discovery of new paradigms of knowing. In comparative rhetoric, this look in between two texts is not to see the similarities and differences across them, but to see the effects of text—what has influenced and been influenced. The move is “metadiscplinary” (Haun Saussy); the purpose is not to guarantee uniqueness or coherence, but to represent “the condition of openness to new objects and new forms of inquiry” (453).


In that unbounded moment, I saw millions of delightful and terrible acts, none amazed me so much as the fact that all occupied the same point, without superposition and without transparency. What my eyes saw was simultaneous what I shall write is successive because language is successive. Something of it, though, I will capture.

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Aleph”


Similar to LuMing Mao’s disruption of temporal and spatial coherence to keep inquiry open, in “Writing the Event: The Impossible Possibility for Historiography”, Michelle Baliff discusses making history variable, questions  what it means to not only acknowledge that history is contested, but to create histories to be contested. She explains that “‘normative historical thinking’ elides the radical singularity of the event by subjecting the event meaning by way of categories of knowledge that cannot—by definition—include the radical singularity of ‘what happened’” (243). According to traditional historical thinking, events are only significant if they satisfy a chronological narrative of beginning, middle, and end; they are constrained by temporality. Baliff is interested in unbinding events from temporality to explore the possibility of impossibility; instead of submitting an event to a particular state of being by making ontological claims about the event (which flatten it along a horizontal timeline), the event is instead merely foregrounded by its various appearances (244). Baliff is suggesting a view of events as singular, as exceptional, as not reducible to pre-existing dispositions of rules or norms. The event is instead arrivant, a future that cannot be foreseen (246). This shifts the future from horizontal expectations of temporality to a vertical orientation (246). The event is then always repeatable, it reappears in its possibility to arrive all the time instead of at a time. The event disrupts categorical systems of creating knowledge by forcing consideration in how to write historiography that reorients time as an event— as possibility (247). Writing becomes of chance because the destination of the event cannot be determined. Like Mao’s description of comparative texts being structured as representative of a condition of openness, Baliff describes the text of the event as hospitality; the text sets the table, but leaves an empty place setting for what will have arrived, what has not yet arrived, and for what could not be recognized as having arrived (254).

Victor Vitanza’s “Imagine A Re-Thinking of Historiographies (of Rhetorics)” also takes as matter of concern how and where texts are constructed by calling for re-thinking how histories are told. Vitanza works to dismantle the bounds of temporality through the use of theories of cinema as atemporal and anachronistic. He explains that historiography “plots out a transcendental, vertical line of negation, via a rationalization, that executes the conditions of possibility for realizing the desire for the lost object” (268). The lost object is a desire for linear narrative as model for historical events, but he proposes that film has replaced narrative because it can speed up events, stretch them in slow motion, work them into flashbacks, and most importantly cut and splice stating “Life is not about stories, about actions oriented towards an end, but about situations open in every direction. Life [is] made up of an infinity of micro-movements” (qting Jacques Ranciere) (282). Reimagining historiographies with film disrupts chrono-time into non-linear and multi-linear histories—histories tremble— by way of images over words because writing erases the present (273).

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Mattering of Spatiality: Other of the Eye and Ear


If spatiality is ambience, developed from complexity, how can it be attuned to?


Roland Barthes’ Third Meaning looks at stills from film, working in this “inarticulable beyond” to articulate meaning beyond that of the obvious and the symbolic. This is difficult to do because as Barthes explains a third meaning is “a signifier without a signified” (61). Obvious meanings are evident; they seek the reader/viewer out (54). The obstuse meaning is one too many, it

“extend[s] outside culture, knowledge, information; analytically, it has something derisory about it: opening out into the infinity of language, it can come through as limited in the eyes of analytic reason; it belongs to the family of pun, buffoonery, useless expenditure.  Indifferent to moral or aesthetic categories (the trivial, the futile, the false, the pastiche), it is on the side of carnival” (55). Third meaning outplays meaning because it is discontinuous, depletion, accent (61-62). The third meaning—theoretically locatable but not describable—”can be seen as the passage from language to significance and in the founding act of the filmic itself” (65).


allow that oscillation succinct demonstration—an elliptic emphasis… Roland Barthes


In “Other of the Ear”, Victor Vitanza recounts the space/time whe(re)n he experienced tinnitus—the hearing of noises when there is no outside source of sound—and labyrinthitis—a disorder of irritation and inflammation of the inner ear. He exclaims that it is “The thEAtRe (not a Club) of the Third!… Which would be the pedagogical site of the Revenge of the Object.”

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Sub/Versions of History and Form

While the work of LuMing Mao and Michelle Baliff provide theoretical considerations of historiography that consider space, their construction does not. (Juxtaposed) To their concepts, I wish to model form theory/theory form with the sub/versions of histroiography of Victor Vitanza. In “‘Some More’ Notes, Toward a ‘Third Sophistic’” Victor Vitanza provides an account of  Sophistic traditions in categories he describes as: Classical, Modern, and Postmodern or ParaRhetoric. According to Vitanza, Traditional or Classical Rhetoric is the art of discovering the available means of persuasion in the given case (Aristotle); “its ideal is unity, simplicity, and communicability”.  Modern Rhetoric is the art of accounting for the available means of identification in the given case; the ideal is not persuasion but consubstantiality or sympathetic understanding (Burke). Modern Rhetoric attempts to foster heterogeneity of points of view, but semiotically attempts to “account for” a finite set of ways through which human beings are persuaded.  Postmodern or ParaRhetoric, his concept of a Third Sophistic, is an art of “resisting and disrupting” the available means (that is, the cultural codes) that allow for persuasion and identification” (133). Through a  pathos of distance, ParaRhetoric plays and engages  ideas not just “contra to” but “along side” (133). He explains that a  “Third Sophistic Rhetoric is interested in perpetual decodification and deterritorialization”; it has no faith in the game (or gain) of knowledge or the grand narrative of emancipation in history (133).  Vitanza deploys these figures to consider and disrupt the role of negation and subjectivity in “the” history of rhetoric. Vitanza seeks a movement from (negative) possibilities and probabilities to (denegated) incompossibilities (counter-factual, co-extensive possibilities). The “Third Sophistic Rhetoric” as well as the “excluded middle” serve as the structure for doing hysteriography—his stance on historical work deviating from a singular construction of history. He explains “The notion of a “Third Sophistic,” as I espouse it here, can be more accurately understood according to the topoi of “antecedent and consequent” rather than “cause and effect,” and according to radical “parataxis” rather than “hypotaxis””. Vitanza limits the First and Second Sophistic to the counting of one and two in that they could only account for positions of first cause, and then cause and effect. The Third Sophistic counts to many because it is interested in the chora of hysteriography—the (competeing) voices of many.

The Third Sophistic  is a view that is “post-structuralist” and “postmodern” in that it acknowledges an incredulity toward “covering-law models” or “grand (causal) narratives” of history (writing/ speaking), such as an Hegelian or Marxist dialectical view of history as leading to ethical and political “emancipation,” or to a resolution of the “unhappy consciousness.” It is a view of history (writing/speaking), instead, that dis/engages in “just-drifting.” Whereas the First and Second Sophistics are told metonymically as cause and effect, Vitanza states that the Third will be told metonymically as contingency; he states It is “effective” in that it “differs from traditional history in being without constants”; it is “‘effective’ to the degree that it introduces discontinuity into our very being”; it is ” ‘effective’ history [in that] it will not permit itself to be transported by a voiceless obstinacy toward a millenial ending”  (119 qting Michel Foucault).

The “voiceless obstinacy” is what Vitanza takes issue with when argument is the basis of production—what matters— in rhetoric. He explains that too often an argument is perpetuated based on its repetition, not on its semantic content (133). He describes that an emphasis on reason as method is detrimental to what is possible. He explains that what is wanted is dissensus or hetreologia/paralogia saying ”It is Humanism that I am against. The basic, insidious assumption of Humanism is that human beings are free to deliberate on public issues, that they “express” this freedom in and when achieving “consensus” (homologia, argumentation)” (130). Argumentation is the struggle against the realization that language is the result of purely rhetorical tricks and devices, or that language is rhetoric. Argumentation, after long use,  seems “solid, canonical, and binding to a nation” (131).  Argument can become a hindrance to progress because commonplaces ways of fostering, protecting, and maintaining only the status quo.

Instead of negation in production, Vitanza is provoking the idea of the contingent in production: “That’s just it: feeling that the impossible is possible. That the necessary is contingent. That linkage must be made, but that there won’t be anything upon which to link. The ‘and’ with nothing to grab onto. Hence, not just the contingency of the how of linking, but the vertigo of the last phrase” (qting Jean-Francois Lyotard 134).

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…the results are often startling and effective… Marshall McLuhan

In “Critical Sub/Versions of the History of Philosophical Rhetoric”, Victor Vitanza plays with the idea of contingency and vertigo as a spatial condition of reading ParaRhetoric. He  calls for a change in style in discourse—not argumentation but poetics of rhetoric. He opens with a quote from Michel Foucault, “I have a dream of an intellectual who destroys evidences and universalities, who locates and points out in the inertias and constraints of the present the weak points, the openings, the lines of stress; who constantly displaces himself, not knowing exactly where he’ll be or what he’ll think tomorrow…” Michel Foucault “The History of Sexuality: Interview”.

To Vitanza, this quote demonstrates an Anti-Platonic history that pushes views of history that are considered received to the limits of the carnivalesque which oppose the idea of history as recognition or reminiscence by stylistically sub/version; that systematically dissociates identity or  a single stable self which opposes history as continuity or representative of tradition by  practicing an expressive, literary rhetoric like the sophists who practiced dissoi logoi (new histories of rhetoric will practice dissoi paralogoi); and that all knowledge rests upon injustice, which opposes history as knowledge by moving from representative anecdotes to “mis/representative antidotes” to be “curative fiction” (not as opposed to nonfiction, but as constructing interpretive-fictions) (54). This is a Post-Philosophical Rhetoric, a Sub/Versive Rhetoric that need not borrow the methods or contents of history. Sub/Versive Rhetoric is not attempting to convince readers but provoke an alternative predisposition (44). Like Vitanza’s careful/playful conceptual work in developing the Third Sophistic, he explains that this Post-Philosophical Rhetoric distances itself from persuasion and identification (the domain of old and new rhetoric). Sub/Versive Rhetoric is paralogism; its vision is not consensus  but the searching out of instabilities as a practice of paralogisms to undermine from within the very framework in which the “normal science” has been conducted (52). Sub/Versive histories of Rhetoric are pro/claim themselves through intertextuality (53) that ispluralistic and anarachsitic and through dismemberment or creative undoing (from Mikhail Bakhtin) that uses “use of montage and quotation so one text is laced through with other texts scissor-like rhetorical figures as catchphrases, ironies, ellipses, metalepsis, aporias, parapraxis, parentheses, stylistic infelicities to destroy the Aristotelian order of propriety” (57).


Form A directs sound channels—Continuous operation in such convenient Life Form B—Final Switching off of tape cuts “oxygen” Life Forms B by cutting off machine will produce cut-up of human form determined by the switching chosen—Totally alien “music” need not survive in any “emotion” due to the “oxygen” rendered down to a form of music—Intervention directing all movement what will be the end product?—Reciprocation detestable to us for how could we become part of the array?—Could this metal impression follow to present language learning?—Talking and listening machine led and replaced—

William S. Burroughs, “Two Tape Recorder Mutations”, Nova Express


Byzantine Art: Perceptions of Dimension

The most notable aesthetic  feature of byzantine art was its “abstract” or anti-natural character, in contrast to classical art’s attempt to create representations that mimicked reality as closely as possible.

byzantine mural


When we read, our first instinct is to ask what the text is about, to determine our understanding of it. What would it mean to claim the form of texts as Byzantine art?



In Edmund Abbott’s novel Flatland describes a two-dimensional world occupied by geometric figures. One of the figures, Square, dreams about visiting the one-dimensional world, Lineland, attempting to convince the world’s monarch of a second dimension. Square is then visited by a three-dimensional sphere, which he cannot be convinced of until he sees Spaceland. Each millenium, Sphere visits Flatland to introduce a new being to the idea of a third dimension in hopes of educating the population of Flatland to its existence. Once Square sees Spaceland and his mind is opened to new dimensions, he tries to convince Sphere of the possibility of the existence of a fourth, fifth, and sixth spatial dimension, but Sphere returns Square to Flatland perturbed. Square has another dream in which Sphere visits him once again, this time to introduce him to Pointland wherein the Point (sole inhabitant, monarch and universe) perceives any communication as originating in its own mind. Sphere and Square leave Point and Pointland because of its ignorance in omniscience and omnipresence, labelling Point as incapable of being rescued from self satisfaction.


Imagine someone from our world of three-dimensions orienting themselves  in a two- dimensional world—being accustomed to perception in three-dimensions but only having two available.

Katie Rose Pipkin’s presentation of her webtext “selfhood, the icon, and byzantine presence” at this year’s Bot Summit—a meeting of Tiny Subversions—of various bot makers. Rose Pipkin began her webtext/presentation with a discussion of the tenants of Byzantine Philosophy: that person is ontological rather than substance or essence; that the creation of the world is by god and the limited timescale of the universe; that the process of creation is continuous; and that the perceptible world is realization in time perceptible to mind. She transitioned from discussing iconography of saints in Byzantine murals to computer icons—both symbolic representations.

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She discusses digitization using the works of Walter Benjamin thus contrasting mechanization with digitization explaining “ digitization is not mechanization, and duplication within this space is not autonomy”. Mechanically produced objects begin as identical in their construction and are placed in the world as unique entities of individual existence. Digital objects appear in multiplicity at once and forever and are not individually manipulatable. In this space, a copy is not a manipulation, as in a mechanical reproduction, it is a recreation; “like mitosis, a copy has the capacity for individual mutation but does not intrinsically affect its parent. a retweet of information is not a duplication nor a shift in scale; a retweet impacts the structural bridge of a networked idea, not the intrinsic idea itself.” Recreations in digital space exist both inside and outside of accumulated time.

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Making In Spatiality: Invention by Bot and in the Margin

Twitter bots are Twitter accounts that compose tweets based on computer algorithms that generate content from mining other text sources. The results can vary from comedic to poetic as bots create new text from anything from Craigslist advertisements to museum catalogues. The tweets work in the space of juxtaposition and the form of the tweet (140 characters and an image). The form of the spliced tweet makes space for invention.

Jim Brown has a project called Making Machines that he describes as “an attempt to create new machines for the digital rhetorician” as a new form of machine for generating and interpreting arguments that the rhetorical tradition offers. Brown has created a Twitter bot that chooses at random two works from Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg’s anthology The Rhetorical Tradition which he then has to create a mashup text of. The mashup texts take the two texts to create a concept in a 3,000 word essay that is accompanied by a digital object that makes use of that concept.

The Twitter bot creates a new space for reading, a new perception that works in the abstraction of materials in spatial relations to one another.

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In R. Eno’s edition of the Analects of Confucius, Eno remarks that “scholars generally see the text as having been brought together over the course of two to three centuries, and believe little if any of it can be viewed as a reliable record of Confucius’s own words, or even of his individual views”. Instead he draws analogy to the biblical Gospels as offering “an evolving record of the image of Confucius and his ideas through from the changing standpoints of various branches of the school of thought he founded”. Further, due to the materiality of the original texts—ink drawn characters on strips of bamboo that were tied together with string— “all of the books bear the traces of rearrangements and later insertions, to a degree that makes it difficult to see any common thematic threads at all”.

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Eno’s edition also includes a number of appendices that call attention to the speculation of reconstructive and translation work. Eno explains the numbering of the books in the as “speculative because we don’t know the original order of the bamboo slips; moreover some slips are clearly missing, many sections are fragmentary and difficult to reconstruct. In some cases, a passage number stands by a single orphan character, signifying that we can infer that a passage including the character existed, but it is otherwise lost (there may be other lost passages for which no remnant characters survive)”. Eno’s edition of Analects, in its design/layout, draws attention to how difficult reading is and just how much need be done to/with the text so that it can be read. This edition seems to demonstrate some of the critical considerations we have discussed in doing historiographic research—making the processing of the text more visible to the reader to consider and engage with.


Imagine marginal space that isn’t marginal, but can provide space for choral construction.


The first Octalog (1988) was a panel of eight historians of rhetoric—James Berlin, Robert Connors, Sharon Crowley, Richard Enos, Victor Vitanza, Susan Jarratt, Nan Johnson, Jan Swearingen and James Murphy— who held differing positions on the nature, purpose, and methods of doing research in the history of rhetoric, the nature of interpretation, and issues concerning the belief in objective knowing (Richard Enos, Octalog II). The scholars had no agreed upon field or base for debating historical work, with matters of concern ranging from the questioning of the agnostic patterns in rhetorical argument and dialectical exchange as an inscription of gender and the implication on literacy and rhetoric  (Jan Swearingen), the necessity of  openness and attention toward new sources of evidence and methodologies for analysis for a more sensitive understanding of the history of rhetoric instead of one rooted in conformity and tradition (Richard Enos), to proposing an alternative position of redefinition contrary to the primary historiographical trope of rediscovery and possession of forgotten treasures in doing historical work (Susan Jarratt). The goal was not consensus, but the space of allowing ideas to interact, contradict, and leave pregnant pause for further discussion. In reading the linear transcript of that exchange, imagine someone from a world of three-dimensions orienting themselves in a two- dimensional world—being accustomed to perception in three-dimensions but only having two available.



Forming Historiographic Texts as Weak Theory

How did you read this text? Was it something taken in holistically? Or taken in as parts—some emphasized and others overlooked or overshadowed. The spatial construction of this text is demonstrative of historiographic work in that it is not bound or concrete. What I hope to have demonstrated in this spatial text of associations is that it can be taken apart. Some elements of this may be taken and reworked, while others may be left to become detrius. Kathleen Stewart’s “Weak Theory” builds from the weak theory concept of Eve Sedgwick, which she describes as “theory that comes unstuck from its own line of thought to follow the objects it encounters, or becomes undone by its attention to things that just don’t add up but take on a life of their own as problems for thought” (72). Stewart draws attention to the cultural poesis of forms of living whose “objects are textures and rhythms, trajectories, and modes of attunement, attachment, and composition” (71). The point is not to cast value to these objects or somehow get their representation right, but to wonder what potential modes of “knowing, relating, and attending to things” are present in them and their relations to other objects (71). Poesis is a mode of production through which  something throws itself together; Stewart explains poesis as an opening onto something that “maps a thicket of connections between vague yet forceful and affecting elements” (72). There is something waiting to become something in disparate objects, people, circulations, publics because “a moment of poesis is a mode of production in an unfinished world” (77). Historiographic work is meant to be weak, to break, to be combined with other world elements as it is (un)formed.




Abbott, Edmund. Flatland. Seeley & Company, 1917.

Baliff, Michelle. “Writing the Event: The Impossible Possibility for Historiography”. Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 44 (3) 243-255.

Barthes, Roland. “The Third Meaning: Research notes on some Eisenstein Stills”. Camera Lucida. Hill & Wang, 1980.

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter. Duke University Press, 2010.

Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Aleph”. Collected Fictions. Penguin Groups, 1998.

Burroughs, William S. Nova Express. Grove Press, 1964.

Eno, R. Analects of Confucius. An Online Teaching Translation. Version 2.1.

Hawk, Byron. “Toward a Post-Techne Or, Inventing Pedagogies for Professional Writing”. Technical Communication Quarterly. 13 (4) 371-392.

@makingmachine Brown, Jim.

Mao, LuMing. “Thinking Beyond Aristotle: The Turn to How in Comparative Rhetoric”. PMLA.

McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium is the Massage.

Octalog. “The Politics of Historiography”. Rhetoric Review. 7 (1) 5-49.

Pipkin, Katie Rose. “selfhood, the icon, and byzantine presence”.

@Rhetbot Brooke, Collin.

Stewart, Kathleen. “Weak Theory in an Unfinished World”. Journal of Folklore Research. 45 (1) 71-82.

Vitanza, Victor. “Critical Sub/Versions of the History of Philosophical Rhetoric”. Rhetoric Review. 6 (1), 41-66.

Vitanza, Victor “Imagine A Re-Thinking of Historiographies (of Rhetorics)”. Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 44 (3), 271-286.

Vitanza, Victor. “Other of the Ear”.

Vitanza, Victor. “‘Some More’ Notes, Toward a Third Sophistic’”. Argumentation (5) 117-139.

Aspasia: Re-membering History

In reading about Aspasia this week, I was curious how these works, which work to remember, return, and regender rhetorical history, affect scholarship on the premise of their methods. Without much of an account on method (but some discussion of methodology), I wonder what it means to re-read—not in terms of a valuation of it, but in how it can be done to look at a text/s differently than before. Further, I was curious about how the claims/findings are written and their influence on how we can know (especially if methods are not made visible). Our conversations in class continue to make these paths of interest to explore, not just in historiographic work, but in reading scholarship differently with an attention to how texts are read and presented in research to be read by others.


  • from Plato’s Menexenus: names Aspasia his “excellent mistress in the art of rhetoric”
  • only know of her through Plato, Cicero and Plutarch
  • credited with authorship of Pericles’ famous funeral oration for those killed in the Peloponnesian War, which she could not deliver as a woman and non-Athenian
  • funeral oration (condensed):
  • set out to praise the goodness of the dead men’s birth, their nurture and education, the nobility of their actions, and their worthiness of such education they received
  • praises country as nurturing mother – mother (woman) is an imitation of mother (earth)
  • discusses equality of government based on natural equality in birth giving power to those most deserving
  • what are we to make of this oration from Aspasia “who is only a woman” (Menexenus to Socrates)? what is the rhetoric of its rhetoric?
  • how and in what/who has Aspasia been studied? What are the research methods and materials?

Cheryl Glenn’s “Classical Rhetoric Conceptualized” from her book Rhetoric Retold: Regendering The Tradition from Antiquity Through the Renaissance

  • uses concept of harmonia as a “fitting together” or “perfect fit” as a way of describing how women understood and “accepted their measure of domestic power and acted on their responsibility for creating the conditions under which harmony, order, law, and justice could exist in the state and in the home” — the social responsibilities of men and women are different, but are equal in harmonia in both the public and the private
  • discusses Gorgias, Isocrates, and the development of the polis before discussing Aspasia as a means to establish when and why rhetoric developed socially and politically to uphold moral values (virtue)


  • “brilliantly educated by means that have never been fully explained”
  • brought up in a transitional society of Asia Minor and was thus an outsider to Athens and free of the role brought about by the rigidity of traditional marriage
  • not being an aristocratic Athenian woman, Aspasia could rupture enclosure of the female body in the private/domestic sphere
  • only woman in classical Greece to distinguish herself in the public domain
  • coupled with Pericles through a romantic relationship that is described as more equal in his affections for her, his intellectual exchanges with her, his presence with her in public, and his living with her in the same home and entertaining men and their wives as company
  • established herself as a rhetor of teaching virtue/citizenship  instead of passing it on through childbirth from father/husband to son
  • worked to demonstrate that truth and belief are not inherently the same, which put her in the company of Plato and Socrates
  • Glenn closes with “Few women participated in the intellectual life of ancient Greece. Aspasia has emerged as an exceptional hero in a new rhetorical narrative”; what are the consequences (+/-) of such an assertion?
  • How (methods) is Glenn rereading these textual accounts of Aspasia? How does this in turn cause for a rereading of history?

Susan Jarratt and Rory Ong’s “Aspasia: Rhetoric, Gender, and Colonial Ideology”

set out to explore:

  • did Aspasia exist?
  • can she be known?
  • is that knowledge communicable?

Aspasia left no written remains/artifacts

like Glenn, Jarratt and Ong discuss Aspasia’s not fitting in with roles of women in Athenian society, but they move beyond wive/mother to also include slaves, concubines, prostitutes and hetaerae

credit her as teacher of rhetoric and perhaps inventor of the Socratic method

Jarratt and Ong end:

Aspasia, perhaps the first female orator in the Western tradition, attracted not only the admiration of Pericles and the fascination of Socrates but also the critical attention of  Plato intent on rereading the rhetorical world to which she gave voice. If we cannot recover the lost voice of Aspasia, we can set the echoes of her speech reverberating again for an age with its own concerns about democracy and political participation, production and reproduction, gender and citizenship

While Jarratt and Ong set out to answer three research questions, but claim that their “Reconstruction of ‘Aspasia’ will no more accurately recapture the ‘real’ woman” than do the character in Plutarch and Plato’s texts or artist captures of her figures (the traces of existence), but will rather “reflect back to us a set of contemporary concerns”; what does it mean to use a figure, history, or text in such a way? This seems different than re-gendering or re-membering (a body); what does it mean to re-claim history?

How can we study something/someone when material traces are not readily available? How does this/should this impact method?

Xin Liu Gale’s “Historical Studies and Postmodernism: Rereading Aspasia of Miletus”

  • reads three historical studies of Aspasia done by feminist historians to call attention to the difficulties of doing history and to help develop a sensitivity to the complexities of writing alternative histories and to provoke feminist scholars to seek more productive and convincing ways of reconstructing rhetorical histories of women in the male dominated academy
  • looks at Glenn’s study of Aspais, Jarratt and Ong’s study of Aspasia, and Madeline Henry’s study of Aspasia
    • Glenn: turns to historiography, feminism, gender theory, and postmodernism
    • Jarratt and Ong: utilize sophistic historiography and feminist sophistic
    • Henry: employs a synthetic historical method that combines philological method, a feminist perspective, and postmodern wisdom of situatedness of the text and researcher
  • critique of Glenn:
  • critique of Jarratt and Ong:
  • critique of Henry:
  • Gale discusses the limitations with each historical approach and its bearings on what we can/not claim from the work
  • Gale ends on “one more word on the need for a debate over historical methods”; quoting Foucault, she explains “history is a form of knowledge and a form of power at the same time; put differently, it is a means of controlling and domesticating the past in the form of knowing it”.
  • Gale questions how to do historical work that strays from male perspective and method and expresses desire t seek what is possible in postmodern and antifoundational methods
  • How common are re-readings of historiographical work? What does research/the field gain from these in term sof method/approach?

Cheryl Glenn’s Response to Xin Liu Gale Comment: Truth, Lies, and Method: Revisiting Feminist Historiography

Susan Jarratt’s Response to Xin Liu Gale Comment: Rhetoric and Feminism: Together Again

historical timevines

And in the long run, who is to say that stringing sentences together is a better way to describe an experience than vising an image? Where would we be without “trains of thought”, “lines of reasoning”, “grounds for ideas”?

Culture and Rhetorical Patterns: Mining the Rich Relations Between Aristotle’s Enthymeme and Example and India’s Nyaya Method by Keith Lloyd

Our readings for class this week continue to develop, problematize, and thwart my thinking on what is possible as historiographical work. I find myself more and more thinking of revisionist and historical research as ecological by/in design—not as a correction or return down linear past in metanoia, but in an opening, an illuminating to the otherwise shadowed off the path from past to progress. In this opening quote from Keith Lloyd’s article I found resonance and connections explored at length in Luming Mao’s “Thinking beyond Aristotle: The Turn to How in Comparative Rhetoric”. What I appreciated about all of our reading this week, but particularly in these two, was the shift from methodology to method—the how of doing the research and its affordances to how it differently structures knowledge. Mao carefully describes not just what comparative rhetoric is, but how it is done, and as importantly, how it is not done.

Mao describes comparative rhetoric as inherently interdisciplinary, and as “committed to different ways of knowing and speaking and to different forms of inquiry, investigates across time and space communicative practices that frequently originate in noncanonical contexts and are often marginalized, forgotten, or erased altogether” (448). Citing emphasis placed and propagated by Aristotle’s work to define proper and essential subject for the art of rhetoric and on the body of proof for its demonstration, Mao illuminates the emphasis on a perpetual want to claim a set of concepts for rhetoric, despite the competing meanings that have accumulated over time. Mao attributes this emphasis to the need to claim intellectual progress, and as a result, disciplinary legitimacy as study. Instead of fixating of facts if essence, Mao suggests a shift to focus on facts of usage to develop a more informed understanding of the conditions of historicity, specificity, and incongruity. Here, Mao invokes Jenny Edbauer Rice’s rhetorical ecologies as a way of envisioning history that permits and frustrates the available means and models of discourse in the “shifting and moving, grafted onto and connected with other events” and lined “to the in-between en/action of events and encounters”. This new ways of seeing matters of fact can lead to the discovery of new paradigms of knowing. In comparative rhetoric, this look in between two texts is not to see the similarities and differences across them, but to see the effects of text—what has influenced and been influenced. The move is “metadiscplinary” (Haun Saussy); the purpose is not to guarantee uniqueness or coherence, but to represent “the condition of openness to new objects and new forms of inquiry” (453).

I am fascinated by the prospects of breaking the past-progress narrative; in nit blurring the line, but leaving it as form of knowing.

On Rhetoric


Credit to St. Peter's List of 60 Philosophy Memes

Credit to St. Peter’s List of 60 Philosophy Memes

For Ancient Rhetorics this week, we read Aristotle’s On Rhetoric (one of our exam texts). I know this reading cannot account for the scope of the text (which I am curious as to how many re-readings it will take…), but I am dwelling here in a few points of interest in an attempt to discern something articulable/to connect them to our conversations in class about historiography and ways of knowing rhetoric’s history.

I was really intrigued by Chapter 7 of Book I: “The Koinon of Degree of Magnitude—Greater or Smaller—as Applicable to Questions of the Advantageous and the Good in Deliberative Rhetoric” perhaps because of an interest in scale. To explain simply, I attribute scale in part to Franco Moretti’s concept of distant reading (which I plan on applying to On Rhetoric to see what emerges as patterns…). Close and distant reading (Moretti) are not binaries or diametrically opposed on opposite ends of the spectrum:

close —————————————distant

but move along a spectrum of proximity in reading a text or collection of texts (“close” being the reading we as a human individual can do within individual text(s) and “distant” being reading humans + computation can do across text(s) ); this is differential reading. Differential reading, or reading at scales, defamiliarize texts, making them unrecognizable in a way (putting them at a distance or oppositely at a proximity) that helps identify features otherwise unseen, to make hypotheses, generate questions, and figure out patterns and how to read them (Tanya Clement, “Text Analysis, Data Mining, and Visualizations in Literary Scholarship”). I am playing with Aristotle’s koinon like differential reading scales. Aristotle identified greater and smaller as degree of magnitude of importance as a form common to all species of rhetoric in questioning possibility or fact. Koinon are degree of importance/unimportance and possible/impossible. He then outlines 41 conceptions of koinon, ranging from “things exceeding something equal to a greater entity are greater than it” (six), to “what is scarcer is greater than what is abundant, though less useful” (fourteen), to “what all people prefer [is preferable] to what all do not” (twenty eight) as all the sources of pisteis or proof, means of persuasion, belief (31). Aristotle divides pisteis (proofs) into artistic and non-artistic:

  • non-artistic: witnesses, testimonies, other proofs which do not need to be invented
  • artistic: need to be invented

I found myself wondering what type of proofs historical texts and historiographic research are categorized as—artistic or non-artistic and how this might change the way we see what is possible in doing historical work. If we see historiography as non-artistic proof, perhaps we are limiting what we can see as possible history even as we try to broaden our perspectives of history. Perhaps if we see historiography as artistic proof, needing to be invented, we might change how we look at history. Something like differentiated reading, made available through distantly reading texts with computer assistance, might bring to the surface details about history we have not focused or gaze upon.  Thus my fixation on differentiated reading with the koinon as illustrative of pisteis: historical work has ambient perspectives that have not been in the vocal spotlight. This brushed up against the idea of amplification or auxesis from Chapter 9 Book I: Epideictic Rhetoric (epideictic being demonstrative or fit for display). Auxesis is an overstatement to stress size/significance; it extends thoughts/statements to increase rhetorical effect, to add importance, or to make the most of a thought. To maximize or minimize elements through amplification seems to fit with the conceptions of koinon in proof. From limited reading about rhetorical amplification, it involves identifying parts of a text by a process of division, where each text can be amplified. Amplification is equated to inventio or systematic discovery that investigates the possible means by which profs can be discovered. Turning this thought thread back to historiography, I wonder how this might affect the ways in which historical work is done. Or perhaps, how we imagine it can be done. Which left me wondering about stasis theory (something that came up in a conversation with Collin last week—an accidental Aristotle connection) and its application to historical research. Stasis theory leads to knowledge building, or perhaps debate and re-building, through achieving stasis. Achieving stasis means that parties involved in a dialogue about a given issue have reached consensus on (or agreed upon) the information and conclusions in one or more of the stases:

  • Question of fact: did the person damage the item? (conjectural)
  • Question of definition: was the damage minor or major? (definitional)
  • Question of quality: was he justified in damaging the item? (qualitative)
  • Question of jurisdiction: should this be a civil or criminal trial? (translative)

Where does most research fall along the stases? How does this impact the ways in which we know the field (ways of reading and researching)? How might our perspectives change if we focus not on what we’re reading/researching, but how we’re reading/researching?

Tradition(s) and History(s) of Rhetoric Reading Notes

This week for Ancient Rhetorics, we read several pieces that continue to discuss how (method/ology) to do historiography. These pieces discussed the matter of time/distance as influential to how we can conceive and account for events.

Ballif, Michelle. “Writing the Event: The Impossible Possibility for Historiography.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol. 44. No.3. (Jun. 2014). pp. 243-255.

  • “‘normative historical thinking’ elides the radical singularity of the event by subjecting the event meaning by way of categories of knowledge that cannot—by definition—include the radical singularity of ‘what happened'” (243)
  • events are only significant if they satisfy a chronological narrative of beginning, middle, and end (traditional historical thinking)
  • normative historical thought imposes temporal constraints on the happening/event and impose violence to “what was” by coopting past events as evidentiary to the guiding paradigm, argument, or hypothesis that prompted the historical work (244)
  • questioning the possibility of impossibility in historiography – to not submit it to a state of being by way of making ontological claims about the event, but merely to foreground its various appearances (245)
  • invoking Derrida and post-structuralist thought: “A Certain Impossible Impossibility of Saying the Event”, “Structure, Sign, and Play”
  • need to view events as exceptional or singular so that it is not reducible to norms or rules; events are arrivant – a radically other, a future that cannot be forseen (246)
  • shifts future from horizontal expectations of temporality to vertical—”it is always already repeatable…in that it will reappear” (246)
  • the event happens or arrives all the time but is not reducible to phenomenology; there is no grammar to it; it is beyond categorical systems of knowledge and programmatical systems of agency
  • method or considerations in writing historiography to come: reorientation of time; understand time as event  (247)—a different order, as open, as possibility, as intensity
  • break from “temporal logic of belatedness” (246) that comes from narration after the event
  • constative vs. performative instantiations of language (248-49)
    • constative: presume to state instances of fact about a referent|most histories are a narrativation of these utterances
    • performative: does not have a referent outside of itself|doesn’t say an event, but produces it in and through the utterance
    • but performative eventalness of an event as a radical singularity relies on repetition—a redoubling or reiteration (Derrida) as an act of creation
  • regard an event’s vertical nature through symptomology: something that falls; befalls us (252)
  • writing is of chance – don’t know where it’s going – destiner au hasard (Derrida)
  • ultimately, what does this look like? the text is hospitality: it sets the table but leaves an empty place setting for what will have arrived, what has not yet arrived, and for what could not be recognized as having arrived (254)
  • what does these mean for how historical texts are constructed? are they less version and re-versions and more collecting of materials for close looking/conversation? does this destabilize how we read/react to histories?

Kellner, Hans. “Is History Ever Timely?” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol. 44 No. 3 pp. 234-242.

  • practical past: versions of the past used daily to tell stories about what human experience means
  • historical past: reports what happened
  • invokes Friedrich Nietzsche’s untimely to illustrate that historians untimely come to believe backwards
  • figuralism: reversed logic to retroactively convert the past into a figure of the future (236)
  • integrates past and present in untimely way; distance between then and now is mediated by a higher order of things because this fulfillment must occur if the figure can exist as a figure or events may be stranded in time without historical meaning (236)
  • distance ascribes historical meaning
  • connection to investigate further—theoria: contemplation through spectating as a spectator/from a distance
  • how do we view untimeliness? as “catastrophic loss or as an enabling treasure”? (237)
  • chronoschism: split in time that creates distance used to make a case
  • “Between the extremes of causal verbal time markers and grand historical distances lie an innumerable variety of historical and historiographic chronoschisms, which erupt continually and disruptively. No moment of time stands or speaks for itself; it is always a figure without meaning or place until fulfilled by a later moment, itself without its own meaning since the present is never present” (240)
  • our medium of historiography is language—a disruptive medium full of chronoschisms that make any history untimely
  • all histories are untimely
  • while not explicitly stated, is this a suggestion for less narrative (language/voice) emphasis and more material focus in historical accounts? 
  • regarding a connection to theoria, are histories/historical texts meant to serve as a medium for disruption in order to see sat a different distance/scale/perspective? how does this keep its form as distance or space and not become lens (of focus or exclusion as blinder)?

Graff, Richard and Michael Leff. “Revisionist Historiography and Rhetorical Tradition(s)”. The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition. State University of New York Press.

  • “rhetorical tradition” as resonance for what was studied but also establishment in the academy: “The history was our history” (11)
  • revisionist moves have prompted traditions under pluralism and have sought to replay history with theory or system
  • explain that these revisionist moves are not always well considered because older scholarship is hardly as monolithic as it is sometimes represented (12)
  • much to commend in the study of rhetoric’s history/ies, but they also threat to destroy a sense of tradition. “The almost infinite sprawl of rhetorical practices encourages a splintering of interests, and without a tradition against which we can measure our innovations, we may lose the minimum level of coherence necessary to sustain an academic community” (12)
  • our received sense of tradition is no longer possible, but lacking a sense of tradition risks dismemberment
  • working to create a concept of tradition that serves as a via media between seamless uniformity and scattered situated cases (12)

waves of revisionism:

  • first: theory and system in the history of rhetoric
    • systems: metaphysical (Protagoras and Plato); social (Isocrates and Cicero); epistemological (Descartes, Locke, Campbell); educational-ethical (Quintilian); theological (Augustine); esthetic (Blair); logical (Whately); psychological (Winans)
    • rhetoric is a dynamic and evolving entity; tradition is not inert and reactionary, but can facilitate change by connecting “theoretical” resources to tasks (19)
    • the teaching of rhetoric offers an important site of practice where mediation can occur over time
  • second: critical historiography and rhetorical histories
    • interpretation of the cultural exigencies that encourage multiple modes of rhetorical response (23)
  • rhetorical pedagogy as the tradition of rhetoric
    • “the teaching of rhetoric as a practice offers a stable referent for a historical tradition, but it does not lock us into grand narratives or perspectives that move us outside a local context” (27)
  • the move for revision destabilizes the notion of a singular tradition (if that was ever possible – even before revisions); I found myself wondering about the minimum boundedness of disciplinarity in our dynamic discipline.

Stroud, Scott R. “Pragmatism and the Methodology of Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol.39. No.4 (Oct. 2009). pp. 353-379.

  • comparative rhetoric often conceived of as studying and arguing that postulates  fact of matter that analysis is to uncover, reflect, and get right (354)—to correctly describe a practice or text
  • pragmatism (in a Deweian sense) allows for a re-envisioning of comparative rhetoric in that it naturalizes criticism and positions criticism as subservient to an agent’s purpose in an environment. This allows for a describing of some phenomenon so that one might reconstruct some phenomenon instead of using the standards of one a priori.
  • comparative rhetoric ought to be informed by pragmatist approach, which shares a long history with psychology and social psychology, because it unites readings of habit and psychological functioning with rhetorical and critical concerns (362)

Octologs I&III

Class Discussion Questions

Why has rhetorical history been so focused on specific geographical regions, types of texts and theories, and figures?

What place can the traditional rhetorical tradition and canon hold as the field recognizes the problems that have been created by the rigid construction of that tradition and canon?

How can we expand our study of rhetorical history in order to include alternative visions of what rhetoric might be, even as we learn about what has evolved as the rhetorical canon?

Where is the balance between an expansive vision of the field and a potentially problematic dissolution of rhetoric into “discourse,” “language practices,” or “everything”?

What purposes do we have in studying the history of rhetoric?  How can an awareness of those purposes guide our approach to rhetorical history—and how might our encounters with history affect our view of our own teaching and scholarship?

Where do you see connections between Octalog I and Octalog III?  How would you describe the differences between the two? To what extent do these shifts help you understand how the field has changed during the period that spans the two?

Reading Notes

A first reading and sense making through notable notes and quotable quotes of the Octalogs for Ancient Rhetorics.

Octalog I: The Politics of Historiography, CCCC 1988

Rhetoric Review, 7:1, 5-49

James Berlin, Robert Connors, Sharon Crowley, Richard Enos, Victor Vitanza, Susan Jarett, Nan Johnson, Jan Swearingen; Moderator: James Murphy


  • In Aristotelian terms “an historian’s reason for writing his or her account of things will shape the way in which the task is undertaken” (5)
  • differences in why lead to disagreements about ways and means
  • history as public enterprise “The writer of history is a grapher of the polis” (5)

James Berlin: Dialectical Histories of Rhetoric

  • “historians must become aware of the rhetoricity of their own enterprise, rhetoric here being designated the uses of language in the play of power” (6)
  • production of history is a dialectical interaction between the set of conceptions brought to the materials of history and the materials themselves

Robert J. Connors: English Composition as a Social Problem

  • “our discipline has a unique genesis—having been create to solve a social problem and not by the evolution of a body of knowledge—we are forced to make judgments and take sides in everything we write” (6-7)
  • discourse as polemical – either implicit or explicit commentary on what is going on in the teaching of writing and its meaning in “our culture today” (7)

Sharon Crowley: Pedagogical Goals

  • “we write history because we still live in a professional world which is directly shaped by our intellectual and our institutional histories” (7)
  • history is undertaken with pedagogical goals in mind—to guide composition teachers in making pedagogical choices based on acquaintances with those that have been made in the past (7)

Richard Leo Enos: Lurching Toward Mt. Olympus: The Polis and Politics of Historiography in Classical Rhetoric

  • “akin to the notion of polis, a community of scholars exist who regulate, adjudicate and establish standards and methods of analysis…sources of proof tend to be linked to the exegesis of literary texts as the dominant if not sole source for evidence” (8)
  • openness and attention toward new sources of evidence and methodologies for analysis are necessary for a more “sensitive” understanding of the history of rhetoric instead of one rooted in conformity and tradition

Victor J. Vitanza: Politics and Historiography

  • (quoting Hegel) “There is no History of Rhetorik”; there is no consciousness without self-concsiousness. “It follows then: If there is no consciousness without self-consciousness, there can be no Histories/Hysteries of Rhetorics without historiographies/hysteriographies” (8)
  • ?: a resistance to history as meaning, “we are no longer—as you have lied to us with the ‘clarity’ of your metaphors—political ‘amphibians’, but political ‘amphiboles’, that is, many contra/dictary, ka(e)rotic voices in laughter…let’s get out of here! (16)

Susan C. Jarratt: The Politics of Text Selection in History of Rhetoric

  • “the primary historiographical trope at work here is the rediscovery and possession of forgotten treasures. An alternative position would entail the appropriation and redefinition of texts currently ‘held’ by other disciplines, which despite their names, concern rhetorical issues” (9)
  • rhetoric is a meta-discipline for dialogue across disciplines among historians, critics and theorists

Nan Johnson: My Ideological Stance

  • “I proceed on the assumption that historical research and writing are archeological and rhetorical activities” (9)
  • as a historian, research is responsible to claims of historical evidence and proclamations of enterprise in attempting to tell “true stories”

Jan Swearingen: The Institutionalization of Rhetoric and The Inscription of Gender

  • “why were women included in Plato’s Academy but barred from Aristotle’s Lyceum?” (10)
  • questioning of the agnostic patterns in rhetorical argument and dialectical exchange as an inscription of gender and the implication on literacy on rhetoric and rhetoric on literacy

James Murphy: Response

  • “these people are interested in bringing whatever has already been done by other people into the presence of us, to see whether we’re doing new things, old things, bad things, good things” (11)

Octalog III: The Politics of Historiography, CCCC 2010

Rhetoric Review, 30:2, 109-134

Vicki Tolar Burton, Jay Dolmage, Jessica Enoch, Ronald L. Jackson II, LuMing Mao, Malea Powell, Arthur Walzer, Ralph Cintron; Responder: Victor Vitanza; Intro: Lois, Zosha, and Laurie Gries


  • builds on earlier conversations of I
  • “still negotiating what constitutes the history of rhetoric, how to study it, and rhetoric’s role in forming and promoting the common good”
  • furthers work on rhetorical history in relation to bodies, space, and rhetorics of the other

Vicki Tolar Burton: Ethos in the Archives

  • “We enact good will by observing the etiquette of the host archive. We enact a deeper ethos of knowledge and character by a willingness to dwell within the documents, to practice slow reading as we lift the rhetors from their musty folders, seeking clues to their rhetorical situations and literacy practices” (112)
  • through what lenses are texts and practices encountered examined?

Jay Dolmage: The Circulation of Discourse through the Body

  • “Rhetoric is always embodied” (114); “a differently embodied historiography does not just find new stories; it is a new way to circulate these stories in order to generate a new ontology, a new epistemology, a new rhetoric” (114)
  • the body has traditionally been a rhetorical instrument and a rhetorical experiment; the corpus of history has most often been shaped to look like an “ideal body”; to care about the body is to care about how meaning is made

Jessica Enoch: Finding New Spaces for Feminist Research

  • “spatial rhetorics: the discursive and material means used to engender spaces with value”…”the ultimate goal is to investigate how the composition of space creates, maintains, or renovates gendered differences and understandings” (116)
  • historicizing the rhetorical processes that engender spaces provides insight to ways in which appropriation and empowerment have occurred

Ronald L. Jackson II: When Will We All Matter: A Frank Discussion of Progressive Pedagogy

  • “I am most concerned with discussing the nature, function, and usefulness of rhetorical studies” (117); “We must also remember that identity and difference are predicated on subjectivity, and it is our responsibility to critically interrogate how we consume messages that affect our consumption of difference” (118)
  • the principal question each year must be: what counts as rhetorical scholarship? power has influenced epistemological singularity that recognizes a mainstream rhetoric that is constructed only in partiality and exclusion

LuMing Mao: The Rhetoric of Responsibility: Practicing the Art of Recontextualization

  • the art of recontextualization: “a critical reevaluation of both the self and the other, interrogating who we are and where we have been and unpacking how local political, economic, and sociocultural exigencies help determine particular contexts and individual performances” (119)
  • a productive troubling of modes of thinking that seeks to privilege experiences over facts and relationships of interdependence over sameness/difference

Malea Powell: This is a Story about a Belief…

  • “Our discipline’s inclination to fetishsize the text above the body, combined with a narrowness of vision that insists on connecting every rhetorical practice on the planet to Big Daddy A and the one true Greco-Roman way does not exactly build a sustainable platform for the continued vibrance of our disciplinary community” (121)
  • a call to move conversations and practices toward “things”—a wider understanding of how all things are made rhetorical, and of how cultures made and are made by the rhetoricity of things

Arthur E. Walzer: Rhetoric as a History of Education and Acculturation

  • “The traditional rhetorical tradition was modeled after philosophy and literature: from philosophy, a narrative of great men, great ideas; from literature, critical reading of ‘great speeches that transcend their age'”…”I propose that we conceptualize the tradition in a different way…how instruction in rhetoric has created historically appropriate subjectivities” (124)
  • an inquiry into the revitalization of the traditional tradition, paideia of Ancient Greece—the education of ideal polis members, without the evangelism and elitism, but in the spirit of Pierre Bourdieu

Ralph Cintron: Neoliberalism, Higher Education, and the Rhetorical/Material Relation

  • “a call here for rhetoric to move out of any disciplinary location” (127); “The progressive left, including the panelists and me as well, have simply followed the logic of incitement rooted in the democratic rhetorics, which have historically enabled the disadvantaged to advance their material conditions in the face of otherwise hierarchical and sedimented power relations. But I am impatient with this work when its focus is limited to rhetorical dimensions of identity formation and does not include material analyses of political economy” (127)
  • the field is too much about words; uses Kenneth Burke’s poetics in which the whole of daily life—thoughts, actions, objects—become enactments of the rhetorical in order to unearth the conceptual grounds and material conditions upon which the discipline’s beliefs and actions rest

Victor Vitanza: Response (128-129)

  • “reclaim your ethea, that is, your wildness”: address the other that is indefinite, especially in logoi
  • “follow what wants, desires, to be said”: be wilder and bewilder
  • “beware of chrono-logic”: obstain from rooting in a past coming from the future