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GUNN, Joshua

Winter 2008, 38:1, pages 82-108

Size Matters: Polytoning Rhetoric's Perverse Apocalypse

Abstract: Drawing on the insights of psychoanalysis and deconstruction, this article argues that the fixation of some scholars on the status, size, and identity of rhetorical studies is symptomatic of an apocalyptic perversion. An attention to the apocalyptic tone of recent discussions about "Big Rhetoric" in conference papers and journal articles bespeaks a characteristically phallogocentric ideology of discrimination between insiders and outsiders. An examination of the ubiquity and character of this tone, I suggest, forever precludes a united rhetorical studies for two reasons: (1) we enjoy our apocalyptic too much; and (2) apocalyptic is central to the identity of rhetorical studies because it is central to disciplinarity as such. Insofar as the urgency of the apocalyptic tone is sometimes a pragmatic and political necessity, an argument is made in favor of a more playful, polytonal apocalypticism that can help us better reckon with-and sometimes avoid-rhetoric that excludes.

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