English 733

Nathaniel Rivers

    401 New North
    Office Hours: T 12:00 - 2:00

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Introduction

This course starts with the assumption that,

"the rhetorical agent or political subject of [...] a moment doesn't precede the moment a priori, but is rather called into being within the moment - and thus the citizen and the political body [...] exists rhetorically in a rhetorical moment as a rhetorical trope or figuration." (Michelle Ballif, "Writing the Third Sophistic" 55)

As Ballif argues, and as many contemporary cognitive scientists testify to, this calling into being can be a fully rhetorical endeavor (or, at least, an endeavor that rhetoric takes part in) if the ends of rhetoric are terministically extended to include our biological and environmental dramas in addition to our social ones. Recent cognitive, biological, and environmental science allows us to do just that: to persuasively regain for rhetoric its creative and cultivating force in the lives of individuals and groups and to informatively re-place rhetoric in the social, biological, and environmental contexts out of which individuals emerge. We should not enact rhetorical practice as merely the subjectification of individuals, but the many, sometimes agonistic, ways in which selves are cultivated within the interplay of social, biological, and environmental dramas (as a (re)figuration). Without remaking the rational subject, without reifying the "real," and without falling back on ancient dualisms and modern monisms, this course proposes that we navigate and negotiate the boundaries between the social, the biological, and the environmental, and, in doing so, reconsider the alternative shapes rhetoric takes and the work rhetoric accomplishes.