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Rhetoric and Its Temporalities

Leaders: Michelle Ballif, The University of Georgia; Megan Foley, Mississippi State University

Michelle Ballif, The University of Georgia
Megan Foley, Mississippi State University

The theory and practice of rhetoric has an entangled relation to time and temporality.

Aristotle famously posited the three branches of oratory—judicial, deliberative, and epideictic—as answering to three, specific temporalities: the past, the present, and the future, respectively. The ancient sophists theorized rhetorical success by way of an opportune moment, or kairos. Contemporary theorizations of the rhetorical situation require an articulation of an historical context and a present exigency.

This workshop aims to investigate a variety of discourses of temporality—from chronos to kairos; from the metaphysical construction of time to the phenomenological experience of it; from the origin to the event. Examining how temporality has been traditionally figured and, yet, further problematized as “women’s time,” as “queered,” or anachronistic, we will address the following questions:

  • How might we extend or rethink traditional figurations of rhetoric’s temporality as timeliness or situatedness?
  • How might theories of temporality as untimely, anachronistic, or eventful productively supplement those traditional figurations of rhetorical time?
  • What, specifically, might such retheorizations mean for rhetoric—its practice, criticism, and theorization—and for the history and historiography of rhetoric?

The workshop will provide a space to think through a variety of discourses of temporality, integrating discussions of primary readings and participants’ own projects. In an effort to ensure that the workshop has practical relevance to the participants, we envision each participant will come prepared to informally discuss a work-in-progress that could be complicated or informed by revised theories of rhetoric’s temporality.

Questions should be direct to Michelle Ballif at

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