Presentations at Rhetoric Society of America 2022

This May, I will be presenting research at the Association for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR) Symposium, “Rhetoric in Motu,” and at the Rhetoric Society of America convention. Brief abstracts and hyperlinks to the presentations are available below!

Re-canonizing Rhetoric: The Secret in and of Discourse.

Abstract: This presentation offers the secret as common ground between different scholarly criticisms that reject and/or revise rhetorical theory’s foundation in ancient Greece. Although secrets most often refer to hidden or concealed information, I argue that this term may instead be understood as a productive force (rather than as ‘mere’ negation). On the one hand, scholars who wish to revise the ancient rhetorical contexts by pointing out what is ignored or under-noticed within them are attentive to secrets in discourse: the suppressed originators of the persuasive arts, who include women sophists, foreign-born non-citizens, and the enslaved peoples of ancient Syracuse. On the other hand, scholars who either abandon or reinvent the history of rhetoric are attentive to the secret of discourse, in which rhetoric’s ‘core’ meaning is troped and transformed. Here, I examine how metaphor evolves from the Greek to the Roman context to support the interests of imperial conquest. I conclude by describing these registers as indicative of how rhetoric has and might still become unrecognizable to its former self through progressive revision and retroactive signification.

Only Time Like the Present: The Metaphysics of kairos and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.” Co-author: Kurt Zemlicka, Indiana University.

Abstract: This presentation considers the problem of rhetorical temporality staged by the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the world’s 3rd deep geological repository licensed to store radioactive waste. Because the WIPP houses materials that will remain hazardous for 10,000 years, the DoE instituted a marker project to communicate a linear message of warning to future populations. Secrecy remains a key rhetorical mode of political time management for the project: site data would remain part-concealed, part-open to prolong institutional and public memories of mortal danger. Building upon the idea of rhetoric as time management, we argue that the “future societies analysis” conducted by projects familiar colonialist practices indefinitely into the future. Kairos, as an obsessive fixation upon the present, also authorizes the appropriation of indigenous temporalities, a continuing commitment to extractive forms of capitalism, and the reproduction of familiar stereotypes about Latin America and the inner city as “third worlds.” We conclude with observations about kairos as a metaphysics and examine how a deconstructed understanding of kairos/chronos shifts commonplace understandings of rhetorical temporality.

Rhetoric Before the Back Alley: Revisiting the Abortion Mill.” Co-authors: Emily Winderman and Vanessa Nyarko, University of Minnesota, Twin-Cities.

Abstract: On November 9, 1912, publishers Sam H. Clark and C.H. Crockard were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fargo, ND for distributing “obscene and immoral reading matter” throughout the Midwest via interstate mail. Using the pseudonym “Jim Jam Junior” the two published a tabloid they titled Jim Jam Jems, which featured (among other topics) stories about criminalized abortion, the American Medical Association’s vaccine requirements, and regressive social standards of feminine purity.  As we argue, one critical rhetorical feature of the Jim Jam Jems tabloid is its figuration of an inflammatory anti-abortion stance through space-based metaphors — the mill and the factory — unique to the imaginary of the historical moment of this publication. Whereas today the locative phrase “the back alley” signifies a particular historical memory of abortion prior to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, for Clark and Crockard it did not. In this presentation, we situate our work alongside other rhetorical scholarship concerned with the historical memory of abortion. We then locate Jim Jam Jems within a governing legal and social context. We then offer a thick description of a focal series of entries from the tabloid concerning Dr. Charles H. Hunter, which begins with the sensationalized 1912 story titled “Three Weeks in the Magic City.” Finally, we conclude with reflections about the relevance of the Jim Jam Jems case for contemporary analyses of abortion rhetoric.

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