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Seminar 8: Rhetorical Ethics in an Unjust World

Primarily Synchronous (May 24-May 28)

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Seminar Leaders:

Diane Davis, University of Texas at Austin:
Nathan Stormer, University of Maine:

Rhetorical studies has always been invested in ethical questions; it has not, however, always managed to think “the ethical” rhetorically. What difference might that difference make in a fundamentally unjust world? What might be the concrete effects of a thoroughly rhetorical engagement of ethics, an engagement wherein ethics is presumed to be rhetorical all the way down? How might it affect our approach to issues of difference, precarity, and (de)colonization, for example, if we were to begin from the perspective of a relational/rhetorical ontology that resists atomistic presumptions and values? And how might rhetorical studies embrace and adjust to an ethics that is necessarily and irreducibly emergent?

These are some of the questions that will drive this seminar. Our goal, then, will not be to articulate an ethics for rhetoric or to summarize bodies of scholarship about difference, precarity, or (de)coloniality. Our goal, rather, will be to problematize both ethics and rhetorical theory by rethinking “the ethical” within the framework of a relational ontology.

Organization: We’ll begin each morning with a group discussion of the day’s assigned texts, each of which will take us into some aspect of our general inquiry. We will then move into breakout groups where each participant will put their own scholarly projects into conversation with these texts and workshop ideas together. And we will close each meeting with a large group discussion about the scholarly and pedagogical possibilities inspired by this work. Throughout the seminar, we will collaboratively produce a bibliography of shared resources, as well.

Preparation: A Dropbox folder of texts will be shared in advance of the seminar. The tentative list of readings may include, for example, selections by Sara Ahmed, Gloria Anzaldúa, Judith Butler, Anne Defourmantelle, Jacques Derrida, Édouard Glissant, Tiffany Lethabo King, Emmanuel Levinas, Audre Lorde, Achille Mbembe, Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh, Jean-Luc Nancy, Katie Oliviera, Christina Sharpe, and Sylvia Wynter.

Diane Davis Diane Davis is Professor and Chair of the Department of Rhetoric & Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, and she holds the Kenneth Burke Chair of Rhetoric and media philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Her work is situated at the intersection of rhetoric and continental philosophy, and she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in rhetorical theory. She’s the author of two books, Breaking Up [at] Totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter and Inessential Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations, the co-author of Women’s Ways of Making It in Rhetoric and Composition (with Michelle Ballif and Roxanne Mountford), the editor of Reading Ronell and The UberReader: Selected Works of Avital Ronell, and the co-editor of a special issue of Philosophy and Rhetoric on Extrahuman Rhetorics (with Michelle Ballif) and a special anniversary volume of Rhetoric Society Quarterly (with Joshua Gunn).

Nathan Stormer Nathan Stormer is a professor of rhetoric in the Communication & Journalism Department at the University of Maine where he has taught graduate and undergraduate theory, methods, and topics in rhetoric since 1997. His primary line of research is medical rhetoric about abortion and his secondary line of research is rhetorical theory. He has published work in Signs, Philosophy & Rhetoric, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Critical Studies of Media Communication, and other journals. He also has written two books on the history of medical abortion rhetoric, Articulating Life’s Memory and Sign of Pathology. His current research continues with the history of abortion rhetoric and, conceptually, with the problem of thinking of rhetoric as multiple and changeable. His work is available here:

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