Category Archives: Rhetoric

ISSN 2020 – New Orleans

Screen capture of the cover of the Conference Program []

This last March, early and on the heels of Mardi Gras, The International Society for the Study of Narrative (ISSN) held its annual conference in New Orleans at The Intercontinental Hotel. This was only just before a number of conferences were cancelled out of an abundance of caution concerning the spread of COVID-19. I was fortunate enough to have been accepted as a part of a panel that took up and attended to the rhetorical aspects of narrative in relation to social justice. My co-panelists were Drs. Danielle Glassmeyer and Joanne Lipson Freed and our respondent was Dr. Sue Kim. It was my first panel with a prearranged respondent and I was in distinguished company.

Screen capture of program entry for Session H9

What follows in this post is the as-presented version of my paper, unedited other than to explain toward the end that, due to time constraints, the last two sections were glossed and the CODA was dropped. They are, though, important parts of the paper in terms of signaling where the work could point for further research and thought.

Phantasia, Fictionality, and Fear-Mongering: Imagining an Immigrant Invasion

Shootout at the Circle DUG Ranch

The Circle DUG Ranch,[1] a private game ranch and hunting preserve, is located in the extreme southwestern part of Texas, approximately ten miles northwest of Candelaria, the nearest town. Its history goes back to well before Texas became a state.[2] Candelaria is on the United States side of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande, almost directly across the river from its Mexican neighbor, San Antonio del Bravo. Candelaria and San Antonio del Bravo were once—and to a certain extent still are—a closely coupled, transnational community, connected through kinship and economic relations. They were physically connected by a footbridge built by both towns’ residents.[3] In 2008, the Bush Administration removed the footbridge and destroyed the footings. Candelaria is now effectively a ghost town; San Antonio del Bravo is not far behind. Border crossings between the towns continue to this day, despite the removal of the foot bridge, ‘afforded’ and ‘encouraged’ by low river water levels and flow, a consequence of large-scale irrigation upstream and choking by localized silting and invasive plants, and—depending on the season—by easily set up and removed temporary rope ‘bridges’.

Sometime before 9:00 PM, on January 6, 2017, multiple gunshots rang out in the vicinity of the ranch house at the Circle DUG. Two men—a hunting guide and his client—were wounded, the guide seriously. Initial media reports (e.g., from Albuquerque Journal and Las Cruces Sun News), based principally on a statement provided by a friend of the family of the wounded guide, suggested that the shootout was an attack by ‘illegal’ and violent border crossers intent on more than merely stealing a recreational vehicle:

“The attack has the family concerned that the attack was not just an attempt to rob the property,” the [Gila Livestock Growers Association President’s] statement said. “They believe the assailants intended to kill all the party. The attackers were strategically placed around the lodge and the men were fired upon from different areas.”[4]

The Presidio County sheriff, who responded to a 911 call from the ranch, expressed skepticism: “We are still investigating details of the shooting […] However there is no evidence to support allegations of ‘cross border violence’ as released by some media sources.”[5]

The Argument

I suggest that this brief story, in a variety of ways and on multiple levels, exemplifies the conditions of Jim Phelan’s conception of narrative as a rhetorical act. That is, this story does rhetorical work through “somebody telling somebody else on some occasion and for some purposes that something happened” (2017, ix), whether that somebody telling is a reporter, the author of the ‘amicus brief’, or—on this particular occasion—me. 

But what is (that) rhetorical work? 

And, how is it brought about, particularly from and in relation to story?

Today, I am not so much interested in ‘story’ in the way we think of it as the something happened that someone tells someone else—though that is an aspect that lurks in the background. Rather, the nexus of my paper emerges from one possible intersection, as is suggested by the title, of four terms: narrative, fictionality, phantasia [φαντασία] (or ‘imagination’ understood broadly), and rhetoric. It is the last of these that provides the critical lens through which I focus upon the other three to get at the rhetorical work of what I call ‘border stories’ or stories that circulate around, in, and across—in this particular case—the Mexico-U.S. border and borderlands. And, more importantly, the related rhetorical ramifications that extend well beyond the border region into the imaginations—and fears—of some audiences.

Some Terministic Housekeeping

Some situating remarks on my use-related understandings of those four terms are appropriate.

First, narrative: In what follows, the words ’story’ or ‘narrative’ refer to what Phelan calls “a multidimensional purposive communication from a teller to an audience” (2017, 5). But the ‘teller’ in my approach may not be a ‘who’ so much as a ‘what’ and, crucially, multiple. Additionally, despite the stories I take up being ostensibly non-fiction (news stories are supposed to be non-fiction, right?), when I refer to an audience I intend all four audiences identified by Phelan: the flesh-and-blood reader; the authorial audience that “shares the knowledge, values, prejudices, fears, and experiences that the author expect[s] in his or her readers” (2017, 7); the narratee; and, the narrative audience that is “an observer position within the storyworld” (ibid, my emphasis). Phelan reserves this last for fictional narratives on the premise that immersion within a storyworld, and all that that entails, occurs only when the audience “regard[s] the characters and events as real rather than invented, […] accept[ing] the whole storyworld as real” (ibid; my emphases). In my cases, the authorial audience and the narrative audience meet and interact in rhetorically suggestive ways.

Second, fictionality: From Richard Walsh, I take fictionality in stories or narratives to be “a distinctive rhetorical resource, functioning directly as part of the pragmatics of serious communication” (2007, 1). Specifically, I am interested by the notion that “[f]ictionality is founded upon a basic human ability to imagine,” which some of you will recognize as the first of ten theses about fictionality (Nielsen, Phelan, and Walsh 2015, 63).[6]

Which introduces the third term, phantasia: While it is generally translated as ‘appearance’ or ‘presentation to consciousness’ or ‘imagination’ of visual images, I extend phantasia to the environmental impressions on/of the full human/animal sensorium, much as Plato does in Theatetus when contrasting ‘seeming’ (φαντασία) and ‘perception’ (αἴσθησις) in response to internal and external stimuli,[7] or as Quintilian does in his Institutio Oratoria when describing the use of pathetic (that is, emotional) appeals in the courts to stimulate ‘visions’ (visiones, φαντασίαι) and feelings in the minds and bodies of the jurors.[8] Because his discussion of phantasia in De Anima (On the Soul) is one of the most comprehensive expositions we have, Aristotle dominates the discourse about its role in rhetoric. He concludes, in short: without our sensory apparatus, we have no phantasia; and, without phantasia, we have no—or, crucially, are not moved to—judgment.[9] Consequently, phantasia has a role in any suasive situation. 

I take up phantasia in two ways: first, the ‘civic’ phantasia of Michele Kennerly (RSQ 40(3), 2010), theorized as a driving force for, or as the means of, moving persons to judgment and, potentially, public action; second, Debra Hawhee’s sense of phantasia as a kind of aisthesis, or weak mode of perception,[10] in which feeling aisthesis (sensory input) is bundled and bridged over to deliberative aisthesis (cognitive appreciation and apprehension). Kennerly, more explicitly than Hawhee, takes up phantasia as it works in both the rhetor and the audience in a push-pull relation: phantasia is not a one-way street, running simply from one’s sensation to one’s perception; rather, it can function civically, analogous to a taut string running between two tin cans that moves vibrations, or disturbances, between the cans, allowing two-way communication. In this way, sensation, through phantasia/imagination, affects or moves our perceptions; and, going the other way, our perceptions, through imagination, affect or move our feelings and sensations.[11]

Finally, rhetoric: The Western Rhetorical Tradition is grounded in Aristotle’s instrumental approach through his Art of Rhetoric: “Rhetoric then may be defined as the faculty of discovering the possible means of persuasion in reference to any subject whatever” (14-15, my emphasis).[12] Within its logic, Aristotle’s rhetoric presumes a ‘rhetorical situation’ in which a speaking (or writing) human agent, the rhetor, addresses a particular audience on the basis of some exigence.[13]Contemporary reconsiderations of what rhetoric is take up what it does in terms of effects and affects, as well as how it does it.[14] My work is informed by a rhetoric forwarded by Carole Blair, Greg Dickinson, and Brian L. Ott [in their introduction to the edited volume, Places of Public Memory: The Rhetoric of Museums and Memorials]: 

Rhetoric is the study of discourses, events, objects, and practices that attends to their character as meaningful, legible, partisan, and consequential. […] [I]t organizes itself around the relationship of discourses, events, objects, and practices to ideas about what it means to be ‘public’. (Blair, et al. 2010, 2)

Faint echoes of Aristotle’s definition can be heard here. What has changed most significantly is the introduction of non-human agents into a system of relations—an ecology, if you will—that exhibits suasive practices and affects. 

Walsh’s rhetoric of fictionality and Phelan’s Author-Resources-Audience model (2017, 26) are, through Wayne Booth’s rhetoric, grounded in Aristotle’s instrumental definition of rhetoric: the resources available to an author are “the possible means of persuasion” of the reader in a particular narrative/rhetorical situation. Today, I want to push beyond the author as rhetor in a rhetorical/narrative situation to also take into account ‘ambient rhetorics’ (Rickert 2013, 1-31) emerging from non-human agents acting or participating in a rhetorical ecology.[15] Think, for example, of the suasive power of a speed bump within an ecology of parents, children, residential neighborhoods, schools, cars and trucks, speed limits, police officers, speed traps, and various traffic control strategies: you are, are you not, ‘encouraged’ (or are you ‘persuaded’?) to slow down, when driving over one, in ways not at all like the ways the other rhetorical agents might encourage you? Now, extend that image to the rhetorical work done by a story in which one of the non-human agents in the bounding but continuously changing rhetorical ecology is an international border, and a particularly fraught border at that.

Interpolated Interpellations and Fear-Mongering

Facts are funny things. They generally don’t go away. They resist erasure. But, they are susceptible to manipulation.

FACT: multiple shots were fired in the late evening of January 6, 2017, at a remote Texas game ranch near the border with Mexico. 

FACT: two men, a hunting guide and his client, were wounded, the guide seriously. 

Yet, in the first publicly available story about the event, published online, in a blog, the day before the story hit the local newspapers, a rhetorically compelling fiction was built incorporating those facts. In part:

“Per a family source, everyone was in bed preparing for an early hunt, the guides and cooks inside the house and the clients in the rental RV parked nearby.  Walker [Daugherty] heard voices outside and went to see what the noises were, he witnessed men with guns attempting to take the RV, he then ran back inside to get help.  Walker and Michael [Bryant] armed themselves to defend and protect the client and to attempt to deter the assailants while the hunter attempted to escape in the RV which was being shot at repeatedly.  The vehicle is riddled with bullet holes from the attack and suffered other structural damage.  

“The attack lasted long enough for Walker to run back to the house and get more ammunition, when he was close to the door his sister, saw him get shot and was able to drag him inside the house and away from the gunfire.  The women in the lodge were able to get a spotty cell signal and call 911. 

“The family has been earning a living guiding and outfitting out of the remote ranch for years.   The business had experienced several thefts and had been working with the US Border Patrol to apprehend illegal aliens in the area in the past month.   The theft events and the attack occurred in the United States.”[16]

The empty spaces around and between the indisputable facts of the event were filled with what I call interpolated interpellations. Rhetorically speaking, the someone told is haled by the someone telling to imaginatively (because they were not present at the time/place of the event) attend to particular suasive suggestions and the associated rhetorical ramifications amplified through the affective aspects of the interpolated story elements: family, home, men with guns, defend and protect, assailants, being shot at repeatedly, attack, more ammunition, get shot, dragged to house by sister, more gunfire, women in the lodge, spotty cell signal, 911 call, history of thefts, illegal aliens . . . and it all occurred IN THE UNITED STATES. 

It is in the haling of the someone told that some flesh-and-blood readers become or occupy the role of, first, the authorial audience, then the narratees, and finally the narrative audience, immersed in the story as interested and invested observers. At that last transition, fear—defined by Aristotle as “a painful or troubled feeling [ταραχὴ] caused by the impression [φαντασίας] of an imminent evil that causes destruction or pain” (Rhetoric 200-201)—enters the emerging rhetorical ecology as an impending invasion by “illegal aliens.” 

Within a week of the event, following extensive investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies, no sign or trace of persons other than the hunting guides and their clients were discovered; this included foot/vehicle traffic around the lodge and bullet-riddled RV and the collected fresh brass from the discharged weapons. Everything tangible pointed to a friendly fire event, not to cross border violence, not to the imaginatively (in the inventive sense) crafted story. So, why invent an elaborate story?

Phantasia and Fear-Mongering: from Little, Local Stories to Grand, Global Narratives

From this situation, an interanimating, mutually constitutive cyclic relation between at least two states of motivated tellings emerges: little, local stories told by ‘entities’ and grand, global narratives enacted by social systems. Stories like “Shootout at the Circle DUG Ranch” and, if we have time to get to it, “Dry-gulched Near Big Bend,” are examples of little, local stories.[17] They are ‘little’ in length, ‘little’ in scope (that is, scene, actors, events, complexity of presentation), and ‘little’ in duration in the attention spans of audiences, if they capture any lasting attention at all. They are ‘local’ in that they occur in a small, contained space/place, proximate to the initial authorial audience, though other, broader audiences can and do get involved as the story gains traction and ‘sticks’ to related events. It tellingly highlights the little, local criteria that many people in the Las Cruces/El Paso corridor with whom I spoke informally about “Shootout” either knew nothing about it or only vaguely recalled having heard something about ‘hunters shooting each other’ (which, as we know since at least the Bush-Cheney Administration, is apparently not unusual in Texas). That may, though, say more about the rhetorical ecology within which I was asking questions. 

The affective aspects and rhetorical ramifications of little, local stories like “Shootout” gain traction by embodying and enacting elements of larger, intersecting rhetorical ecologies manifest in grand, global narratives. Such narratives are ‘grand’ in a totalizing and essentializing sense—for example, the narrative of American Exceptionalism. They are ‘global’ in at least two ways. First, the elements of grand narratives have local analogues in the lived experience of individuals all over the world. Second, they support similar “structures of feeling” world-wide, in communities where similar rhetorical ecologies thrive; for example, in the cases I am considering, this could be any community where international borders, fraught immigration and refugee crises, and groups fearful of and hateful toward the ‘other’ collide and rub up against one another. Among the grand, global narratives that feed and feed on stories like “Shootout” is the “Immigrant Invasion” narrative, pushed by some persons and groups (other related narratives might more or less explicitly invoke white supremacy, white nationalism, vigilance and vigilantism, or something as innocuous sounding as keeping our streets safe for our children).[18]

CONCLUSION(S): Social Justice and (Ir)Responsible Rhetorics

I opened my paper asking: “what is rhetorical work? And, how is it brought about, particularly from and in relation to story?” The ‘civic’ phantasia envisioned by Michele Kennerly helps shape my understanding of rhetorical work: rhetoric “giv[es] presence to the unseeable—something not yet or never capable of being seen—or to the unseen—something visible but ignored” (269; emphases in original). This notion of ‘giving presence’ connects fruitfully with what I take to be at the heart of social justice: our ability to imagine ourselves in the situations of others—to, as Diane Davis puts it, acknowledge our response-ability through imaginative identifications—and ‘feel’ their human dignity.[19]

In Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life, Martha Nussbaum writes, “novel-reading will not give us the whole story about social justice, but it can be a bridge both to a vision of justice and to the social enactment of that vision” (12; my emphasis). Because phantasia or, as Nussbaum calls it, ‘fancy’ working in and on rhetorical ecologies can either build or destroy that bridge to vision and enactment, I believe that in addition to novel-reading close critical attention to the rhetorical relations among little, local stories and grand, global narratives is necessary for a more complete understanding of social justice and our role in it. Rhetorics that hale us and in doing so call our attention to our response-ability to human dignity are responsible rhetorics. Those that operationalize or instantiate positions that close off or deny such response-ability are irresponsible.

[Delivered paper ended at this point but the final two sections were quickly glossed due to time constraints.]

CODA—time permitting: Dry-Gulched near Big Bend

United States Interstate Highway 10 runs across southern Texas from El Paso, through San Antonio, and on to Houston and the Louisiana state line. Along the way, particularly in the vicinity of the Big Bend, the highway is irregularly bisected by arroyos and associated concrete culverts that run under it. Some culverts have ‘jersey’ barriers; some have guardrails; but, a number of them have neither. And, except around the few towns dotting the route, none are lighted, making night driving an exercise in multi-sensory focus.

Sometime, in the late-night hours of November 18th or the very early morning of November 19th, 2017, two Customs and Border Protection agents were injured—one fatally—while responding, separately, to a triggered monitoring device, in the vicinity of Interstate 10, east of Van Horn. As reported by the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security:

“Earlier this morning, I was notified that Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez died as a result of serious injuries suffered while on patrol in the Big Bend Sector of our southern border in Texas. Agent Martinez was responding to activity while on patrol with another agent, who was also seriously injured. We are fully supporting the ongoing investigation to determine the cause of this tragic event.”[20]

A subsequent press release by Customs and Border Protection was consistent with the Acting Secretary’s statement:

“Agent Rogelio Martinez and his Big Bend Sector partner were responding to activity while on patrol near Interstate 10, in the Van Horn Station area. Agent Martinez’s partner reported that they were both injured and in need of assistance. Responding agents provided immediate medical care, and transported both agents to a local hospital.”[21]

Multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies responded to the event. Searches of the surrounding showed no signs of unusual foot traffic or scuffling in or around the culvert in which Agent Martinez was found. The post-mortem report on Agent Martinez showed no defensive wounds and all injuries were on the right side of his body. The cause of death was “blunt injuries of the head.” While the injuries were consistent with a fall from some height, the manner of Agent Martinez’ death remains undetermined. 

Yet a significant number of people still believe that he was ambushed by ‘illegal immigrants’.

Unlike “Shootout,” this particular story went national—and even international—almost immediately. At least part of the reason for that can be attributed to the rhetorical ecology within which it developed, including: the proximity of the event to the borderlands; the immigration, refugee, and drug-smuggling ‘crises’; and the political posturing of the Governor of Texas, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and the newly elected President of the United States. Yet, much like “Shootout,” “Dry-gulched” was a little, local story the rhetorical work of which was amplified by the grand, global narratives from which, in part, it drew increased significance and which it served to amplify in the degree to which it affirmed and supported those same grand, global narratives.

References/Works Cited

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Aristotle. Art of Rhetoric. Translated by J. H. Freese. Loeb Classical Library 193, Harvard University Press, 1926, Cambridge.

—. On the Soul. Parva Naturalia. On Breath. Translated by W. S. Hett. Loeb Classical Library 288, Harvard University Press, 1957, Cambridge.

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Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 2nd Edition. The University of Chicago Press, 1983, Chicago.

—. The Rhetoric of Rhetoric: A Quest for Effective Communication. Blackwell Publishing, 2004, Malden, MA.

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—. Inessential Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations. University of Pittsburgh, Press, 2010, Pittsburgh.

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—. “Looking into Aristotle’s Eyes: Toward a Theory of Rhetorical Vision.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 14, no. 2, 2011, pp. 139-165.

—. “Rhetoric’s Sensorium.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 101, no. 1, 2015, pp. 2-17.

—. Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw: Animals, Language, Sensation. University of Chicago Press, 2017, Chicago.

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—. “Fictionality as Rhetoric: A Response to Paul Dawson.” NARRATIVE, vol. 23, no. 1, 2015, pp. 101-111.

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—. “Rhetoric, Ethics, and Narrative Communication: Or, from Story and Discourse to Authors, Resources, and Audiences.” Soundings, vol. 94, nos. 1/2, 2011, pp. 55-75.

—. Somebody Telling Somebody Else: A Rhetorical Poetics of Narrative. Ohio State UP, 2017, Columbus.

—. “Authors, Resources, Audiences: Toward a Rhetorical Poetics of Narrative.” Style, vol. 52, nos. 1-2, 2018, pp. 1-34.

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Vatz, Richard E. “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 6, no. 3, 1973, pp. 154-161.Vicaro, Michael Paul.

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[1]; accessed December 29, 2019.

[2] See Valley Beneath The Sierra Vieja: A Texas Border Ranch History, accessed December 29, 2019.

[3] Anglin, Maria. “The strange (tall) tale of armed border crossers.” mySA, 25 February 2017. Accessed October 24, 2019.

[4] Villagran, Laura (Journal Staff Writer). “NM haunting guide wounded in gunfight near border.” Albuquerque Journal, Monday, January 9, 2017, updated 10:32 PM. Accessed October 1, 2019. Las Cruces Sun News, picked up from Albuquerque Journal, updated 5:25 p.m. MT Jan. 9, 2017, “NM hunting guide, client wounded in alleged border attack.” Accessed October 1, 2019. The statement from the Gila Livestock Growers Association was released on THE WESTERNER(, a blog covering “[i]ssues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture.”  

[5] ibid

[6] Merja Polvinen in her recent Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) presentation, “Enacting the Artifice,” contributes to my thinking here. She cites Colombetti and Thompson: “[L]iving beings are autonomous agents that actively generate and maintain their identities and thereby enact or bring forth their own cognitive domains” (2008, 55).  Crucial to that enactment is the way the cognitive domain shapes and changes the individual, who (en)acts so as to change the cognitive domain, which . . . and so on. I see this as related to the way phantasia operates within a rhetorical ecology.

[7] Cf., 152c: “Φαντασία ἄρα καὶ αἴσθησις ταὐτὸν ἔν τε θερμοῖς καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς τοιούτοις,” that is, “Then seeming (φαντασία) and perception (αἴσθησις) are the same thing in matters of warmth and everything of that sort” (42-43).

[8] Cf. 6.2.26-6.2.35: in particular, “The person who will show the greatest power in the expression of emotions will be the person who has properly formed what the Greeks call phantasiai (let us call them ‘visions’), by which the images of absent things are presented to the mind in such a way that we seem actually to see them with our eyes and have them physically present to us” (58-61).

[9] Cf. De Anima, 427b 5.

[10] Cf. Rhetoric, 1370a 6, note b. In Rhetoric, Book III, late in Chapter 10 and into Chapter 11, Aristotle also lays out the importance of metaphor in suasive strategies. Without actually using the word phantasia, he speaks of ‘bringing-before-the-eyes’ of an audience the locations and events of interest to the case at hand. Debra Hawhee has taken up this vehicle of transmission as the basis for a ‘rhetoric of vision’, as distinct from the ‘visual rhetoric’ one associates with film and photographs and the visual arts. 

[11] Kennerly develops and presents her ‘civic’ sense of phantasia through three cases: Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen, Cicero’s prosecution of Verrus before the Roman Senate, and Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense. Perhaps a more affective example here would be to consider Sara Ahmed’s discussion of “affective economies” in relation to Audre Lorde’s experience of ‘emotion’ on a New York City subway (2014).

[12] Because Aristotle’s techné (art) examines suasive strategies and their bases, this ‘definition’ is usually reduced to ‘rhetoric is the art of persuasion’—which is a terrible misreading of Aristotle.

[13] The idea of the ‘rhetorical situation’ by that name is attributed to Lloyd Bitzer, who first suggested it in the opening article of the premiere issue of Rhetoric & Philosophy, in 1968. It has been pretty much continuously critically engaged since then, most infamously by Richard E. Vatz, in 1973.

[14] There is the ‘constitutive’ definition: rhetoric as a discursive practice that calls some one or some thing into being; Maurice Charland’s analysis of the rhetoric that led to the ‘birth’ of the Parti Québécois is taken as the start of this approach to rhetoric (QJS 1987). Interestingly, Charland’s work has been turned back on itself in the theorizing of ‘de-constitutive’ rhetorics in recent work by Michael Paul Vicaro (QJS 2016). And, related to rhetorics of de-constitution, there is rhetoric as a means of quashing discourse, the ‘rhetoric of closure’ theorized by Craig Rood (RSQ 2017). These are just a few of myriad ‘understandings’ of rhetoric that serve particular ways of looking at (in yet another definition) “how human being is in the world through language” (Daniel M. Gross 2017, 512, emphasis in the original).

[15] In Ambient Rhetorics: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being, Thomas Rickert calls for a new conception of rhetoric: “Rhetoric can no longer remain centered on its theoretical commonplaces, such as rhetor/subject, audience, language, image, technique, situation, and the appeals accomplishing persuasive work, at least as they are predominantly understood and deployed. Rather, it must diffuse outward to include the material environment, things (including technological), our own embodiment, and complex understanding of ecological relationality as participating in rhetorical practices and their theorization” (3). The idea of a ‘rhetorical ecology’ is credited to Jenny Edbauer (Rice). In “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies,” Rice argues for the rhetoricity of “network[s] of lived practical consciousness or structures of feeling” (RSQ 35(4) 2005, 5).

[16] The full ‘story’ can be accessed online: “NM Hunting Guide, Client Wounded on Mexico border.” THE WESTERNER, January 8, 2017,; posted by Laura Bryant, aka Laura Schneberger, Rancher and Gila Livestock Growers Association President; my interpolations in square brackets. 

[17] There may also be a loose relation to what some are theorizing as ‘small stories’, a thread to be pulled later. See, for example, Small Stories, Interaction and Identities, by Alexandra Georgakopolou, Studies in Narrative 8, 2007.

[18] In A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, Ronald Takaki identifies a number of grand, global narratives that circulate around what he calls the “Master Narrative of American History,” which acts as a filter through which some Americans view ‘other’ Americans suspiciously. 

[19] Cf. Inessential Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations, especially “Introduction: A Rhetoric of Responsibility.” In Davis’ work, ‘response-ability’ and responsibility are connected through “an affectability or persuadability” necessary for symbolic action (2; emphases in original).

[20] Department of Homeland Security. “Statement by Acting Secretary Duke on Tragic Death of Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

[21] U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Border Patrol Agent from Big Bend Sector Killed in Line of Duty.” Accessed October 2, 2019.

The Rhetoric of NO – a textbook for all times?

With a few minor changes [in square brackets], these are the opening two paragraphs of a book I picked up at the local used book store, COAS:

“Today’s college [undergraduates bring] the world into the classroom with [them], like it or not. [They want] to read about [their] world, to think about ideas germane to it, and to communicate with it. The current demand for ‘relevance’ in education demonstrates young people’s concern for understanding contemporary issues and for responding to these issues. The Rhetoric of NO is our response to this concern.

“Bored by a daily pablum of advertisements, political gamesmanship, and innocuous ‘position’ essays disguised as controversy, the student begins to hunger for real argument, for responsible conviction. This collection speaks to that student by concentrating on a dominant characteristic of our contemporary dialogue—that of dissent. Each essay, with its own distinctive voice, is saying no in one way or another to the ‘unexamined lives’ of [people] and the blind assumptions of a fearful and violent age. Taken together, they deal with many of the unresolved controversies of our time” (The Rhetoric of NO, edited by Ray Fabrizio, Edith Karas, and Ruth Menmuir. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1970, p. v).

Fifty years. This could have been, was likely, or was very much like the ‘writing’ text many of us had during our first foray into higher education. I think I would have preferred UC’s English 1A and 1B using this text, or a text like it, rather than the texts that were in use at UCSB during my first academic misadventure.

Here are some representative voices sampled by the editors: Nietzsche, Twain, Hitler (recall that, at the time of publication, Nazism was temporally closer to the audience for this text than the text itself is to today; George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party, had been assassinated just three years prior to publication), Malcom X, George Wallace, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Plato, Thomas Jefferson, Clarence Darrow, Barry Goldwater, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Camus, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, MLK, Jr., Hunter S. Thompson, Ferlinghetti, Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory. And there are others less familiar.

Aside from the ‘dated’ nature of the voices represented, do you think the book and, if not its specific selections, its broad sampling of voices might still be relevant?

Turn, Turn, Turn Again . . .

For my inaugural post in this new blogging environment, I am migrating (with minor edits) a post I made some time ago to my old blog (mind-at-large). The original title of the post was, Turning and Spinning. It originated in a curiosity about the idea of a ‘turn’ in academic study and discourse. I started collecting all of the possible ‘turns’ I could find, along with the source of the term if it could be found or identified.  I want to keep it going. So, if any of you, my fellow academics and friends, come across any not on this growing list, please feel free to comment and add what you have discovered.

On another note, with all of these ‘turns’ affecting (and effecting) engagement within a variety of disciplines, I wonder if it is worth thinking about them in Burkean terms as ‘turn-inistic screens.’ Thoughts?

Early March, 2014:

One of the many things that have sucked me in lately is the notion of a turn. Not as in making a left or right turn, or a U-turn. Rather, I am thinking in terms of the notion of a turn as a trope become a terministic screen. The word trope comes from the Greek τρόπος, which can mean ‘turn’ and, which, in literature and rhetorical studies refers to ‘turns of a phrase,’ that is, figurative language, metaphor, and so on. For those familiar with the work of Kenneth Burke, the idea of a terministic screen will be a commonplace; for those not, think of a terministic screen as a conceptual lens; the one through which you look out on the world of your experience. It includes all of your personal assumptions and biases, your expectations, your notions of what constitutes reality and whether or not it can be known with any certainty, and most importantly the associated vocabulary you use to communicate through and about all of those assumptions, biases, expectations, and notions. To steal a word or two from Pierre Bourdieu, it can be thought of as your habitus, the doxa with which you are ortho- (or hetero-, if feeling contrary). Interestingly, one can have many different terministic screens, depending on what one is doing.

So, now to the business of turns and my engagement with them.

It is fashionable in theory (that is, in the world of THEORY, not ‘theoretically’) to talk about particular ways of thinking (and writing and talking) about the world as a turn, as in Richard Rorty’s 1967 book, The Linguistic Turn. Well, there have been a variety of turns that have cropped up over time and I finally decided someone (that is, me) needed to start a list, if only to have them all in one place. Ideally, though, I would like to expand the list to include origins and adherents and intents.

And here is what I have collected so far, in no particular order other than when they presented themselves to me:

    • Linguistic Turn [Rorty]
    • Descriptive Turn [an article title in a list of references for an article in PMLA]
    • Hermeneutic/Interpretive Turn
    • Pragmatic Turn [someone writing about Rorty]
    • Narrative Turn
    • Relational Turn [Gunzenhauser (2006) article in Qualitative Inquiry; see also Anne Edwards, HD30.29 .E39 2010]
    • Emotive Turn
    • Socio-Cultural Turn [Schneider article from ENGL 572, Theory and Pedagogy of Technical Communication]
    • Global Turn [RSQ 43.3 article]
    • Public Turn [book by F. Farmer, reviewed in RR 33.1]
    • Reflective Turn
    • Postmodern Turn [Hassan? also an edited volume by Seidman]
    • Scientific Turn [from a book title]
    • Native Turn
    • Performative Turn
    • Spatial Turn [Bourdieu-inspired?]
    • Cultural Turn [F. Jameson ‘reader’]
    • Speculative Turn [book title]
    • Aesthetic Turn [book title regarding Nietzsche]
    • Metaphoric/Metonymic Turn (“Turn! Turn! Turn!” or “Turn, turn, turn again . . .”?) [See the work of Thomas Claviez for the latter turn term]
    • Ethical Turn
    • Affective Turn
    • Subjective Turn [from my ENGL 601, Qualitative Methods, class; Clifford & Marcus?]
    • Conjunctive Turn [from an interview in OLR of my friend Henrik Skov Nielsen]

From the operative word (italicized) in each phrase, one can see quite clearly how these turns are each and all ways of engaging with, looking at, and/or responding to the world as we encounter it. Each is, in one way or more, a metaphor (turn, trope) through which we read the world. Each is a terministic screen, however thin, however temporary, that affects (and effects) our understanding.

Or, that is how I am seeing them today.

24 March 2014

Two more cropped up today, 24 March, while fishing in Google Scholar looking for articles about ‘rhetorical audience.’ They appeared in article titles: ‘Rhetorical turn’ and ‘Ideological turn.’ I am sure there are many more out there and welcome any additions to the list others can find.

25 March 2014

Today’s find: Theoretical turn, in a 2000 PMLA article by Wolfgang Iser. And . . . ANOTHER! A variation of the ‘Performative turn’ (initial list): Performance turn in an article by Peterson & Langelier, in Narrative Inquiry 16(1).

2 September 2014

THREE (3) new ones to add today . . . one, I came across in an article I am reading to critique for my RPC Proseminar; the other two come from a re-reading of an article first read a year ago.

  • Design turn (the ‘turn’ toward ‘design’ in document composition).
  • Dialogic turn (my term for it but, essentially, referring to dialogue having replaced writing as a defining metaphor in composition studies).
  • Epistemological turn (used by Lee-Ann M. Kastman Breuch to describe the philosophical project of the Enlightenment period).