Energeic Rhetoric

This fairly long page is interwoven with three other pages, Apeiros, Apophasis, and Aletheia. Throughout the page you will find links connecting key ideas from rhetorical theory with my discussion of these three terms. My goal is to imitate comics' operations (specifically what Groensteen calls "general arthrology" or "tressage") without employing images. In other words, this is an image-less comic. Of     course, these connections continue throughout Rhizcomics. See Difference for a more detailed explanation of the ways page links operate like comics' gutters.


* * *

Rickert’s notion of rhetoric as reattunement resembles and differs from Lyotard’s idea of truth as disharmony (détonne)

*or perhaps "actualized."

Use the “P” key to play or pause. Use the left and right arrow keys to change the direction of the animation. Use the “S” key to stop.


The animation above includes a cone (past), a vertical line (present), and a space (future) with a key above. Small colored squares slowly appear and move from the space on the right, through the point where the cone intersects with the line, and end in the cone.


Over the last two decades, a strange undercurrent in rhetorical studies has found the need to define rhetoric very broadly.

Very. Broadly.

I’m thinking here of two recent books, Thomas Rickert’s Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being and Diane Davis’s Inessential Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations, but also of the two articles that I believe provide a foundation for each: George Kennedy’s “A Hoot in the Dark: the Evolution of General Rhetoric” and Jenny Edbauer’s (now Jenny Rice) “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.” Other scholars and texts could certainly be included in the list, but I’ll be focusing on these as they form a kind of constellation, quoting each other and working within similar traditions.

Kennedy begins his essay on animal rhetorics with a shocking admission: “After spending much of my professional life teaching rhetoric, I began to wonder what I was talking about” (1). Trained as a classicist, treating rhetoric as the art of persuasion, he finds himself surprised by literary theorists’ insistence on rhetoric as style. In an attempt at sketching a general theory of rhetoric, Kennedy looks to the edges of rhetoric, to animals. As he does so, a number of surprising theses arise, each asserting that something precedes what we typically think of as resulting from: writing precedes speech (here Kennedy is citing Derrida), rhetoric precedes writing (13), interpretation precedes intention (7), delivery precedes invention (12), and rhetoric precedes humans (14). Kennedy discovers a new definition of rhetoric as energy:

Rhetoric in the most general sense may perhaps be identified with the energy inherent in communication: the emotional energy that impels the speaker to speak, the physical energy expended in the utterance, the energy level coded in the message, and the energy experienced by the recipient in decoding the message. (2)

At first this energeic definition of rhetoric might not seem all that different from previous definitions. Energy is a loose term and could be seen as a parallel of symbolic action or available means. However, as Kennedy proceeds to explore rhetoric’s priority in nature, describing a variety of animal rhetorics, it becomes clear that his energeic rhetoric exceeds traditional definitions. Instead, it sounds more like the Force from Star Wars, inherent in everything and everyone, offering powerful incentives for those who can work within it to influence others.

In a similar move, Jenny Rice broadens Lloyd Bitzer’s formulation of the rhetorical situation to include social flows and emergent exigences. For Rice, Bitzer’s framework is too simplistic. We identify the discrete elements of a rhetorical situation and then describe their relationships in a conglomeration. Rice’s model is far more complex:

Rather than primarily speaking of rhetoric through the terministic lens of conglomerated elements, I look towards a framework of affective ecologies that recontextualizes rhetorics in their temporal, historical, and lived fluxes. In what follows, I want to propose a revised strategy for theorizing public rhetorics (and rhetoric's publicness) as a circulating ecology of effects, enactments, and events by shifting the lines of focus from rhetorical situation to rhetorical ecologies.  Like Biesecker, Phelps, and Warner, I want to add the dimensions of history and movement (back) into our visions/versions of rhetoric's public situations, reclaiming rhetoric from artificially elementary frameworks. While one framework does not undermine the other, I argue that this ecological model allows us to more fully theorize rhetoric as a public(s) creation. (9)

Building on previous critiques of Bitzer (Biesecker, Phelps, and Warner), Rice’s move from situation to ecology recognizes the situatedness of rhetorical situations. Rice offers the “Keep Austin Weird” campaign as an example of a rhetorical ecology that exceeds a rhetorical situation. Rather than being initiated by a “public” figure (politician, celebrity, intellectual), Keep Austin Weird originated in an actual public: people discovering, creating, and reacting to emerging exigences.

The link from Kennedy to Rice (she does not cite him) might seem to be a metaphorical one: Kennedy looks at nature and Rice proposes an ecological framework. But Rice’s ecological framework is no metaphor: like Kennedy, she is interested in real, material ecologies. Building on Rosa Eberly’s statement that rhetoric “is the process through which texts are not only produced but also understood to matter” (296), Rice expands on rhetoric’s materiality:

This "mattering" is not fully explained only by a text's elemental properties, but also in the sense of material effects and processes. When we approach a rhetoric that does indeed engage with the living, hooking into the processes that are already in play, then we find ourselves theorizing rhetorical publicness. We find ourselves engaging a public rhetoric whose power is not circumscribed or delimited. We encounter rhetoric. (23; italics in original)

Rather than bracketing those elements that cannot be placed in a rhetorical situation, Rice’s version of rhetoric spreads out virally, infusing the context into the text. Strangely, this feels almost like a return to Aristotle’s “available means of persuasion.” Whereas Bitzer (and probably Aristotle) is concerned with identifying what is and is not available, Rice wants to make more stuff available to rhetoric and for us to become available to rhetoric, available to encounter rhetoric. Again, rhetoric feels a bit like the Force.

Davis extends rhetoric further in describing a preoriginary rhetoricity. Davis’s rhetoric precedes speech, humans, and even symbolization itself. Her “goal is to expose an originary (or preoriginary) rhetoricity—an affectability or persuadability—that is the condition for symbolic action” (Inessential 2; italics in original). In articulating a rhetorical foundation for Levinas’s ethics, Davis discovers nonhuman ethics based in nonhuman rhetorics, a case already made by Kennedy. However, Kennedy’s essay, which Davis refers to as “a seminal essay that should also have been pathbreaking” (155), did not initially receive the attention it deserved, and rhetoric has been left mainly to the humans.

Thomas Rickert extends Davis’s conceptualization of presymbolic rhetoric with a thorough theorization of ambient rhetoric:

I argue for a richer, more dynamic, and materialist understanding of rhetoric that declines to zone rhetoric within symbolicity (and in this I am congruent with Diane Davis, who also sees rhetoric as prior to symbolicity). (xv)

The material nature of this presymbolic rhetoric is important to Rickert as it is for Rice. Davis’ argument is a little more complex in terms of materiality (I will explain her position shortly). Halfway through his complex, tightly argued tome, Rickert offers a stunning definition of rhetoric while stressing his dependence on (and distinguishing his position from) Kennedy’s and Davis’s arguments:

Rhetoric is a responsive way of revealing the world for others, responding to and put forth through affective, symbolic, and material means, so as to (at least potentially) reattune or otherwise transform how others inhabit the world to an extent that calls for some action (which can include, of course, steadfastness, refusal, or even apathy). Beyond resonating with Davis’s approach, my line of thought also bears an affinity to George Kennedy’s important essay “A Hoot in the Dark,” where Kennedy claims that rhetoric is energy. I augment Kennedy, however, by adding that energy is always materialized. Energy emerges within and transforms how one dwells in the world or at least allows for that world to show up, to reveal itself, differently. If we are going to keep to persuasion, then, this is a further intensification of it. Persuasion thought ambiently looks to a materialist affectability that sustains our being-in-the-world. An ambient rhetoric will have taken things at their world and not just their word. (162; italics in original)

The major difference between Rickert and Kennedy is rhetoric’s materiality. For Rickert, “energy is always materialized.” This seems to be not so much a disagreement with Kennedy as a clarification. Kennedy does not say that energy must remain immaterial, and his examples seem very material to me. However, Rickert’s augmentation of Kennedy with materiality feels like slightly too strong of an argument. Heidegger’s conception of world does not seem to be quite so insistent on materiality. Certainly it includes material, but materiality itself is not world (as Rickert clearly shows in his analysis of Heidegger’s fourfold). Instead, if I might offer a small tweak for Rickert, energy is always in the process of being materialized*. This process itself is rhetoric. I think this tweak is also already latent in his reference to “affective, symbolic, and material means.” Rickert is not advocating an only material rhetoric but renewed attention at rhetoric’s material bases and effects.

As Rickert argues, our current view of rhetoric is too small. It needs to be expanded, and that means forgetting a few assumptions:

The project suggests we take as provisional starting points the dissolution of the subject-object relation, the abandonment of representationalist theories of language, an appreciation of nonlinear dynamics and the process of emergence, and the incorporation of the material world as integral to human action and interaction, including the rhetorical arts. (xii)

Alongside these assumptions, we need to rethink the material-immaterial distinction. An energeic rhetoric would exist across material and immaterial planes. Just as in physics, it’s clear that rhetorical energy and matter are in a relationship (though that analogy could be pushed to its breaking point quite easily). Rather than energy materialized, we might look at rhetoric as energy becoming material.

Davis’s articulation of presymbolic rhetoricity as both/neither immaterial and/nor material exhibits the complexity of this relationship. In her 2014 article “Autozoography: Notes toward a Rhetoricity of the Living,” Davis conceptualizes preoriginary rhetoricity as immaterial:

So it is not simply that there is something “immaterial . . . in man” from which “self-knowledge arises,” as Linnaeus implied, but that this immaterial “something,” this preoriginary rhetoricity, is the very condition for the identity and functioning of any living being. (547)

Here it would seem that Davis is arguing that the presymbolic is immaterial. One could perhaps make a similar argument that Lyotard’s figural matrix is hardly material. However, for each of them materiality is in play. In a recent conversation, Davis clarified that the “immaterial” something is her repurposing of Linnaeus and not meant to imply any attack on materiality (“RE: Burke”). Throughout the article she maintains a careful balance between immaterial and material. Her allegory is an immaterial materialization:

Inscribing the anteriority it claims merely to translate, allegory opens potentialities with no material foundation save the materiality of the inscription itself. “To the extent that it calls for an ever-renewed form of what Freud called ‘reality-testing,’” Ronell explains, “allegory interrogates that which is not present but which tirelessly summons us to seek the materiality that remains out of our grasp.” (542; citing Ronell, 107)

While it seems that materiality is important to this preoriginary rhetoricity (to which Davis links allegory as its nonlinguistic, nonrepresentational trope), that materiality is to some extent impossible or only potential. In her reading of Paul de Man, Davis finds another immaterial materiality: “Autobiography, de Man observes, is inherently allegorical, pointing as it does to the materiality of an inscription: a materiality without matter, without presence” (542). It’s difficult to know what to make of such seeming paradoxes. She clarifies her position in Inessential Solidarity:

Your material incarnation is the site of a passivity more ancient than the active/passive dichotomy; it’s the condition for your exposure, your susceptibility, your vulnerability— and therefore for your responsivity. This is Levinas’s singular insight: it is precisely to the extent that you are a bodily creature that you are both an ethical subject and “in a certain sense an idiot.” (150)

Our materiality is both the basis for our immateriality and the basis for our ignorance. We cannot know ourselves except as material beings, and to be known as such is to dis-cover our finitude.

Kennedy offers the surprising claim that delivery precedes the other canons. In animals, we see grand displays of rhetoricality, often with no discernibly distinct invention, arrangement, memorization, or style. Indeed, each of these, to the extent that they are present at all, seems to originate from the delivery. Similarly, Davis’s preoriginary rhetoricity is immaterial only in its materialization. Davis sees in the process of materialization the failure of reality testing (which, according to Freud, results in the creation of an ego negotiating between id, superego, and reality). This is a very material process and an example of presymbolic rhetoric’s materiality: delivery as prior to invention.

Kennedy’s position is based on his reading of Derrida just as Davis’s focus on immateriality is rooted in her understanding of Derrida’s trace. For Davis, Derrida’s trace, the mark between self and other that at once unites and divides, is the basis for all life. I think it is worth looking closely at her reading of Kennedy’s reading of Derrida. In a note to her definition of trace, Davis clarifies,

Kennedy insightfully discusses Derrida’s notion of arche-writing, but he conceives the mark (trace) as the inscription of an absolute border dividing inside from outside: “The entity of any body of matter is based on a binary distinction between what is and what is not; this is what limits its mass” (1992, 13). A limit, however, both shares and divides; it involves not an opposition but the play of différance. (“Autozoography” 551n15)

Again, the trace is articulated in terms of matter. However, as trace (following the play of différance) it cannot be located as primarily material or immaterial. Indeed, it is the différance between the two. I really like this idea of a materiality that remains out of grasp, and think it jives well with Rickert’s conception of ambient rhetoric. But for Davis, presymbolic rhetoricity is neither material nor immaterial. Like the trace, it precedes such divisions.

However, as I argue elsewhere, Lyotard takes great issue with the linguistic resonance in Derrida’s conception of the trace. We see Davis resort to a similar linguistic preference in her definition of trace:

The trace—the entwinement of the other in the same that makes the “same” possible—is already the heart of any sign; it’s the most basic unit of communication, and it’s not simply human. What philosophy and rhetorical studies purchase by beginning instead with the letter, word, or signifier—with an anthropological understanding of language—is a metaphysical distinction between “human” and “animal,” linguistic existence and merely living, a distinction that does not dissolve but infinitely divides itself at the level of trace. (547)

Davis eschews letter, word, or signifier as the primary or only forms of rhetoric (an anthropocentric rhetoric). However, I'm uncomfortable with the coupling of trace to sign as the basic unit of communication. As Davis shows, the trace is the prerequisite for the sign. However, Lyotard is careful to illustrate that this presymbolic quasitranscendental is not linguistically motivated.

The figural (under the command of the death drive) resists any possibility for a unified discourse. This distinguishes Derrida’s différance from Lyotard’s difference. Lyotard situates difference in the figural (always already intertwined with discourse) whereas Derrida sees différance inherent in discourse without any need to invoke the figural. The difference is subtle but telling, hinging on utopia, both “good place” and “no place” in the original pun. For Derrida, discourse will always be capable of the former. For Lyotard, figurality always occupies the latter.

Discourse, Figure, then, anticipates The Differend. The given entails a pockmarked landscape of difference and repetition, untranslatable, unsmoothable. Everywhere we look we find differends, injudicable regions between places, utopias. Like Derrida, Lyotard’s deconstruction resists synthesis. The call, then, is not to smooth over but to bear witness to new idioms, to the construction of new places, to the composition of new topoi, always between and across modalities. After all, jouissance only ever exists as a difference between two states. My own project constructs incompossible theories of such a composition, each theory in tension with the others, resisting synthesis, never failing into a unity.

In psychoanalysis, there is no need for a special work of synthesis; here, the individual does it better than us. Letter from S. Freud to O. Pfister, October 9, 1918 (Lyotard, Discourse, Figure 390; translation modified)

We might find unconscious linguistic preferences in Davis’s preoriginary rhetoricity or Derrida’s trace, but it’s more pervasive than that: it’s all of ours. I’m certain a careful eye could find it throughout this project. Scholarship itself begs us to use more words, to make attempts at paraphrase and identity, knowing such indelicate allegories will always fall short of their referents. As Deborah Hawhee warns, “Just as language in psychoanalysis is the means of producing self-understanding (and understanding of others), theories of discursive construction, too, tend to emphasize language’s role in knowledge production” (166). An energeic rhetoric would need to exceed discourse and symbolization as well as materiality. It is in all of these and more. It is Derrida’s trace but with Lyotard’s depth.

As Lyotard shows, energy is a “façon de parler,” a way of speaking, the availability of the means of persuasion.

Kennedy says energy. Rickert says material. Davis says trace. My difficulty in negotiating their positions led me to wonder if I was using the wrong terms. I decided to try looking instead at rhetoric as an interplay of virtual and actual, à la Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze’s conceptualization of actual and virtual is completely material but would allow for the kind of ambience Rickert values alongside the presymbolicity Davis describes. Alex Reid’s The Two Virtuals: New Media and Composition offers an in-depth application of these terms to composition, but I’m returning to the source material itself to make a different point.

The first thing we need to say about the actual and the virtual is that they are both real—just as real as each other—as real as a heart attack, as my mother would say. The virtual can become actual and we call this process actualization. However, it would be easy to hear the virtual then as potential. The potential, however, is not real. An example would help here, and it’s a common one: genetics. My genes are virtual. The specific attributes of my body are actual. Notice first off that not only are both real, but both are very material. Genes are a concept we use to talk about the way material proteins fold and unfold, producing new proteins. The genes, then, are virtual components with a material base that get actualized by other material components. My genes don’t just carry the potential for blue eyes: they carry that necessity. The genes look nothing like blue eyes. If they can be seen at all, they appear as particular sections of unimaginably long strings that have been formed into a double helix. But they are certainly real—as real as my eyes, and also just as material.

Notice, however, that there seems to be something immaterial here as well. Genes are just the names we give to particular patterns in nature. The proteins don’t come prelabeled as genes (or as proteins, for that matter). But Deleuze is careful not to use the term immaterial to describe such conceptual phenomena. Instead, he and Guattari use the terms concrete and abstract. One nice thing about concrete and abstract is that we are immediately struck by their relativity. Nothing is absolutely concrete or absolutely abstract, just more or less concrete or abstract than it might be. And this might be the danger in the terms material and immaterial: they sound essential, absolute, eternal. For Deleuze, everything is material, no matter how abstract it gets.

So these terms might help us negotiate a conversation in rhetorical theory, but of what practical use are they? For one thing, they help us to understand the writing process as a process. In order to understand this, we’ll have to take a short detour into Deleuze’s thinking of time. I take this reading mainly from Todd May’s book on Deleuze.

The present is not just actual, but actualized. It is actualized from multiplicities of virtual elements that exist in the past. What’s even more complex is that this structure is always on the move: the present is always becoming past, and the past is always becoming more full of once present actualities. While the terms may seem strange, the idea is almost commonsensical. The present is virtualities becoming actualized. Again, an example might help.

As I write this, my wife is nine and a half months pregnant with our first child, a girl, tentatively named Madison. As I write this sentence, she’s three weeks old and has not just a birth certificate that says Madison but a Social Security card. A lot happened between those two sentences. How old will she be when you read it? What virtualities will become actualized?

When I began thinking about the actual and the virtual in terms of Rickert’s material definition of rhetoric, Madison had not yet even been conceived. My wife and I were talking about trying, about throwing the dice, to use Deleuze’s terminology. The dice we throw are full of potential. The dice that return are full of necessity. Over the last year (and even longer), Madison has been shaped by virtualities. Many of them became actualized in particular ways. Others did not but remain very real virtualities. However, they had the potential to be actualized in ways that they weren’t.

For example, the virtualities that could have made her a boy are still very real. I’ve got those other copies of those chromosomes inside of me. When the particular genetic material that produced her was individuating itself, some of those virtualities were actualized and some were not. Even many of the virtualities that exist right now for me are no longer virtual as this is being read: some have been actualized since I wrote this. And that’s important to note. My present is not yours, but most of our past is the same (I have all but the last few months or years of yours).

But this past is not just a subjective past full of my recollection of the present. It’s also full of formerly actual things that have become virtual and are shared by everyone, whether they know about them or not. The truck driver who did not see the red light becomes virtual as his truck plows into me. My ignorance of his past virtual selves does not remove the truck from existence.

Rethinking the writing process in terms of actual and virtual forces us to rethink our priorities as teachers. We tend to think of the writing process as involving someone writing for a purpose with a particular audience in mind. We could slice that process into any number of steps, typically prewriting, writing, rewriting, and delivery, but as every teacher knows, those steps could each be infinitely divided into smaller steps and all of the steps are recursive. In other words, what we’re really saying is that we have a line that we have cut into a number of sections and that in any particular writing process these steps will be folded on each other in any number of ways. That’s not particularly helpful.

And this is one of the reasons the postprocess writing movement occurred, and one of the reasons it hasn’t yet been as successful as we might have guessed. No one is saying that writing isn’t a process (so the term postprocess probably isn’t the best term). Instead, everyone is agreeing that writing isn’t a single, codifiable process (Whicker). It looks different for every person. Hell, it looks different for every piece of writing I do. This one is no exception. Some of the words were written months ago. A few were written close to a year ago. I presented many of these particular words at CCCC 2015. Of course, very few of those sentences remain from initial drafts. A lot of rewriting has occurred, and much of it has had to do with changes in delivery.

The visual medium of this book generates some very particular revision strategies. It went through two major drafts as a text document, including notes about visual elements to be added later. In adding the visual elements, the text often had to be rewritten. Two more drafts as a website before submitting it to my publisher. Calling these “drafts” assumes a stability they did not actually have. The most recent draft has had six complete rounds of revision since the previous draft. The term draft just refers to when I added an artificial distinction by saving it as a new file. The file I am currently working with is called "Rhizcomics9." Dan Anderson’s “Watch the Bubble” stresses the demands alt-scholarship makes on revision (“23 files”).

Reading is another noncodifiable process, uniquely so in a book like this one. A few minutes ago you clicked a link to this page, and that event provides an example of actualization. The actual exists only across the plane of the present. On the future side of that plane there are only virtualities (the next link you’ll click, the coffee you’ll drink as you read, the comments you make on the page, the delightful personal e-mail you’ll write me telling me how right I am or, just as wonderfully, how wrong). On the past side, there are only virtualities (the link you clicked, the coffee you brewed, the phone you purchased on which you will write far too many e-mails). And these two sides are asymmetrical. The past is very different from the future.

But what does this teach us about writing? Risk. It teaches us that every act of writing is a risk. I don’t know how you’ll react. I can guess. I can weigh potentials by looking across and counting the virtualities. I can also look back at our collective past, how previous publications have gone, how generous and brilliant my audiences have been. But there are no guarantees. The dice we throw are an affirmation of chance. The dice that return are full of necessity. The papers our students write are an affirmation of chance, and we return them with necessity, evaluation, comments, grades.

When I was interviewing for my current position, Joddy Murray asked me about the metaphors I use when talking about writing, and I realized how often I use the term net. I tell my students to take risks and reassure them that there’s a net in case they fall. Clearly the metaphor was one of acrobatics, and I honestly have no idea where it first came from, but it’s an important one for me.

Deleuze tells us that we do not learn to swim on the beach, imitating our instructor (Difference 22-23). We learn to swim in the water, batting our arms, weakly at first, against singularities: waves that have never existed before and will never exist again. But swimming in the ocean is a scary prospect. Anything could happen. There are virtual sharks that might actualize themselves on my leg at any moment. I prefer the trapeze. In the same book, Deleuze gives us instructions for writing:

How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say. We write only at the frontiers of knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms one into the other. Only in this manner are we resolved to write. (xxi)

I can only hope that in this book I've written of what I know badly. But writing has certainly improved that knowledge. Students aren't the only ones who write to learn.

The student swings out over the void. The ground is not far, but far enough to kill. Luckily there’s a net. They swing out and let go, hoping, as they flip through the air that there will be a bar waiting for them to grab hold of. If they’re going to learn, they’ll probably have to fall a few times. And sure, it’s a process, but dividing the arc of the swing into segments isn’t very helpful. Recognizing risk is.

And that’s why I’ve begun including risk in my rubrics. It might seem like there’s nothing more conservative than a rubric. Aren’t Deleuze and Guattari all about multiplicities and rhizomes and smooth spaces? Rubrics are about as far from a smooth space as one can get. But of course, they also remind us to never believe that a smooth space will save us (A Thousand Plateaus 500). Rules aren’t bad; they just need to be tested now and again.

And so I’ve begun placing a category for risk in my rubrics. I offer students some examples, cautioning them not to emulate the examples but to take their own risks. Imitating an A paper is hardly a risk and won’t be rewarded. The postprocess movement asked us to think about writing without subjectivities. And I like that. I’m theoretically invested in it. However, I’m also very attached to my own body, my own agency, and I know my students like theirs as well. Risk reminds us that these individuals have placed themselves in our care. We’re not selling anything, and they’re not consumers. We’re trapeze instructors, and we want to see them attempt the things we never dreamed of.

Joddy Murray started this whole thing by asking me about my pedagogical metaphors. His research extends rhetoric from a concern with words to a concern with images: “Broadening our conception of symbolization and language offers rich theoretical possibilities that connect our meaning making to image making” (16). In following Murray out onto the trapeze, I would like to clarify that rhetoric is not only in language. There is a presymbolic rhetoricity, articulated by Kennedy, Davis, Rickert, Lyotard, and Deleuze.

The danger in not recognizing this would be to turn images into words, to betray their face (to borrow Levinas’s evocative allegory). In place of non-discursive symbolization, I propose energeic rhetoric as a nonsymbolic figuration: a thick, nonlinguistic, nondiscursive, preoriginary, material (full of virtualities becoming actualized), often unconscious, middle-voiced process of catachresis and metalepsis—in other words, rhizcomics.

This page (and the three with which it is connected) has been an attempt to employ comics' operations. The links created gutters between this and other pages. The argument isn't on the pages but between them. It's an experiment, and one that I'm sure has failed in particular ways. But even failures are results worth talking about.

And so I swing out over the abyss, and at the farthest point, I let go, affirming chance. I’m upside down now. I’m flipping around and I know that in a second, I’ll see the bar, but for now, I’m up here, just floating. Hopefully, that bar will be there when I need to actualize its virtuality. Hopefully, I won’t need the net. But if I do, I know it’s there.

Joddy’s office is just down the hall, so it’s strange for us to have this conversation in scholarship instead of in one of our offices.

Dans la technique psychanalytique, il n'est point besoin d'un travail spécial de synthèse; cela, l'individu s'en charge mieux que nous..

  • Kennedy

    “Rhetoric in the most general sense may perhaps be identified with the energy inherent in communication.” (2)

  • Rice

    “I want to propose a revised strategy for theorizing public rhetorics (and rhetoric's publicness) as a circulating ecology of effects, enactments, and events by shifting the lines of focus from rhetorical situation to rhetorical ecologies.” (9)

  • Davis (1)

    “The goal is to expose an originary (or preoriginary) rhetoricity—an affectability or persuadability—that is the condition for symbolic action.” (Inessential 2)

  • Rickert

    ˆRhetoric is a responsive way of revealing the world for others, responding to and put forth through affective, symbolic, and material means, so as to (at least potentially) reattune or otherwise transform how others inhabit the world to an extent that calls for some action.” (162; italics in original)

  • Davis (2)

    “A materiality without matter, without presence.” (“Autozoography” 542)

  • Deleuze

    “How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly?” (Difference xxi)