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Inessential Solidarity

Inessential Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations

Diane Davis
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    Inessential Solidarity
    Book Description:

    InInessential Solidarity,Diane Davis examines critical intersections of rhetoric and sociality in order to revise some of rhetorical theory's basic presumptions. Rather than focus on the arguments and symbolic exchanges through which social relations are defined, Davis exposes an underivable rhetorical imperative, an obligation to respond that is as undeniable as the obligation to age. Situating this response-ability as the condition for, rather than the effect of, symbolic interaction, Davis both dissolves contemporary concerns about linguistic overdetermination and calls into question long-held presumptions about rhetoric's relationship with identification, figuration, hermeneutics, agency, and judgment.

    Spotlighting a rhetorical "situation" irreducible to symbolic relations, Davis proposes quite provocatively that rhetoric-rather than ontology (Aristotle/Heidegger), epistemology (Descartes), or ethics (Levinas)-is "first philosophy." The subject or "symbol-using animal" comes into being, Davis argues both with and against Emmanuel Levinas, only inasmuch as it responds to the other; the priority of the other is not a matter of the subject's choice, then, but of its inescapable predicament. Directing the reader's attention to this inessential solidarity without which no meaning-making or determinate social relation would be possible, Davis aims to nudge rhetorical studies beyond the epistemological concerns that typically circumscribe theories of persuasion toward the examination of a more fundamental affectability, persuadability, responsivity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7764-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: A Rhetoric of Responsibility
    (pp. 1-17)

    InA Rhetoric of Motives, Kenneth Burke makes a point that perhaps goes without saying in rhetorical studies today: belonging is fundamentally rhetorical (27–28). That insight will serve as the thesis of this present work, but with a twist. According to Burke, belonging is not fixed ontologically by a shared essence but is instead a function of rhetorical identification, which is itself an effect of shared symbol systems. Scholars in rhetorical studies generally accept this elemental insight: what is common among those who “belong together” does not constitute an essence. What is common among the members of a nation,...

  2. 1 Identification
    (pp. 18-36)

    According to Jack Selzer’s delightful early history,Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village, Burke’s friends at theDialprobably introduced him to Sigmund Freud’s work sometime in the early 1920s. The impact was profound and sustained: Burke loved Freud. In the 1939 essay “Freud—and the Analysis of Poetry,” for instance, Burke writes: “the reading of Freud I find suggestive almost to the point of bewilderment. Accordingly, what I would most like to do would be simply to take representative excerpts from his work, copy them out, and write glosses upon them” (Philosophy258). I’m not the first to observe that...

  3. 2 Figuration
    (pp. 37-65)

    Emmanuel Levinas—after Freud but with a very different twist—also depicts the interruption in identification as an encounter with the otherasother, with a surplus of alterity that I can neither appropriate nor abdicate, and that therefore calls my self-sufficiency and spontaneity into question. Levinas describes this encounter as the opening of ethics: “We name this calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the other, ethics” (TI43). Pace Burke, he proposes that this is anextra-symbolic “experience” of the negative, which operates not as a “simple rule of conduct” but as “the principle of...

  4. 3 Hermeneutics
    (pp. 66-85)

    FromRhetorical PowertoDisciplinary IdentitiesSteven Mailloux has brilliantly performed and explicated a “rhetorical hermeneutics” that demonstrates the “practical inseparability of interpretation and language use and thus of the discourses that theorize those practices, hermeneutics and rhetoric” (RH3). Many rhetoricians have challenged the specifics of Mailloux’s various arguments and have more generally objected that “rhetorical hermeneutics” leans too far toward the hermeneutical, reducing rhetoric to an analytic or critical art and giving its productive (political) function the squeeze.¹ Yet, within these lively debates very few have challenged his basic premise that rhetoric and hermeneutics are inextricably intertwined: the...

  5. 4 Agency
    (pp. 86-113)

    If ethics involves arelation, an approach in which I turn toward an other who is not simply an object, toward an other who may also turn toward me, it first of all implies that neither I nor the other is an enclosed entity but that both are already exposed, posed in exteriority, radically non-selfsufficient; it implies, then, an originary (or preoriginary) relation with alterity—a relation that precedes the apparently self-sufficient self. Emmanuel Levinas focuses on this preoriginary relation, offering not an ethics in the sense of “laws or moral rules” but an “Ethics of Ethics,” as Derrida puts...

  6. 5 Judgment
    (pp. 114-143)

    An individual—indivisible and spontaneous—would be another story. But as a singularity, finite and exposed, “I” come into being only inasmuch as “I” respond to the other, and this preoriginary obligation to respond is called “my” responsibility. Responsibility, from this Levinasian perspective, is not something a self-sufficient subject chooses to take up; rather, “the subject” is ethically structuredasresponse-ability: “the subject”isthe response to alterity, a first response to the saying, each time, and all of the “saids” are granted on the basis of this response, including the appropriations and identifications that constitute “self ” and “ego.”...

  7. P. S. on Humanism
    (pp. 144-166)

    Despite my eagerness to wrap up and get out, I cannot not address directly Levinas’s humanism, which is in many ways unique and compelling, but remains a problem nonetheless. According to Levinas, the address that opens the space of the ethical relation takes place—first of all, if not exclusively—among human “brothers.” Neither “the animal” nor the “feminine alterity”¹ are capable of the ethical saying that Levinas describes: the former is too stupid to “universalize maxims and drives,” and the latter is situated in a preethical zone that lacks the transcendence of language. It’s possible to zoom in on...