Notes: James Rushing Daniel, “The Event that We Are: Ontology, Rhetorical Agency, and Alain Badiou”

Daniel, James Rushing. (2016). The event that we are: Ontology, rhetorical agency, and Alain Badiou. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(3), 254–276.


Daniel offers Badiou’s concept of the event to rethink the discipline’s considerations of relativism and flat ontologies.

Keywords: agency, materiality, ontology, rhetoric, rhetorical theory


“While these approaches suggest that agency is not a linear means of enacting change but rather a distributed, emergent process, they nevertheless retain the notion of responsibility and with it the value of human choice. Many following object-oriented, materialist, or ecological models are accordingly caught in such a bind, espousing a model of agency that minimizes the role of the human subject and yet attributes to the human subject a unique significance” (p. 256-57).

“Badiou is not concerned with the consequentiality of things but rather with sets, discrete groupings of mathematical objects that concern spheres of human existence Badiou terms ‘situations’ or ‘worlds.’ Unlike the materialist approaches of contemporary rhetoric that seek to understand the role of objects within a flat ontological system, Badiou’s perspective allows for the consideration of the composition of discrete spheres of ontological being and the ways in which such spheres are disrupted and transformed by events” (p. 259).

Notes: Nathan Stormer & Bridie McGeavy, “Thinking Ecologically About Rhetoric’s Ontology: Capacity, Vulnerability, and Resilience”

Stormer, Nathan, & Bridie McGreavy. (2017). Thinking ecologically about rhetoric’s ontology: Capacity, vulnerability, and resilience. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 50(1), 1-25.


Stormer and McGeavy address three commonplaces in rhetoric (agency, violence, and recalcitrance) and argue for more ecologically enmeshed perspectives of these commonplaces (capacity, vulnerability, and resilience).

Keywords: materiality, ontology, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, writing studies


“Rhetoric’s ontology, approached ecologically, considers qualities of relations between entities, not just among humans, that enable different modes of rhetoric to emerge, flourish, and dissipate” (p. 3).

“Discourse as the performance of addressivity rather than as signification better acknowledges diverse, nonhuman qualities of relation within rhetoric…. As capacity, arrangements of addressivity establish ranges of action, meaning the limits of what or who may be affected by the discourses in question” (p. 8).

“Violence as forceful relation tells us little of how rhetorical capacities emerge because it obscures the environment that conditions violence by focusing on an eruptive moment” (p. 11).

“Vulnerability is not a state of being at risk but of being entangled, which requires being at risk in varying passive-active relations…. Action can ever and only be acting with the world, not simply acting on it” (p. 13).

“Different materialities set the field of potential and condition diverse rhetorics’ emergence from the broader environment. If that environment changes, so too does rhetorical capacity” (p. 19).

Notes: Catherine Chaput, “Rhetorical Circulation in Late Capitalism: Neoliberalism and the Overdetermination of Affective Energy”

Chaput, Catherine. (2010). Rhetorical circulation in late capitalism: Neoliberalism and the overdetermination of affective energy.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, 43(1), 1–25.


Chaput critiques the situated/situation premise within rhetoric as enabling neoliberalist ideologies to operate uninterrogated within them and poses rhetorical circulation, in its insistence on moving between spaces, as an alternative.

Keywords: affect, capital, materiality, neoliberalism, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, theory


“Conceptualizing discursive practices as a form of labor rather than a form of political signifi cation sidesteps anxiety about well-chosen language and emphasizes the life-affi rming activity involved in deciphering issues, inventing paths through those issues, and communicating new ideas to others” (p. 2).

“Put differently, security converts human beings into self-entrepreneurs whose freely chosen education, work, and leisure decisions operate instinctually according to the economics of risk and reward. Such a schema no longer enforces appropriate subjectivities (normalization) but regulates the point at which individual actions impinge on the statistically favored rates of population success (normation)” (p. 5).

“From this perspective, rhetoric is not an isolated instance or even a series of instances but a circulation of exchanges, the whole of which govern our individual and collective decisions. Understanding rhetoric as circulating within an overdetermined ecological space helps illuminate the biopolitical reaches of contemporary capital, while the social connectivity of aff ective energy produced through communicative labor helps explain the persuasive capacity of these reaches” (p. 8).

“The rhetorical  situation, that is, makes rhetoricians comfortable within the disciplinary status quo of rhetorical production understood as transpiring within  discrete sociohistorical, political, and cultural situations. Th e negative  aff ectivity of the rhetorical situation— its organization and  interpretation of life structures in terms of fi xed origins—stems, in part, from its reproduction of philosophical divisions: materiality and consciousness; reason and emotion; objects and subjects; past and future; the situated place and the open space” (p. 18).

“In the rhetorical circulation model, success derives from a better understanding of diff erently situated positions and an enhanced ability to engage diff erently situated people, processes that open dialogue rather than win debates” (p. 19).

Notes: Marlana Portolano, “The Rhetorical Function of Utopia: An Exploration of the Concept of Utopia in Rhetorical Theory”

Portolano, Marlana. (2012). The rhetorical function of utopia: An exploration of the concept of utopia in rhetorical theory. Utopian Studies, 23(1), 113-141.


Portolano makes connections between utopian studies and rhetorical theory, arguing for consideration of a utopian rhetoric, that realizes utopia as conveyed through symbolic communication and thus rhetorical.

Keywords: invention, philosophy, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, utopianism



“Without naming it ‘utopia,’ rhetorical theorists have consistently referred to an imagined, often idealized aspect of place as a part of ethos, the artistic rhetorical proof that is drawn from an audience’s collective character” (114).

“[W]hat is often left out in utopian studies is how this concept is communicated or mediated via symbols and communicative
conventions” (p. 115).

“[W]e might define a utopian rhetoric as the use of symbolic communication in an attempt to move the actual state of human affairs into alignment with an imagined, better state of affairs—that is, a utopia, either one shared by the community or one invented by the speaker or both. All sorts of utopia, then, are forms of rhetoric, but the reverse is not always true” (p. 116).

“This concept of utopia is essentially the same thing as constitutive rhetoric: It is a way of interpreting textual and symbolic events as they contribute to the realization of cultural norms” (p. 130).

“What is meant by “rhetorical invention” that might enhance utopian studies’ array of interpretive tools? Traditionally, it is the artistic creation of all the emotional, ethical, rational, and imaginative means of persuasion possible for a particular social group—the discovery of how to move an audience to psychological cohesion and, eventually, to action. Because rhetoric is usually understood as a civic art, like politics, this kind of invention is essential to any civic utopia” (p. 131).

Notes: Jean Bessette, “Queer Rhetoric in Situ”

Bessette, Jean. (2016). Queer rhetoric in situ. Rhetoric Review, 35(2), 148-164.


Bessette argues for a deeply contextual, weaker theory for queer theory within rhetorical studies.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetoric, Rhetorical Theory, Rhetoric


VanHaitsma, Pamela. (2014). Queering the language of the heart: Romantic letters, genre instruction, and rhetorical practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 44.1, 6–24.

Villarejo, A. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.


“[S]ome approaches to importing queer theory into rhetoric may render it arhetorical and by consequence, less productively queer. Instead I argue for a queer rhetorical methodology with increased attention to (1) the historical specificity of a potentially queer rhetorical act, (2) the nuanced complexity of power relations within broad categories of queerness and normativity, and (3) the diversity and range of audiences for any given rhetorical act, which might render it both queer and normative at the same time” (p. 149).

“Sedgwick raises a question that should give rhetorical critics in particular pause. ‘Suppose we were ever so sure,’ she inquires, of the facts of circumstances where nonstraight, nonwhite, and/or nonmale lives are made exploited and expendable in the processes of normalization, “what would we know then that we don’t already know?” (p. 150).

“Perhaps, in reading paranoidly, we see less of the precise, historically and contextually specific manifestations of normativity, queerness, and their agonistic interface. Paranoid analysis is one way but not the only way; it productively reveals some things (large systems of oppression) but may blind us to others (the intricate, unexpected ways normativity actually hypostasizes in a given time and place, for a given set of bodies)” (p. 150).

“I want our understanding of normativity to be more nuanced, flexible, and contextual” (p. 151).

“[W]hile texts are situated in the context of their deployment and reception, the meaning of queerness doesn’t seem to shift with time, nor does the meaning of the normativity it opposes” (p. 152).

“[I]mporting early queer theorists’ affect and connotations of queerness and normativity into other rhetorical moments requires some more reflection” (p. 153).

“[A]nything taken as universal has been established through a rhetorical process of making claims and supporting them with the invention and delivery of implicit and explicit regulations…. This regulation, of course, is precisely what queer theory sets out to expose: that the norms governing accepted forms of gender and sexuality are constructions that privilege some and profoundly harm others” (p. 154).

“I am advocating a queer rhetorical methodology in situ, one that asks: Queer to whom? When? Where, and how? Normative to whom? When? Where, and how?” (p. 157).

Notes: John Kress, “Plato’s Name for Being: Eidos” After Eidos: Heidegger, Plato, and the End of the Ideas

Kress, John A. (1998). Plato’s name for being: EidosAfter eidos: Heidegger, plato, and the end of the ideas. Dissertation.


Kress outlines Plato’s meditations on Socrates’s life in order to come to why eidos is used as Plato’s determination of being, ending that eidos intertwines itself around the whatness and presentness of being.

Keywords: Eidos, Philosophy, Plato, Being, Rhetorical Theory


“The aiton not only gives the being to be, but is the sustaining nurturing power of the being in its being” (8).

“Philosophy aims at the aitai of beings, that which properly is responsible for beings” (10).

“The eidos of the aiton is shown as—eidos. The look that Socrates has had in view since he turned to philosophy is nothing other than the look of the look, the look itself, eidos itself” (12).

“Being is properly what-being. Beings are what they are. What a being is determines it not only as this or that kind, but at the same time, as it is and that it is. That is, the what of a being, according to Plato, is at the same time the aiton of the being, sustaining it in being, and guiding its course of being. The what governs and sustains beings in their being; but being true is one of the ways in which being is said, one of the ways in which the Greeks experiences beings as being” (13).

“According to Plato, the what-being of a being lies in its eidos, the outward look whereby we see that a being is what it is” (14).

“being is what-being, what-being is eidos” (14).

Eidos, as the whatness of beings is at the same time the presentness of beings, the ouisa, because only the whatness of beings reveals itself as stable in the mode of constant presence” (26).

eidos shows itself to be the ontos on, that which strictly and properly deserves to be called being” (26).