Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies


James Jasinski

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    • Rhetoric & Society

      edited by Herbert W Simons Temple University


      Michael Billig

      Department of Social Sciences, Loughborough University

      Carole Blair

      Department of American Studies, University of California, Davis

      Richard H. Brown

      Department of Sociology, University of Maryland

      Rosa Eberly

      Division of Rhetoric and Composition, University of Texas, Austin

      Dilip Gaonkar

      Communication Studies, Northwestern University

      James Jasinski

      Department of Communication & Theatre Arts, The University of Puget Sound

      Joyce Irene Middleton

      Department of English, University of Rochester

      Janice Rushing

      Communication Department, University of Arkansas

      Allen Scult

      Department of Speech Communication, Drake University

      This series will publish a broad-based collection of advanced texts and innovative works encompassing rhetoric in the civic arena, in the arts and media, in the academic disciplines, and in everyday cultural practices.

      Books in this series:

      Control and Consolation in American Culture and Politics: Rhetorics of Therapy

      Dana L. Cloud

      Communication Criticism: Developing Your Critical Powers

      Jodi R. Cohen

      Analyzing Everyday Texts: Discourse, Rhetoric, and Social Perspectives

      Glenn F. Stillar

      Progay/Antigay: The Rhetorical War Over Sexuality

      Ralph R. Smith and Russel R. Windes

      Sourcebook on Rhetoric: Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies

      James Jasinski


      To my parents for their many years of love and support


      View Copyright Page


      Herbert W.Simons

      It is my pleasure to introduce this very odd but extremely useful reference work. Arranged as one might arrange a dictionary or an encyclopedia, it is rather a highly textured introduction to contemporary rhetorical the-ory, one that sacrifices comprehensiveness for depth over the limited array of key concepts that it covers. Missing from the Glossary of Concepts, for example, is the term example, yet the book is exemplary in the many examples it provides to illustrate included concepts. Moreover, the book's index provides the equivalent of a second and more detailed glossary of terms, pointing readers to the many terminological contexts in which the indexed terms are relevant.

      These linkages, also highlighted in the text itself, permit efficient travel across the terrain that is rhetoric. Readers will, of course, choose their own itineraries, exploring connections that Jasinski could not possibly have anticipated. Those readers who were reared in the literary/compositional/English department tradition of rhetorical studies, for example, might begin with words such as narrative that already are familiar to them, but then, having become convinced that their tradition says not enough about rhetoric as an adaptive art, might venture to the oral/oratorical/communication studies side of the street for an introduction to rhetorical situation. The venturesome rhetorician in a communication studies department might likewise move from the familiar (e.g., debate, apologia) to the unfamiliar, finding in Bloom's (1973) poetics of influence precisely the metaphor needed to analyze the oratory of Malcolm X. A decided virtue of this book is its broad range of pivotal terms—reason enough for students in English or communication studies to purchase it or make liberal use of it at their reference libraries.

      It is instructive to apply Jasinski's concepts to the book itself. The first concept discussed in the preface is conversation, but its use—such as Burke's (1957) in the Philosophy of Literary Form—is metaphorical. Jasinski purports to record the conversation that is contemporary rhetorical studies, but he also is one of the conversationalists, making clear in his introduction that he is sympathetic to efforts to rein in “rhetoric,” restricting it to the civic arena or at least keeping public discourse as its focus.

      Yet in spite of good intellectual conversation, Jasinski's introduction to rhetoric's nature and scope is fair to the globalists, those who would have us look for rhetoric—or at least rhetorical dimensions—in virtually all human acts and artifacts. Jasinski also accentswhat he knows best, which is American public address, past and present. This is at once a limitation of the book but also a strength; it gives depth to the book, albeit at a sacrifice to range.

      But who among us can do justice to a globalized view of the range of rhetoric? And that indeed is a reason why Jasinski favors a more restricted view.

      Jasinski notes in the preface that this book began as an eight-page mimeo handout. Years later, it was made ready for Sage Publications' Rhetoric & Society series, consisting of books of about 200 pages each. But as Jasinski set to work on his key concepts, he found that he had much too much to say about them. Fortunately, as the size of the entries grew, Jasinski grew with them, becoming in the process of fashioning this singular book a singular adept teacher of contemporary rhetorical theory.

      Beginning students of rhetoric might take issue with this last claim. They might find, for example, that the introduction to rhetoric is too difficult, the many meanings explored are excessive, and the introduction's “conversation” is disturbingly inconclusive. But this is a highly commendable introductory essay, one that should be better appreciated as other terms in the book are scrutinized, digested, and made a part of readers' inner conversations. Not all of the terms in the book will require scrutiny; that depends on the chosen itinerary. But many entries will repay repeated readings.

      References and Additional Reading
      Bloom, H. (1973). The anxiety of influence. New York: Oxford University Press.
      Burke, K. (1957). The philosophy of literary form (
      rev. ed.
      ). New York: Vintage.


      In a well-known passage from The Philosophy of Literary Form, Kenneth Burke described human existence as an “unending conversation.” Burke (1957) wrote,

      Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him [sic]; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, [and] you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. (pp. 94–96)

      I have composed this book on the assumption that academic disciplines, as a slice of human existence, partake of our unending conversation. To put the point more directly, I have approached the discipline of rhetorical studies as a conversation. This book strives to describe the conversation that is the contemporary discipline of rhetorical studies. Like any conversation, rhetorical studies features multiple voices, idioms, and perspectives, and this book tries to incorporate the various voices, idioms, and perspectives that constitute contemporary rhetorical studies. As Burke suggested in his discussion of the unending conversation, no one is ever qualified to provide a complete account of the conversation of human life. The same is true for the conversation that is rhetorical studies. No one is qualified to provide an exhaustive definitive account of its shape and contours. But this book tries to provide its readers with an introduction to most of the major issues, themes, and arguments that engage the attention of rhetorical scholars at the beginning of the 21st century.

      After the introductory essay that reviews the vexing question of how to define the term rhetoric, the book consists of a series of alphabetically organized entries, beginning with the Bakhtinian concept of accent and ending with the emerging concept of the vernacular. Each entry tries to define its central concept, provide practical illustrations of the concept when that is appropriate, discuss some of the key scholarship that has addressed the concept, and identify some of the more important studies by rhetorical scholars that have engaged the concept in some way. A number of concepts do not receive extended treatment in a separate entry but are discussed in the course of treating a broader concept. If a concept in which readers are interested does not have a specific entry devoted to it, they should check the index at the back of the book to see whether it is listed there and discussed as part of a different entry. For example, there is not an entry for Burke's concept of bridging device or Stephen Toulmin's sense of warrant, but each concept is discussed briefly as part of a broader topic (e.g., transcendence, argument). Terms in boldface in the text indicate that there are specific entries for those terms or forms of those terms. Secondary terms listed in the index are italicized in the text on their first mention in an entry.

      The book attempts to do something more than provide a detached or objective account of the conversation that is rhetorical studies.1 In many of the entries, I have tried to enact or purposefully “stage” conversational episodes by bringing voices or idioms that have not yet noticed or engaged each other into some contact. For example, in the entry for feminine style, I have tried to suggest some possible points of contact between this idea and work being done on seemingly disparate concepts such as judgment, prudence, and social knowledge. The aim of these moments in the book is heuristic—an effort to suggest new paths that our disciplinary conversation might wish to pursue and an attempt to sketch out possible lines of critical and conceptual inquiry. At these moments, to return to Burke's metaphor, I have put in my “oar” and tried to contribute to, rather than simply describe, the conversation of rhetorical studies.

      Conversations, and books about conversations, are collaborative communal accomplishments. That certainly is the case with this book. Numerous individuals have contributed to its development. Dilip Gaonkar was an early, and constant, supporter of the project. Bob Ivie, Kathryn Olson, Mike Osborn, and Herb Simons read the initial proposal and an early draft and made many wonderful suggestions for improving the book. Steve Browne, Melissa Deem, Bonnie Dow, Peter Ehrenhaus, Tom Farrell, Mike Greco, Bob Hariman, Forbes Hill, Mike Leff, John Lucaites, A. Susan Owen, Mark Pollock, Ed Schiappa, John Sloop, Barbara Warnick, and Wade Williams answered questions, provided resources, and/or read and commented on specific entries. Dan Emory, Andrew Gooding, Steve Klien, and Beth Manolescu provided important bibliographic assistance. Heidi Van Middlesworth, Alicia Carter, and Margaret Seawell provided expert editorial guidance. My wife, Jody Dyer Jasinski, created the artwork and provided constant encouragement and support during the lengthy process of research and writing.

      Finally, this project began as an eight page mimeo handout I prepared in 1988 for my Introduction to Rhetorical Theory and Criticism course at Southern Illinois University. Since then, I have used portions of the book as handouts and/or reading packets in various classes. Through the years, my students have provided valuable feedback and been a continual source of inspiration. I especially want to thank my students at the University of Puget Sound who read and responded to major sections of the book over the past 3 years. This book tries to do what its eight-page mimeo ancestor first set out to do—introduce students to, and get them excited about, the discipline of contemporary rhetorical studies.


      1. I leave aside, for the time being, the important question of whether it is possible to produce an impartial detached account of anything.

      Burke, K. (1957). The philosophy of literary form (
      rev. ed.
      ). New York: Vintage.


      Excerpts from Woody Allen's “My Speech to the Graduates” reprinted by permission. © 1979, Woody Allen. All rights reserved.

      Excerpts from William Bennett reprinted by permission. William J. Bennett served as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George Bush. He currently is co-director of Empower America and co-chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

      Excerpt from Robert Bridges, Poetical Works, © 1936 Oxford University Press. Reprinted by permission.

      Calvin and Hobbes © 1991 Watterson. Reprinted by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

      Excerpt from Mona Charen reprinted by permission of Mona Charen and Creators Syndicate Inc.

      Excerpts from © Dilbert reprinted by permission of UFS.

      Excerpt from Terry Goodkind, Stone of Tears, © 1995, Terry Goodkind. Used by permission of the author, Tor Books, and the author's agent, Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agent, Inc.

      Excerpt from James N. Gregory reprinted by permission of the Seattle Times Company © 1998.

      Excerpt from George Kennan, “Sources of Soviet Conduct,” reprinted by permission of Foreign Affairs. © 1987 by the Council on Foreign Relations Inc.

      Excerpt from C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy,© C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. 1955 and renewed 1984 by Arthur Owen Barfield, reprinted by permission of Harcourt Inc.

      Excerpts from Barry Lopez, “Apologia,” reprinted by permission of Sterling Lord Literistic Inc. © 1998 by Barry Lopez.

      Excerpt from Charles Madigan © 1993 Chicago Tribune Company. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

      Excerpt from Michael Moore, Downsize This! © 1996 by Michael Moore. Reprinted by permission of Crown Publishers, a division of Random House Inc.

      Excerpt from P. J. O'Rourke, “Taking Drugs—Seriously,” Rolling Stone, November 30, 1989, by Straight Arrow Publishers Inc. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

      Excerpt from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer © 1998 reprinted with permission of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

      Excerpt from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reprinted with permission.

      Excerpts from Jacob Sullum, “Capital Punishment—Yes,” reprinted with permission from the June 1990 issue of Reason Magazine. © 2000 by the Reason Foundation, 3415 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90034.

      Excerpt from George Will, © 1998, The Washington Post Writers Group. Reprinted with permission.

      Excerpt from Herman Wouk, The Caine Mutiny, reprinted by permission of Random House Inc.

      Introduction: On Defining Rhetoric as an Object of Intellectual Inquiry

      This book is designed to introduce readers to the intellectual world, as well as the academic sub-discipline, of rhetorical studies.1 Before proceeding into an examination of the terminology, or the lexicon, of contemporary rhetorical studies, it is appropriate to reflect on the definitional ambiguities of the term rhetoric itself. Rhetoric has, and seemingly always has had, multiple meanings. Variations on the meaning of rhetoric often reflect different attitudes toward language and linguistic representation and, even more particularly, the use of language for persuasive purposes. One common sense of the term, constituting a tradition of thought stretching from the Greek philosopher Plato to our contemporary world, links rhetoric with artifice, the artificial, mere appearances, or the simply decorative. For Plato, rhetoric was a pseudo-art and, like poetry, an ignoble public practice. Numerous contemporary expressions such as the phrase “mere rhetoric” and the customary opposition of someone's “rhetoric” to his or her actions or deeds continue the Platonic denigration of rhetoric. The Platonic tradition's negative or pejorative sense of rhetoric is intertwined with a marked ambivalence toward language. Ambivalence toward language—the feeling that it is both beneficial and dangerous, a tool for building human community and a device for tearing it apart, a medium for representing knowledge (or, in more common parlance, “stating the facts”) and a vehicle for distorting or deceiving—was a key element in the thought of most of the major early modern philosophers such as Descartes, Locke, and Kant (Bender & Wellbery, 1990).2 The concept of rhetoric, or what it might possibly mean, is entangled in this persistent ambivalence toward language.

      Whereas Plato, and the many thinkers who followed in his path, was inclined toward a negative view of language, a considerable number of other thinkers over the years have leaned in the opposite direction. A more positive understanding of rhetoric emerged within the writings of those individuals who stressed the beneficial capacity of language, speech, and discourse. Isocrates, one of the early Greek thinkers in the sophistic tradition, believed that language, and especially persuasive oratory or rhetoric, was a force for civilization and human advancement. In a famous speech titled “Antidosis,” Isocrates maintained,

      The art of discourse … is the source of most of our blessings. … Because there has been implanted in us the power to persuade each other and to make clear to each other whatever we desire, not only have we escaped the life of wild beasts, but we have come together and founded cities and made laws and invented arts; and, generally speaking, there is no institution devised by man [sic] which the power of speech has not helped us to establish.3

      Isocrates' celebration of language and rhetoric developed into a tradition of thought that extended from Aristotle and the Greek Sophists, through Cicero and Quintilian, into the humanist movement of the European Renaissance (Seigel, 1968), and continues today in the works of numerous theorists and critics whose ideas are discussed more fully throughout the remainder of this book.

      Although sketching the antagonistic traditions of thought about language and rhetoric helps to reconstruct the intellectual context in which rhetorical thinking has occurred, it does not provide an adequate understanding of the substance of rhetorical thinking. For more than two millennia, philosophers, teachers, scholars, and citizen advocates have discussed the concept of rhetoric and formulated definitions of it. Looking back on this multivoiced tradition of thought, Ehninger (1968) wrote,

      The continuing dialogue on the question, What is rhetoric? except as an academic exercise, is largely profitless. If there is no one generic rhetoric which, like a Platonic idea, is lurking in the shadows awaiting him [sic] who shall have the acuteness to discern it, the search for a defining quality can only end in error or frustration. (p. 140)

      Ehninger's observation guides the discussion that follows. The aim is not to uncover an absolute or final definition of rhetoric. Rather, the discussion tries to outline some of the key issues involved in the activity of trying to define rhetoric. Reflection on these issues should provide readers with an introduction to the conversation that is contemporary rhetorical studies.

      Bryant (1973) identified both a problem and a place to begin this undertaking. He wrote, “Over the centuries, one great trouble with the term rhetoric has been that it is used loosely for the art, the artifact, and a quality of discourse; and often the reference of the designation is quite unclear” (p. 3). Other disciplines such as literary studies have evolved “a full complement of useful differentiating terms for artist, art, and output”—poet, poetics, and poetry. But “with rhetoric, we are in something of a mess” (p. 3; see also Gaonkar, 1993). Rhetorical studies lack the differentiating terms found in literary studies for the artifact or the product and the theory or the art; the term rhetoric is used to refer to both a particular type of practice4 and a theory that tries to guide and/or explain that practice. Burke (1950) recovered the terms rhetorica utens (meaning rhetoric as practice) and rhetorica docens (meaning rhetoric as theory) to help alleviate the ambiguity. Unlike many of his terminological innovations, the utens-docens distinction has not been widely employed by rhetorical scholars in the more than 50 years since Burke published A Rhetoric of Motives. Contemporary theorists and critics continue to use “rhetoric” to refer to certain discursive practices as well as to certain forms of theory or modes of theorizing.5 But what specific types of discursive practice are rhetorical? What constitutes a theory or art of rhetoric? These questions need to be considered more carefully.

      Rhetorica Utens: Rhetoric as Discursive Practice

      There are a number of strategies we might employ to define rhetoric as a practice or language performance (Gaonkar, 1990a). One common approach to the definitional task has been an effort to identify the most basic or elemental forms of human communication so as to then specify one form as “rhetoric.” For some contemporary thinkers, there are two essential forms of practice. The exact nature of each form is open to dispute, but to a significant degree, the various “two-form” characterizations are indebted to the common distinction between literal and figurative language use. What is the basis for this distinction? Definitions of what constitutes literal and figurative language use have varied over time. A relatively common contemporary definition holds that language is used literally when the established rules for practice, or grammar, are followed; language is used figuratively when the established rules are ignored or disregarded. What has been the trajectory of the literal-figurative distinction?

      We can detect its presence in the recent work of the German philosopher and social theorist Jürgen Habermas. Habermas (1987) sought to distinguish between normal or everyday communication6 and a second form that is literary and/or rhetorical. Based on this twofold distinction, Habermas's writing provides the matrix depicted in Figure I.1. For Habermas, rhetoric as practice can be defined through association and opposition. Rhetoric is associated with the figurative and literary use of language, and both are then opposed to normal or literal language use. Habermas acknowledged that these two forms are not mutually exclusive. As one of Habermas's principal explicators, Thomas McCarthy, noted, “We are dealing here with a continuum” (McCarthy, 1987, p. xiii). But McCarthy also pointed out that Habermas “insists on distinguishing those contexts in which the poetic function predominates, and thus structurally determines discourse, from those in which it plays a subordinate role” (p. xiii). We can distinguish the two types of practice by noting the dominant function. Literary/rhetorical discourse functions as a force of innovation and novelty; it reveals or “discloses” what previously had been concealed, and it identifies new possibilities of thought and action. It does so largely by way of the resources of linguistic style (e.g., metaphor) and is evaluated on the degree to which the world-disclosing function has been actualized (e.g., has the discourse produced any effects, and has it been successful in revealing new possibilities to people?). Normal or everyday discourse functions to solve practical problems such as questions of public policy and to organize or coordinate human interaction. It is evaluated not on the grounds of success but rather according to the degree to which it measures up to certain enduring standards that Habermas described as validity conditions.7 And the principal discursive vehicle of everyday communicative practice is reason giving or argument.

      Figure I.1 Habermas on Forms of Communication

      Habermas's (1987) argument was directed against a trend in contemporary philosophy and literary theory to conflate or collapse the distinctions between the two dominant forms of discourse. Confusing literary/rhetorical and normal everyday discourse creates problems, Habermas argued, because each mode or form conforms to different standards for evaluation. We understand and judge normal communication by the degree to which speakers and writers redeem or support validity claims. We expect people to speak the truth and to be truthful about their intentions, and we use these standards to evaluate what people say to us. If a politician distorts the facts, misrepresents his or her intentions, or employs ambiguous language, then we use the inherent validity conditions of normal communication as a basis for a negative judgment. These normal standards do not apply to literary/rhetorical practices; we do not judge a novel or poem in the same way as we judge normal communication. Habermas's concern was that if we collapse this distinction, or if we blur everyday and literary/rhetorical discourse, then we will lose the standards of normal communication and all communication will be judged on the literary/rhetorical standard of success; truth, appropriateness, truthfulness, and intelligibility will not matter so long as the practice—the novel, the poem, or (perhaps more dangerously) the political speech—produces results.

      The American philosopher Richard Rorty, at times an intellectual opponent of Habermas, nevertheless developed a similar two-part scheme of discursive types. Loosely extending Thomas Kuhn's distinction between normal science and revolutionary science,8 Rorty (1979, 1989) argued that there are two basic situations: stable situations (in which people generally agree on the ends they want to achieve and disagree only on the means) and unstable situations (in which everything, ends as well as means, is up for grabs). During stable periods, people tend to use literal language and fashion arguments to solve practical problems. During periods of instability, normal or stable communication does little good. Rorty suggested that normal argument is of minor value when it comes to ends; people cannot argue about ends, only means. In these unstable situations, people begin to use words in new ways, create new languages largely through the device of metaphor, and (in Habermas's terms) create or “disclose” new worlds or new ends that eventually create a different but stable situation. Once the new paradigm is in place, practices become stabilized and new routines are established. In terms of politics, the shift from feudalism to state-based nationalism, or the shift from a monarchical system to a republic, embodies the stable-unstable contrast described by Rorty. For a period of time (that may last for generations), talk is unfamiliar; people do not argue with each other so much as try out or experiment with new words and languages. Once new ends are in place (and people begin to see the world in terms of nation-states rather than in terms of feudal lords), a stable form of language practice develops to sustain the new order.

      Rorty and Habermas developed roughly parallel descriptions of two dominant modes of discourse. The biggest difference between them is that Rorty tended to find the discourse of unstable periods more interesting, whereas Habermas believed that normal or stable communication is more central to the basic task of coordinating human action. Rorty saw considerable value in unleashing abnormal, unfamiliar, metaphorical language; he suggested that all of the great conceptual advances emerge when people break the rules. Habermas (1987) claimed to appreciate the value of world-disclosing discourse. But he nevertheless maintained that the “rhetorical elements” that tend to surface in everyday discourse—the abnormal and unfamiliar practices that Rorty praised—need to be “tamed” (p. 209).

      Rhetorical scholar Richard Lanham also employed a central antithetical contrast in his work on the history of rhetorical theory. But in Lanham's (1976) case, the contrast was not simply an opposition between two types of discourse; it was a struggle between two views of human nature (see also Fish, 1989, pp. 478485). By moving from types of discourse to views of human nature, Lanham reconceptualized the struggle in anthropological terms.9 On one side is homo seriosus, defender of the real, the rational, the familiar, the ordinary, and the everyday. On the other side is homo rhetoricus, proponent of a world of appearances, artifice, novelty, playfulness, and the unexpected.

      Habermas, Rorty, and Lanham described and enacted a long-standing, deep-seated conceptual tension or opposition that has helped to shape the possibilities of rhetoric.10 The key question is how this struggle has shaped our understanding of rhetoric as a form of practice. At the risk of oversimplification, this long-standing struggle cultivated two ways of defining rhetorical practice. One definition emerged largely in American departments of speech early in the 20th century.11 The other definition, largely European in ancestry, reflects the continued influence of Peter Ramus's reworking of the classical tradition of rhetoric during the 16th century.

      Many of the exponents of rhetorical studies in the newly created departments of speech during the early 20th century would recognize Habermas's contrast between normal everyday discourse and literary/aesthetic discourse. But they would have rejected one key element in his formulation. Scholars such as Hudson (1923; see also Wichelns, 1925/ 1962) frequently employed the practical/aesthetic antithesis as a way of clarifying the nature of rhetorical practice. But these scholars, unlike Habermas, did not contrast rhetoric with ordinary language practices; they did the opposite. Hudson, Wichelns, and other early advocates of rhetorical studies maintained that rhetorical practice can be understood as something different from literature, poetry, and other aesthetic forms of discursive practice. In a famous passage, Hudson (1923) wrote,

      The writer in pure literature has his [sic] eye on his subject; his subject has filled his mind and engaged his interest, and he must tell about it; his task is expression; his form and style are organic with his subject. The writer of rhetorical discourse has his eye upon the audience and occasion; his task is persuasion; his form and style are organic with the occasion. (p. 177)

      The founders of the contemporary rhetorical tradition in speech argued that rhetorical practice is concerned with the real world, whereas aesthetic and literary practices focus on an imaginary world.12 Rhetorical practices consequently are bound to the moment in time and space when they were produced in a way that aesthetic or literary texts are not. Aesthetic or literary texts embody a universal appeal, whereas rhetorical works focus on particular moments in the lives of political communities. Hamlet has spoken to audiences across the centuries, whereas a speech by a 19th-century abolitionist or women's suffrage advocate spoke to the problems, concerns, and needs of a particular, historically specific community. In 1965, Edwin Black encapsulated the initial mainstream speech communication definition of rhetoric as practice when he wrote, “Rhetorical discourses are those discourses, spoken or written, which aim to influence men [sic]” (Black, 1965/1978, p. 15).

      Whereas American rhetoricians have focused on the literal, the practical, and the pragmatic, the European understanding of rhetorical practice emphasizes the figurative, the aesthetic, and the formal (e.g., Dubois et al., 1981). This is the sense of rhetoric that Habermas had in mind when he linked rhetoric and literary discourse. The range of rhetoric began to be narrowed during the 16th century, thanks in large part to the works of Peter Ramus (Conley, 1990; Kennedy, 1980). For Ramus, rhetoric was primarily the study of style. Consistent with this Ramistic tradition, the literary scholar Paul de Man defined rhetoric as “the study of tropes and figures” and specifically denied any connection to persuasion (de Man, 1979, p. 6).13 But de Man's Ramistic narrowing of rhetoric is part of a larger strategy that both redefines and, paradoxically, enlarges the scope of rhetorical practice. For de Man, virtually all language practice, but especially the form of practice that purports to be merely descriptive or literal, is at some level ultimately figurative; various rhetorical tropes and figures saturate discourse and allow it to create the illusion of truth. Discussing Nietzsche's insights, de Man wrote, “The trope is not a derived, marginal, or aberrant form of language but the linguistic paradigm par excellence. The figurative structure is not one linguistic mode among others, but it characterizes language as such” (p. 105). Whereas de Man followed the European trend and narrowed rhetoric to the realm of tropes and figures, he went on, following Nietzsche, to locate a figurative element in virtually all language practice. Rhetoric, as a form of “intralinguistic” discursive practice, is everywhere (p. 8). De Man's understanding of rhetorical practice as the play of tropes and figures, or as “the figural dimension in language,” is representative of a significant trend in contemporary scholarship (Gaonkar, 1987, p. 484).14

      The opposition between the literal and the figurative, or the ordinary and the aesthetic, helped to generate two competing definitions of rhetorical practice. We have de Man's “intralinguistic” sense of rhetoric as the incessant play of tropes and figures in language practice, and we have an extralinguistic sense of rhetoric as a particular strand of literal ordinary language practice that is practical, pragmatic, and persuasive in its orientation. Both definitions have large followings, and both have apparent limitations. For a large number of contemporary rhetorical scholars, the focus on explicit practical persuasion begun during the early part of the 20th century is too narrow and limited. As early as the 1950s, scholars such as Donald Bryant began to broaden the range of ordinary language practices that constitute the realm of rhetorical practice (Bryant, 1953; see also the entry for exposition). The range of practices that fall within the orbit of rhetoric has continued to expand, thanks in part to the influence of thinkers such as de Man and Jacques Derrida (e.g., Derrida, 1977) who began to question the adequacy of categories such as “the ordinary” and “the literal.” The rhetorical, or the figurative aspect of language, was everywhere. This expansion of rhetoric has led, in turn, to the feeling among some rhetorical scholars that the domain of rhetorical practice has become too broad and expansive. The tendency to think about language practice by way of dichotomies and oppositions has given way to alternative strategies for defining the nature of rhetorical practice. Nevertheless, the dichotomies literal-figurative, rhetoric-aesthetic, persuasion-trope, and argument-style still inhabit contemporary thought about language and human communication and, hence, continue to exert some influence on how rhetorical practice is conceptualized.

      One alternative to the binary definitional strategy is to exploit the apparent human fascination with three-part schemes (e.g., the Christian trinity, the Hegelian dialectic). Some thinkers over the years have identified three basic forms of language practice. There is some evidence of this approach during the classical period, for example, in discussions that distinguished between rhetoric, poetic or narrative, and dialectic or philosophical discourse.15 The contemporary literary and legal scholar James Boyd White relied on this classical trivium (White, 1984) when he equated philosophical discourse with the pursuit of truth, aesthetic discourse with the pursuit of beauty, and rhetorical discourse with the pursuit of justice (with justice being, for White, the essential ingredient in human community). Something close to this trivium can be detected in some of Habermas's (1984, pp. 235–242) thinking about human communication. Starting with his assumption that there are three basic “orientations” that an individual can have to the world (objective, subjective, and intersubjective), it is possible to uncover the three basic forms lurking in the wings. Traditional philosophical discourse, and its modern cousin scientific discourse, has an objective orientation to the world; the world is an object to be known, described, and controlled. Aesthetic discourse (e.g., poems, novels) and art in general (e.g., painting, music) has a subjective orientation to the world; the objective of these practices is not description and mastery but rather self-expression. Finally, rhetorical discourse (for Habermas, this form of practice is restricted to legal and moral discourse) has an intersubjective orientation to the world; the objective of this form of practice is neither knowledge and truth nor self-expression and beauty but rather interaction with a world consisting of fellow creatures. Rhetorical, intersubjectively oriented practices create, maintain, modify, and overturn the communal world(s) that humans share in common (even if individuals differ with respect to their ability to shape that communal world).16

      One virtue of a three-part scheme is that rhetorical practice usually is positioned in the middle. As such, it inevitably will contain elements from the discursive forms that reside on either side; rhetorical practice will raise issues of truth (the proper concern of philosophical and, more and more today, scientific discourse) and contain elements of formal beauty and self-expression (the focus of aesthetic practice). But these elements are not dominant in rhetorical discourse. Conceived as a middle ground between the traditional philosophical quest for truth and the aesthetic pursuit of beauty and self-expression, rhetorical discourse constitutes and reconstitutes intersubjective communities; it promotes intersubjective identification by overcoming the divisions that plague humanity. But positioning rhetoric as a discursive middle ground also has limitations. As any advocate who has tried to defend a middle ground can attest, middle positions are notoriously unstable. Conceived as a middle ground, rhetorical practice is susceptible to Plato's critique. There is no real substance to rhetoric; it is simply a collection of discursive tricks. Another problem with this type of three-part scheme is that real-world discursive practices frequently violate the functions assigned to the different categories. Sociologists of science argue that scientific discourse does not simply transmit objective knowledge; it also establishes and maintains a community of scientists. In at least some cases, scientific discourse exhibits traces of rhetorical activity.17 When pushed with concrete examples such as those uncovered by sociologists of science, the three forms begin to collapse into each other. The question remains: Is it possible to identify distinct forms of human communication and, in so doing, identify a specific form that can be considered “rhetoric”?18

      The inability to establish clear and immutable distinctions between different forms of language practice has led large numbers of scholars to abandon any efforts to locate or identify essential forms of communication. This approach, an outgrowth of the expansion of rhetoric discussed earlier, sometimes is referred to as the undifferentiated textuality thesis. Adherents of the thesis maintain that all linguistic and discursive practices—scientific reports, poems, newspaper articles, political speeches, philosophical treatises, legal contracts, corporate “advertorials,” radical manifestos, advice columns, and so on—are essentially the same. They can have multiple functions, appear in different contexts, be produced by one person or prepared by a committee, and be written in any of a number of idioms or combinations of idioms. But despite these apparent differences, all of these discursive practices result in a “text.” They consist of words, the words combine into sentences, and the sentences combine into paragraphs; the words, sentences, and paragraphs cohere into structures and configurations that reveal various types of patterns. The words, sentences, paragraphs, and patterns enter into relationships with each other; they can, among other possible relationships, support, qualify, contest, subvert, and/or ignore each other. And out of this mix of words, sentences, paragraphs, idioms, patterns, and interrelationships comes something ephemeral but sometimes enduring, something intangible but nevertheless real, something inherently particular but capable of subsequent re-articulation in different contexts. This something is discursive force.

      When people use language, they do not simply employ it as a passive tool for depicting or representing the world. Nor does language serve only as a device that allows people to externalize their internal thoughts. These restrictive views of linguistic representation have been largely discarded in contemporary scholarship. More and more scholars are embracing a constructivist or constitutive understanding of language practice. Put simply, when people use language, they are participating in the ongoing (re)construction of the world.19 Fish (1989) noted how, in many disciplines,

      there is evidence of … the realization… that the givens of any field of activity—including the facts it commands, the procedures it trusts in, and the values it expresses and extends—are socially and politically constructed, are fashioned by man [sic] rather than delivered by God or nature. (p. 485)

      Fish continued this line of argument a few pages later when he commented on the Searle-Derrida “debate” about “ordinary” language. In this context, Fish observed,

      The “obvious” cannot be opposed to the “staged,” as Searle assumes, because it is simply the achievement of a staging that has been particularly successful. One does not escape the rhetorical by fleeing to the protected area of basic communication and common sense because common sense in whatever form it happens to take is always a rhetorical—partial, partisan, interested—construction. (pp. 491–492)

      Along similar lines, Bash (1995) described how the social constructionist position

      stipulates that what we commonly accept as real, the familiar world within which and in relation to which we plan our activities and act them out—both in their day-to-day detail and in the broader strategies in terms of which we conduct our lives—this reality, in effect, is an artifact of the way in which we have elaborated our particular culture and this given shape to our society. (p. 26)20

      The constructivist position does not entail the idea that language can magically conjure up material objects from thin air. Rather, language and discursive practice mediates, or links, people and their surrounding world. As Shotter (1993b) observed, “We ‘see’ just as much ‘through’ our words as through our eyes” (p. 14).21 But this linking process never is passive or neutral. Whereas language and discourse make the world understandable and accessible, they always present the world in particular ways. Fish (1989) noted,

      Whatever reports a particular language (natural or artificial) offers us will be the report on the world as it is seen from within some particular situation; there is no other aperspectival way to see and no language other than situation-dependent language—an interested, rhetorical language—in which to report. (p. 488)22

      Language and discourse do not create natural disasters, nor do they simply neutrally report these events; rather, language and discourse shape or construct how we will understand events such as earthquakes and tornadoes (consider that, at various times, these events would have been understood as acts of God, the result of fate, or the consequence of the scientific laws of physics).

      But how does language construct reality? Our language practices have constructive power because discourse exudes perspective, it exudes influence, and it exudes force.23 Discursive force is manifest through grammar and syntax, tropes and figures, structural patterns of arrangement or disposition, vocabulary and word choice, explicit argument, and other forms of discursive strategy. This force can be experienced by the text's producers, by an immediate audience, by subsequent readers distant in time and space, by interested bystanders, by opponents in a social controversy, or by individuals who never have directly encountered the text in their entire lives (e.g., the North American Indians who experienced the force of texts produced by European colonizers for hundreds of years). According to the undifferentiated textuality thesis, all texts exert a force, but not in the same degree or magnitude. Paraphrasing Derrida, Fish (1989) remarked, “This does not mean … that all rhetorical constructions are equal, just that they are equally rhetorical” (p. 492). Texts may differ in their degrees of force, but they all are essentially the same.

      How do the undifferentiated textuality thesis and the social constructionist position influence the effort to define rhetoric as a practice? Some scholars in contemporary rhetorical studies embrace both ideas. The basic argument can be represented in a traditional first figure syllogism (A → B, B → C, A → C):

      Social reality is the product of discursive force.

      Discursive force is best understood as rhetorical practice.

      Social reality is constructed through rhetorical practice.

      The combination of the undifferentiated textuality thesis and social constructionism is the universalization of rhetoric; all discursive practice can be considered “rhetorical.”24 But notice the shift in the last sentence from “rhetoric” (a substantive noun) to “rhetorical” (an adjective). When scholars talk about the universalization of rhetoric (e.g., Gaonkar, 1993), we need to understand that what has been universalized is a particular quality or function of discourse, not a specific type or form of discourse. There is some ambiguity between form and function in the definitions of rhetorical practice introduced by the founders of the speech field. The function of persuasion invariably was a part of their definitions, but it was subordinated by formal considerations. Scholars from Hudson and Wichelns to Black hoped to identify an object of inquiry—rhetoric—that was on the same plane as, yet different from, the widely recognized object of literary studies. Over time, and thanks to a variety of intellectual trends (some of which have been noted here), the form-function relationship has been reversed. Universal rhetoric is functional. Scholars who subscribe to this definition of rhetorical practice study the force, or the power, of language; they study the “rhetoricity” or “rhetoricality” of any and every type of discursive practice. Through this form-function reversal and universalizing impulse, rhetorical studies emerges as the preeminent intellectual discipline.25

      The impulse to universalize rhetoric has been resisted in at least two ways. First, a number of scholars accept the shift from form to function as the most appropriate way of defining rhetorical practice. But they then try to narrow the expansive equation of discursive force and rhetorical function that exists in a globalized conception of rhetorical practice. In the speech/communication studies field, the emphasis tends to be on the traditional idea of persuasion. Rhetoric is understood as the persuasive dimension of discursive and symbolic practice (Brummett, 1994; Bryant, 1973; Medhurst & Benson, 1984; Weaver, 1971).26 Bryant (1953) took tentative steps in this direction when he wrote, “I am almost forced to the position that whatever we do or say or write, or even think, in explanation of anything, or in support, or in extenuation, or in despite of anything, evinces rhetorical symptoms” (p. 401). Frye (1957) also was moving in this direction around the same time when he observed that “all structures in words are partly rhetorical. … the notion of a scientific or philosophical verbal structure free of rhetorical elements is an illusion” (p. 350). LaCapra (1985) continued this trend when he asserted, “Rhetoric is a dimension of all language use rather than a separable set of uses or a realm of discourse” (p. 17). Commenting on the state of rhetorical studies during the late 1980s, Leff (1987) noted “the shift … from a kind of discourse to a dimension in discourse, from an emphasis on certain products to an emphasis on a certain kind of activity” (p. 3). If rhetoric is the persuasive dimension in discursive practice, then it becomes possible to identify practices that are more or less rhetorical (based on the degree to which the persuasive dimension stands out) while still examining the persuasive dimension, or the rhetoric, of a wide variety of practices (e.g., the rhetoric of newsmagazines, the rhetoric of popular song lyrics, the rhetoric of advertising, the rhetoric of science, the rhetoric of judicial opinion, the rhetoric of film). The dimensionalizing of rhetoric has proven to be an extremely attractive definitional option,27 but it is not without limitations. LaRue (1995) suggested that the root meaning of rhetoric as persuasion, even when persuasion is transformed into a function or dimension of discourse, “is not enough to ground a common discipline, since speech and writing can persuade in many different ways and at many different levels of conscious and unconscious operation” (p. 3).28 So, although the dimensional definition might unify a number of scholars, LaRue questioned whether it is sufficient to organize and integrate their intellectual labor.

      Other scholars in the field of rhetorical studies agree that foundational distinctions between types or forms of practice are untenable, but these scholars still want to restrict the scope of what is meant by rhetoric as practice. The motivation behind these efforts to delimit rhetoric as practice varies. Garver's (1994) reconstruction of Aristotle's (1954) Rhetoric as a guide to civic practice was motivated by ethical concerns. Garver recognized the potential for rhetorical practice to evolve into a “universal” or “professional” art where the external end—instrumental success or persuasion—becomes dominant at the expense of the internal end of moral excellence (pp. 45–51). But this universalizing impulse can be resisted, Garver argued, by recovering Aristotle's vision of a “restricted” or “civic” form of rhetorical practice. For Garver, a restricted or civic understanding of rhetorical practice allows for the essentially ethical reconciliation between the competing ends of practice—excellence and instrumental success. When rhetorical practice is universalized, as it is in the idea of undifferentiated textuality, victory or success emerges as the only end of practice and the ethical relationship between advocate and audience is lost. Garver explained, “When accomplishing the external end becomes the only value, then rhetoric needs additional moral restraints distinct from the activity of argument itself” to protect the community and prevent cultural decline (p. 48). But a restricted or civic rhetoric

      is [a form of practice] in which more than the external goal is at stake. The audience is not an enemy, and the civic rhetorician must construct a civic relation between himself [sic] and the audience. … Civic rhetoric aims at an identity between the speaker making arguments and the audience receiving them. (pp. 46–47)

      Restricting the scope of rhetorical practice to civic or political discourse provides a set of artistic and ethical standards by which it can be evaluated.

      Some other scholars in the rhetorical studies community move in a somewhat similar direction. In a number of essays, Leff has tried to resist the globalization of rhetoric (e.g., Leff, 1987, 1997b). His primary motivation is pedagogical and focused on disciplinary development. Leff (1997b) acknowledged, “It is now generally agreed that rhetoric is not a property of certain kinds of texts but a process that inheres in all discursive practices and that influences social consciousness at every level of its manifestation” (p. 131). He then conceded, “Theoretically, I find it difficult to dispute the status of rhetoric as a global process. I do not know of any abstract principle that would distinguish some discourses as rhetorical and others as non-rhetorical” (p. 132). But Leff then tried to argue that there are practical and pragmatic reasons for a more restrained approach to defining rhetorical practice. He wrote, “The view that all discourse is rhetorical expresses a theoretical truism that has limited practical value for the critic. Global conceptions of rhetoric cannot adequately account for the differing kinds of rhetoric that appear and develop in the social world” (p. 132). Leff encouraged rhetorical critics to concentrate their attention on public or civic discourse for practical reasons. Critics, like effective advocates and practitioners, must “master a genre” of practice (p. 132). And the genre of public or civic discourse provides rhetorical scholars with a genre that not only is sanctioned by the ancient tradition of rhetoric but also is of tremendous social and historical significance.

      For different reasons, Garver and Leff have favored a rather traditional definition of rhetoric as public or civic discursive practice. But what is meant by rhetoric as a public or civic practice? These terms, like the term rhetoric itself, are slippery. To define rhetoric as a public or civic practice typically means that rhetorical practices, which are capable of assuming different discursive forms (e.g., speeches, essays, pamphlets), address issues of public concern or interest.29 Which deodorant a person uses, or which brand of dishwashing detergent a person buys, is not commonly considered a public issue. Consumer choices like these, and a range of additional choices that all of us make on a regular basis, occur outside of what we collectively constitute as the public realm. Messages aimed at influencing consumer decisions might involve persuasion but, given Garver's and Leff's restricted definition of rhetorical practice, would not be considered rhetorical. But we need to acknowledge that the shape of the public realm can be altered discursively so that choices not thought to be of public consequence become public issues. A person might prefer to use an aerosol spray deodorant. Advocates on behalf of scientific or environmental groups might release information about the possible harmful effects of aerosol spray emissions on the environment. Now the person's consumer choice begins to take on public significance because the atmosphere is something that people hold in common. The advocates are creating a public issue by, in part, altering the shape of the public sphere. Once the choice has been politicized or moved into the public sphere, messages that once were thought to be commercial and nonrhetorical now take on rhetorical significance.30

      As the preceding example tried to illustrate, the publicness or civic quality of an issue can change. Practices once thought to be outside the public realm (e.g., treatment of a spouse) can be brought into the public realm, and practices once thought to be integral to the public realm (e.g., religion) can be displaced (although, in this case, the controversy in the United States continues). Employing the concept of public or civic as a way of locating and defining rhetorical practice cannot be exact. As the boundaries shift, certain practices and issues move into and out of the public realm, and consequently, the attribution of the label “rhetorical” to the discourse that addresses these practices and issues can change as well. This definitional strategy allows for a degree of substantive stability as well as change over time.

      The discussion in this section has described some of the more prominent ways in which scholars have defined rhetoric as a form of discursive or language practice. These definitions include (a) rhetoric as practical persuasive discourse; (b) rhetoric as the use of tropes and figures; (c) rhetoric as a type of middle ground practice concerned with justice and/or creating and maintaining a community (intersubjectivity); (d) rhetoric as attitude, perspective, and/or discursive force (universalized rhetoric); (e) rhetoric as the persuasive dimension of discursive and symbolic practice; and (f) rhetoric as public or civic discourse.31 These definitions of rhetorical practice are not necessarily mutually exclusive,32 and there are some affinities among the various definitions. But important tensions—rhetoric as form versus rhetoric as function, product versus process—persist. Appreciating similarities and differences, even when those differences are subtle, is important when trying to understand how the term rhetoric is being used by specific scholars or critics. All of the definitions have attractive features, and all appear to have certain limitations. During various historical periods, the identity of rhetoric as a cultural practice was unproblematic. That clearly is not the case today. It is uncertain whether rhetoric as practice will achieve a coherent identity any time in the near future. In the meantime, rhetoricians, as well as other scholars who have appropriated the term rhetoric, must struggle with its ambiguous meanings.

      Rhetorica Docens: Rhetoric as Theory

      At the outset, it was noted that rhetoric means both a type of discursive practice and the activity of thinking about or theorizing that practice. The utens-docens distinction seems to assume that there are clear differences between the activity of producing a practical text (e.g., a public speech advocating a pro-choice position on the abortion controversy)/ the result of that activity (the speech text) and the activity of thinking about practice that leads to the production of a theoretical text (e.g., a lecture in a classroom about what is going on in the discourse of the abortion con-troversy)/the theoretical text (an essay in a scholarly journal). For scholars such as Habermas and Leff, this assumption is obvious and correct; practical activity/practical texts and theoretical activity/theoretical texts are different types of things and should not be conflated. But the proponents of the undifferentiated textuality position would challenge the obviousness of this assumption. Scholars adhering to this position maintain that there are no essential differences between these activities and the texts that result from them. All discursive practice, whatever its genre or purpose, results in a text whose force can be analyzed. But the analysis of the force of one text (an essay endorsing a policy position) simply leads to the production of another text (a piece of criticism) and another text (proposing a theory of policy discourse) that are not fundamentally different from each other. It is, therefore, quite reasonable to talk about something like the rhetoric of rhetoric (Cahn, 1993; Gaonkar, 1993). The texts that make up the tradition of rhetorical thinking are not fundamentally different from the texts that constitute the traditions of rhetorical practice. Although there might not be an absolute distinction between practical activity and theoretical activity, scholars have, as a matter of convenience, differentiated these activities and their resulting texts. We can talk about the meaning of rhetoric as a form of theory, or as something different from the meaning of rhetoric as a form of practice, while still acknowledging the textuality, or the rhetoricity, of theoretical discourse.33

      So, what does it mean to talk about rhetoric as a way of thinking about practice or as a form of theory? Nearly 50 years ago, Bryant (1953) surveyed the field of rhetorical studies so as to map its important features. Bryant discussed four specific aspects of rhetorical theory that remain extremely useful as a way of sorting out the domain, or the meaning, of rhetorical theory (cf. Natanson, 1955).

      We can label Bryant's first aspect “instrumental” or “productive.” This sense of rhetorical theory often goes by the term art. What is an instrumental theory or an art of rhetoric? The most common manifestation of this form of rhetorical thinking is as a prescriptive handbook (for an exception, see Kaufer & Butler, 1996). Many of the earliest books on the subject of rhetoric took this form. They provided advice to speakers (and eventually writers) on how to proceed in certain situations (how to proceed with a friendly audience, a hostile audience, etc.). Most college textbooks for public speaking courses and self-help books on how to become a more effective public speaker continue this tradition of thinking. To offer advice, the earliest prescriptive handbooks typically engaged in some elementary forms of analysis. The handbooks of classical antiquity dissected rhetorical practice so as to identify the elements of the art (see the entry for canon of rhetoric), describe the usual parts of a speech and note their common functions (see the entry for arrangement), provide typologies of persuasive strategies or the modes of proof and stylistic tactics, and describe the common types or genres of rhetorical practice (Ehninger, 1968).

      Contemporary commentators on the classical tradition of rhetorical theory have raised an important question. Discussing Aristotle's (1954) Rhetoric, Beiner (1983) wrote,

      What is not so clear is whether he understood [rhetoric] as the necessarily imperfect medium within which political life is conducted or whether he also saw it as a positive expression of the mediated quality of social life. … But what remains open to question is whether his Rhetoric was merely a handbook for the instrumental employment of this medium or whether it pointed toward an affirmation of the medium itself. (p. 96)

      The interpretive issues that Beiner introduced are important because they raise the question of rhetoric's status—as practice and as theory—in Aristotle's thought. If Aristotle's Rhetoric was simply a handbook, on par with a contemporary public speaking textbook, then the theoretical possibilities of rhetoric are quite limited. But if Aristotle understood the practice of rhetoric, and the process of theorizing about that practice, in more positive terms, then the possibilities for both practice and theorizing are expanded.

      A related issue raised by some of the first writers on rhetoric is whether or not the art of rhetoric could be reduced to rules and put down on paper. One tradition of thought believed that rhetorical art could be condensed into precepts or rules that can be followed (often discussed as the “technical” or “prescriptive” tradition). A different tradition of thought, best represented by the Roman statesmen and rhetorician Cicero in his mature writing, held that the art of rhetoric existed only in actual practice or performance.34 Prescriptive handbooks were rejected as an inadequate embodiment of the art. If the art was embodied in practice, then the only way of learning the art—of becoming a master practitioner—was to study exemplary performances so as to replicate the artfulness of those performances in subsequent practice. Students of rhetoric in this tradition did not learn rules. Rather, they engaged in a complex process of imitation to internalize the artfulness of acknowledged masterpieces. As students internalized the art, they would be able to produce effective, or eloquent, rhetorical discourse (see the entry for invention).

      The second aspect in Bryant's map of rhetorical studies is an extension on this early interest in studying actual practice. We can label this dimension “critical” or “interpretive.” The thrust of this aspect has changed over time. In classical rhetorical education, interpretation and discourse production were interconnected (Leff, 1997a); reading rhetorical practice facilitated the production of discourse. In contemporary rhetorical studies, interpretation and criticism often are regarded as independent activities that lack an immanent connection to the production of rhetorical discourse (Gaonkar, 1993). The separation of criticism and interpretation from discourse production in rhetorical studies parallels a similar development in the area of literary studies. Learning to become an expert discerning reader, given that reading is at the heart of interpretation and criticism, has become as important as learning to become an expert practitioner or advocate. The critical or interpretive aspect of rhetorical theory focuses on the way in which rhetoricians read the texts produced through rhetorical practice (see the entry for criticism).

      Discussion of this aspect of theory in the contemporary tradition of rhetorical studies typically focuses on the idea of critical method. Over the past few decades, numerous methods for reading rhetorical texts have been proposed, illustrated, attacked, defended, modified, and abandoned.35 Some critical methods specify in great detail what readers should do as they encounter and read a text, whereas other methods provide only a rough framework or a general perspective that can be employed by critics or readers. Some contemporary rhetorical scholars maintain that the idea of method, imported from the realm of science where the ideal of “scientific method” is seen as a way of guaranteeing the production of knowledge, is an inappropriate model for the activity of rhetorical criticism and interpretation. The end of this activity, they often claim, is not the production of knowledge (the aim of scientific experimentation) but rather the achievement of understanding. Understanding someone is not the same thing as gaining knowledge about someone. An individual might know various facts about another person, but does that mean that the individual understands who the other person is? So, a number of contemporary rhetorical scholars urge students and colleagues to, rather than blindly following a single method, encounter rhetorical practices and texts directly, engaging in a process that sometimes is called close reading or close textual analysis. Through this activity, readers try to discover what is going on in a text in its own terms.

      Other scholars, within the tradition of rhetorical studies and in adjacent traditions of thinking, respond by maintaining that it is impossible to encounter a text strictly on its own terms. Reading, we are told, never is a neutral activity; just as facts do not “speak for themselves,” the words in a speech, a novel, a poem, or an essay never speak directly to the readers. When we read any text, we always are relying on something, not necessarily any specific critical or interpretive method but rather certain conceptual screens that allow the words of the speech, essay, or poem to mean something for us. As different readers encounter the words on this page, different conceptual screens—some unique to specific individuals and others shared by people because of where they grew up, where they went to school, what their parents taught them, and many other factors—are activated. The words on the page do not literally change; they remain the same (at least physically), but they are not read in precisely the same way. The conceptual screen that allows one group of people to understand an inside joke is not available to others who, in most cases, do not understand the joke. Reading, then, involves more than paying careful attention to the words, sentences, patterns, and images in the text; it also involves paying attention to the conceptual screens that make reading possible.36

      The fact, according to this line of interpretive theory, that reading never is neutral, or that the words produced by a speaker or printed on a page always are filtered by conceptual screens, has been disputed by other critics. Critics who object to this line of thought argue that the “reading never is neutral” position entails interpretive anarchy because ultimately each individual will have a unique conceptual screen that filters every message he or she encounters. Given an infinite number of conceptual screens, the possibility of people agreeing on an interpretation of a text is almost nonexistent. No agreement among readers on interpretation is interpretive anarchy (e.g., Hirsch, 1967). Fish (1980) responded to this line of argument in his book, Is There a Text in This Class? According to Fish, scholars who worry about interpretive anarchy are effectively making a mountain out of a molehill. How so? Because those scholars assume a world of isolated individuals, all of whom possess their own unique conceptual screens. Fish would not deny people a degree of uniqueness, but he emphasized the existence of “interpretive communities” and “interpretive conventions” that make interpretive anarchy impossible. Fish wrote that communication occurs within situations, and

      to be in a situation is already to be in possession of (or to be possessed by) a structure of assumptions, of practices understood to be relevant in relation to purposes and goals that are already in place; and it is within the assumption of these purposes and goals that any utterance is immediately heard. (p. 318)

      Fish insisted that the process of interpretation always is constrained by a specific situation, an institutional structure, and cultural norms. In Fish's view, people cannot create outlandish interpretations unless they are willing to violate situational, institutional, and cultural structures and norms. Given the sanctions that follow from such willful violations, they do not occur very often. Fish concluded that the fact that readers read texts differently, or the fact that meanings are not “in” the text, is not something that scholars and theorists need to worry about.

      There are other important issues related to the critical and interpretive aspect of rhetorical thinking. For example, a question of concern to some rhetorical scholars is whether or not there is a distinctly rhetorical form of interpretation, a way of reading that distinguishes the rhetorical critic's interpretive habits and conventions.37 Consider a text such as the Declaration of Independence. Students might be asked to read this text in a history class, a political science class, an English class focusing on American political literature, or a class in early American public address taught by a rhetorical scholar. In what ways might the readings of this document produced in these four classes differ? Would the historian encourage his or her class to read the document in ways that are significantly different from how the political scientist, the literary specialist, and the rhetorician read the text? Or, imagine that a group of, say, five rhetoricians read the Declaration of Independence, with each approaching the text from a different critical method discussed in a contemporary textbook on rhetorical criticism. Would these five readings be linked in some way? Would someone be able to read these different analyses and conclude that they all were written by rhetorical critics? These all are important metacritical questions to which there are no simple answers. But these are some of the questions that continue to shape the second aspect of rhetorical theory.

      Following Bryant, we can label the third aspect of rhetorical theory “social.” Numerous issues constitute this domain of rhetorical thinking. First, thinking about rhetorical practice involves thinking about where that practice takes place. Thinking about where rhetorical practices occur leads in different directions. One line of thought focuses on the idea of the “rhetorical situation” (Bitzer, 1968; see also the entry for situation, rhetorical) and its constituent elements—exigences, constraints/resources, and audiences. Related to the idea of rhetorical situations is the concept of genre. As situations continue to recur over time and space, the responses they elicit typically share certain characteristics. Genre scholars explore this social aspect of rhetorical practice. Another line of thought investigates the relationship between rhetorical practice and various social and political institutions. Studies of presidential rhetoric, corporate advocacy, legal or forensic discourse, journalism, and the rhetoric of inquiry, among other lines of research, focus (at least in part) on the relationship between discursive practices and their institutional setting (Campbell & Jamieson, 1990; Hart, 1987). A fourth avenue of social inquiry involves reflection on the relationship between rhetorical practice and the public and public sphere.38 Rhetorical scholars, along with colleagues in other disciplines, are interested in the nature of the contemporary public sphere and on the essentially recursive or interactive relationship between rhetorical practice and the public realm. Other scholars direct their attention to the idea of the public. Is there such a thing? Has there ever been a public in the United States? What does it mean to address “the public”? How do people behave differently when they act as members of the public rather than as private individuals? How do issues of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and religion influence a person's ability to become part of the public? Can we appeal to people in terms of their class or ethnic backgrounds at the same time as we appeal to them as members of the public?

      Another important trend in social rhetorical theory is inquiry into the effects of rhetorical practice. During the early decades of the rebirth of rhetorical studies in the United States, the idea of discursive effect typically was limited to the action or actions taken by an immediate audience (Black, 1965/1978). When studying campaign discourse, the principal effect we would be interested in is the election outcome. How did people vote? Did the discourse of either candidate have a substantial impact on the outcome of the race? Some earlier scholars extended this approach and tried to measure, in some quantifiable way, the effects of messages on the audience. Effects inquiry along these lines rarely is found in the contemporary tradition of rhetorical studies. Thanks, in part, to the constructivist intellectual movement discussed earlier, scholars in rhetorical studies and other disciplines have begun to investigate the way in which language—in all its practical manifestations—helps to construct or constitute social reality. Over the past decade, rhetoricians have begun to explore the constitutive capacity of rhetorical practice.39 In exploring this capacity, scholars have moved well beyond the ways in which words can influence how people vote. Scholars now ask questions such as the following. How does rhetorical practice shape our understanding of the past (e.g., the “meaning” of the war in Vietnam) and of what might be possible in the present (e.g., whether we can intervene in Bosnia given the legacy of Vietnam)? How does rhetorical practice construct our understanding of racial or ethnic categories? How does rhetorical practice shape and reshape the values and fundamental concepts or ideographs (e.g., liberty, equality, justice) that make community possible?

      Finally, Bryant labeled the fourth aspect of rhetorical theory “philosophical.” In the contemporary tradition of rhetorical studies, philosophical reflection on the nature of rhetoric can be traced to essays such as Natanson's (1955) “The Limits of Rhetoric.” After suggesting the need for such reflection, Natanson wrote, “The question naturally arises, What, after all, is the subject matter of the philosophy of rhetoric?… What problems constitute the subject matter of the philosophy of rhetoric, and how may such a philosophy be articulated?” (p. 137). We cannot answer these questions unless we have a working definition of philosophy. Natanson provided the following: “Philosophy [is] the critique of presuppositions.” Philosophical inquiry, he continued, has a synthetic component that “seeks to comprehend the nature of reality” and an analytic component that “attempts to bring to clarity the meaning of terms [or concepts] which are basic and crucial to the conceptual structure of all special disciplines” (p. 138). He maintained that both components of philosophy come together in “the systematic and persistent exploration of elements and themes which are taken for granted [both in] commonsense reality and in the special disciplines” (p. 138).

      Natanson's sense of philosophy's mission is very traditional. This traditional view considers philosophy to be the ultimate form of intellectual inquiry; all the various forms of human practice and the other intellectual disciplines submit to its scrutiny. Natanson (1955) proposed the following as a partial list of topics in rhetorical studies that might benefit from careful philosophical scrutiny:

      the relationship between language and what language denotes; the relationship between mind and what the mind is aware of; the relationship between knowledge and what knowledge is “of”; the relationship between consciousness and its various contents…, the relationship of speaker and listener, the persuader and the one persuaded, [the] judger and the thing judged. (p. 138)

      In suggesting these topics, Natanson anticipated some of the issues that would capture the attention of rhetorical scholars starting during the 1960s—the question of rhetoric's epistemic status, the nature of language and the process of linguistic representation, and the process of inducing judgment by way of argument and artistic modes of proof. The type of self-scrutiny that Natanson labeled “philosophy” has become a fixture in contemporary rhetorical studies (e.g., Cherwitz, 1990).

      Natanson's traditionalism depicts philosophy lording over other modes of thinking. Philosophy reveals and/or helps to clarify the foundations of all knowledge, all values, and all human practices. But what if there are no foundations to be revealed or clarified? What if there is nothing firm or permanent supporting our beliefs, values, and modes of action? People have been posing these seemingly heretical questions for as long as philosophers have been engaged in the task of establishing foundations. A world without firm foundations guaranteed by philosophy is a world of incessant talk, abundant discourse, and undifferentiated textuality. For some scholars, these are the conditions of our world (despite the fact that many people cling to the illusions of stable foundations), and these conditions reveal ours to be a decidedly rhetorical (in a specific sense of the term) world. And what of “theory” in such a thoroughly rhetorical world? Theoretical labor does not end, but the status of theory and its objectives change. Natanson's idea of “critique” remains, but it is radicalized. Instead of the critique of presuppositions, theory becomes the critique of certain lingering metaphysical de-sires—the desire for foundations, the desire for stability, the desire for absolute presence,40 and the desire for a fixed center around which coherence can be established. In short, theory becomes conceptual and discursive deconstruction41

      As is often the case, there is a potential (if unstable) middle ground between a Natansonian foundationalist approach to a philosophy of rhetoric and the decidedly antifoundationalist ideas of universalized rhetoric, radical contingency, and undifferentiated textuality.42 Some scholars suggest that although there may be absolute foundations in some spheres of human existence (e.g., an “objective” sphere) and for some types of practice (e.g., science), the world where rhetoric is practiced (at least traditionally) is fundamentally contingent. To live together, people must make decisions. And these decisions are contingent. No decisions are absolutely determined; alternative possibilities always are present. And to make matters worse, people normally do not have all the time in the world to reach decisions. Philosophical controversies can, and often do, go on for centuries; practical problems that require decisions and collective action usually need some closure.43

      What type of philosophy of rhetoric emerges from this middle ground position? The middle ground between foundationalism and anti-foundationalism explores the link between rhetoric and practical philosophy. As Toulmin (1988) noted, the neglected tradition of practical philosophy stresses four sets of topics—the oral, the particular, the local, and the timely—that are pillars of classical rhetorical thinking. Theoretical reflection on these, and other closely related, topics (e.g., prudence/phronesis, decorum, local stability) has been an important feature of contemporary rhetorical studies.

      The discussion of the fourth aspect of rhetorical theory has tried to describe three broad ways of proceeding: the foundationalist stance, the anti-foundationalist counter-stance, and a middle ground between the two. We can conclude this overview of the philosophical aspect of rhetorical theory by considering a simple question: What have rhetoricians been doing in the realm of the philosophy of rhetoric? What theoretical questions and issues have been on the agenda of contemporary rhetorical scholars? Over the past few decades, rhetoricians have taken up a number of important issues including rhetoric's epistemic status (What is “knowledge,” and does rhetorical practice create or constitute knowledge? Is all knowledge the product of rhetorical practice or only certain spheres or types of knowledge?), questions regarding human reason and rationality (Is reason monolithic, or are there different forms of reasoning? What is the relationship between the human propensity to tell stories, or the idea of narrativity, and the various forms of reasoning?), the relationship between gender and theory (Has rhetorical theory proceeded in a patriarchal manner? What alternative modes of theorizing, such as invitational rhetoric, might be possible?), the experience of time and temporality (Is time a “natural” phenomenon experienced the same way by all people, or is the experience of time predicated on, or conditioned by, discursive practice? What are the basic modes of temporal experience? How are these modes represented by language?), problems arising from language and linguisticality (How does language work? Is there a foundational function of language? Is language primarily a mechanism for representing things clearly? How central is the realm of figurative language, especially metaphor, to human thinking and rhetorical practice?), and the nature of human character and subjectivity (What is the individual “person”? Are we all unique, autonomous, self-directing creatures, or are we essentially conditioned “subjects” of various regimes of discourse? How do we negotiate the various subject positions, or roles, that we find ourselves in? What capacity, if any, do individuals possess to constitute themselves discursively or to engage in the process of “self-fashioning”? What relationship exists between who we were last year or last week, who we are today, and who we might be tomorrow? What role do our rhetorical choices and performances play in maintaining and/or subverting the relationship among our past, present, and future selves?). As some readers will recognize, many of these issues and questions have had a central place in a number of intellectual traditions for quite a long time. Rhetoricians, and the tradition of rhetorical thought, are participants in an ongoing and, to reinvoke the image borrowed from Burke, unending conversation about language, discourse, and what it means to be human.

      This introduction has tried to outline some of the key features and important implications of how the term rhetoric is used in the contemporary tradition of rhetorical studies. It cannot replace, and is not meant to replace, a careful examination of, and perhaps the eventual entry into, that tradition of thought. The glossary of concepts that follows is intended to render that tradition more accessible, useful, and inviting.


      1. The focus of this book is on the tradition of rhetorical studies as it has been revived and developed in American departments of speech communication and/ or communication studies. But rhetoric has become an interdisciplinary object of concern. Eagleton (1983) noted rhetoric's increasing centrality when he wrote, “Rhetoric, or discourse theory, shares with formalism, structuralism, and semiotics an interest in the formal devices of language, but like reception theory is also concerned with how these devices are actually effective at the point of ‘consumption’; its preoccupation with discourse as a form of power and desire can learn much from deconstruction and psychoanalytic theory, and its belief that discourse can be a humanly transformative affair shares a good deal with liberal humanism” (p. 206). The interdisciplinary nature of rhetorical studies is reflected in this introductory essay and many of the entries that follow.

      2. Gustafson (1992) described the historical tendency to view language as “an instrument … which could, on the one hand, help preserve order and liberty, but also an instrument which could, on the other hand, become a source of tyranny and corruption” (p. 12). Rahe's (1994) history of republican thought also touches frequently on this topic. Rahe wrote that speech, or logos, usually was understood as “a double-edged sword” (Vol. 1, p. 41). As Gustafson (1992) noted, the ancient Greeks had a term for something that could be both a “cure” and a “poison”—pharmakon. Language and rhetoric frequently are described with imagery that leads back to the Greek idea of the pharmakon.

      3. For more information on Isocrates' attitude toward language and speech, see Jaeger (1939, pp. 46–70). On Isocrates' potential relevance today, see Schiappa (1995).

      4. As will be discussed in more detail later, reflection on rhetoric as practice has developed its own internal dichotomy between form and function or between product and process.

      5. Commenting on the state of rhetorical scholarship during the 1950s, Natanson (1955) remarked, “The fundamental difficulty, it seems to me, that has confused the discussion is a failure on the part of the analyst to distinguish between the theory of rhetoric and the practice of rhetoric” (p. 133). But simply distinguishing theory and practice might not be sufficient. Discussing a variation on the practice-theory ambiguity, Culler (1978) described the “paradoxical definition” of rhetoric as both “the ability to produce an event” and “a code to be obeyed.” That is, “rhetoric is repeatedly defined either as persuasion or as an inventory of conventional tropes” (p. 608). Culler maintained that it is either a persuasive event or a description of structures. But Culler's assessment of this definitional ambiguity moved in a much more radical direction than that of scholars such as Bryant and Natanson, who merely lamented its existence. For Culler, “the relationship between trope [structure or theory] and persuasion [event or practice] is always problematic and discontinuous. On the one hand, description of structures never suffices to account for an event; and, on the other hand, though one can describe the structures and figures of a discourse, one can never be certain what sort of events these discourses may have produced. The relationship between structure and event is incalculable, which is why rhetoric is fated, as the name of this incalculable textuality, to be simultaneously and alternatively a discourse of structure and event” (p. 608). Culler read the practice-theory ambiguity as more than a lexical accident. It identifies an aporia, a paradox, or a tension at the very core of the tradition of rhetorical studies. He suggested that there is no way of stabilizing the event-structure or practice-theory relationship. Hence, rhetorical studies is an inherently unstable discipline, or to paraphrase Plato, rhetoric has no substance. The questions about rhetoric's stability and substance have proven exceedingly difficult to escape (Gaonkar, 1990b).

      6. Habermas (1984) argued that the realm of normal communication can be further segmented into spheres of practice such as science, politics, and law and that it is perfected in a specific type of practice that Habermas labeled “discourse.”

      7. Habermas (1987) identified “logical consistency” as a key evaluative standard in his discussion of Derrida (p. 188). In other work, Habermas (1979, 1984) provided a more detailed account of the claims inherent in all normal or serious (nonfigurative) communicative practice. Those claims are truth, rightness, sincerity, and comprehensibility.

      8. Normal science refers to those practices that are present during periods of paradigmatic stability (e.g., the nature of scientific practice during the period of Newtonian physics). Revolutionary science refers to those practices that emerge during periods of paradigmatic instability and shift (e.g., the nature of scientific practice during the period when there was a shift from a Newtonian view of the universe to an Einsteinian one).

      9. Lanham's (1976) anthropological dichotomy might be compared and contrasted with Blumenberg's (1987) similar project.

      10. As Fish (1989) remarked, “The history of Western thought could be written as the history of this quarrel” (p. 484).

      11. Johnson (1991) and Kinneavy (1990) described the shifting contours of rhetoric as a practice in American higher education.

      12. The distinction that the early exponents of rhetorical studies had in mind was something like this. Charles Dickens frequently wrote about London in his novels. Even though his account of London in his fictional works was based on the real London, the novels depicted an imaginary London. Dickens' novels were realistic fiction, not accounts of actual reality. On the other hand, in speeches on practical social questions, Dickens inevitably had to deal first and foremost with the real London, not the London of his imagination. As we will see later in this introductory essay, the distinction between “real” and “imaginary” might not be as clear as earlier generations of American rhetorical scholars believed.

      13. De Man (1979) credited the philosopher Nietzsche with this innovation. Most scholars of the history of rhetorical theory question this attribution. Nietzsche did call attention to the epistemic significance of tropes and figures, a topic that de Man developed at length. For analyses of de Man's discussion of rhetoric, see Kastely (1997) and Vickers (1988).

      14. For a different sense of rhetoric that relies heavily on the tropological possibilities of language, see Grassi (1980).

      15. See Frye (1957, p. 243) and Hauser (1991, pp. 1522). A variation on this trivium can be found in Trimpi's (1983) discussion of formal, cognitive, and judicative modes of discourse.

      16. The relationship between rhetoric and intersubjectivity was developed at length by Wells (1996).

      17. This issue is treated more fully in the entry for inquiry, rhetoric of.

      18. Linguist Roman Jakobson outlined one of the more elaborate models of human communication. Jakobson's (1960) model of communication identified six parts: addresser (e.g., speaker, writer, source, encoder), addressee (e.g., reader, audience), context, contact, code, and message. In any instance of communication, one of these six elements will be emphasized; hence, a particular function, and a particular form, will be instantiated. Jakobson was not interested in specifying the nature of rhetorical discourse. His primary concern was in identifying the essence of “poetic” expression. But his discussion of the conative function, which is designed to provoke a specific reaction in the addressee, resembles the instrumentalist equation of rhetoric with overt persuasion.

      19. Leff (1998) suggested that much of the recent scholarship in rhetorical studies is united in the basic idea that discursive practice is a constitutive or generative medium.

      20. For additional insight into social constructionism, see Shotter (1993a, 1993b) and volumes in the Sage Publications series, Inquiries in Social Constructionism, edited by Kenneth Gergen and John Shotter.

      21. Or, as Burke (1966) observed, “Much that we take as observations about ‘reality’ may be but the spinning out of possibilities implicit in our particular choice of terms” (p. 46).

      22. A similar point was made by Weaver (1971). See the discussion in the entry for sermonic, language as.

      23. Fish (1989) wrote, “Force is simplya (pejorative) name for the thrust or assertion of some point of view” (p. 521). Force is, then, a general term that encapsulates related concepts such as Weaver's (1971) sense of language as sermonic and Burke's (1950) belief that language always conveys an attitude.

      24. This claim should not be seen as implying that all discursive practice is only rhetoric. Every instance of discursive practice can be rhetorical while also falling into other categories such as “poem,” “scientific report,” or “solicitation letter.”

      25. Bender and Wellbery (1990) wrote that our age is that of “a generalized rhetoric that penetrates to the deepest levels of human experience. … Rhetoric is no longer the title of a doctrine and a practice, nor a form of cultural memory; it becomes instead something like the condition of our existence” (p. 25). On the relationship between rhetoric and experience, see also McGee (1982).

      26. The addition of the term symbolic here signals an interest in visual as well as verbal or linguistic persuasion.

      27. But a tension between rhetoric as a thing or product and rhetoric as a dimension or function persists. See Chatman (1990, p. 193) and Leff (1987).

      28. LaRue (1995) indirectly echoed Gaonkar's (1993) observation that because there is no clear institutional structure that unifies persuasive discourse or public advocacy, as there is for “literary” discourse, it is difficult to craft a definition that might organize a discipline.

      29. Dewey's (1927) discussion of “public acts” has had a significant impact on American rhetorical scholars. Dewey wrote, “We take … our point of departure from the objective fact that human acts have consequences upon others, that some of these consequences are perceived, and that their perception leads to subsequent effort to control action so as to secure some consequences and avoid others. Following this clew [sic], we are led to remark that the consequences are of two kinds, those which affect the persons directly engaged in a transaction and those which affect others beyond those immediately concerned. In this distinction, we find the germ of the distinction between the private and the public. … When the consequences of an action are confined, or are thought to be confined, mainly to the persons directly engaged in it, the transaction is a private one. … Yet if [for example] it is found that the consequences of conversation extend beyond the two directly concerned, that they affect the welfare of many others, the act requires a public capacity, whether the conversation be carried on by a king and his minister or by Cataline and a fellow conspirator or by merchants planning to monopolize a market” (pp. 12–13).

      30. A deodorant manufacturer might produce messages that, in addition to their primary objective of commercial persuasion, try to position the manufacturer and the product as environmentally friendly. The message would then be a hybrid in that it raises both public and nonpublic claims.

      31. This list is not exhaustive. For a more elaborate account of nine “senses” of rhetoric, see Benson (1978).

      32. In some cases, a theorist will subscribe to somewhat different definitions. Weaver (1971), for example, at one moment supported the globalized rhetoric position (“Rhetoric is cognate with language” [p. 176]) but then tempered this universal definition by discussing rhetoric in dimensional terms (“Any utterance is capable of rhetorical function or aspect. If one looks widely enough, one can discover its rhetorical dimension” [p. 177]).

      33. Mailloux (1991) suggested that we simply treat “theory as practice about practice” (p. 241).

      34. On this distinction, see Conley (1990) and Sloane (1997).

      35. The careers of most of these methods can be traced in textbooks such as Brock, Scott, and Chesebro (1990) and Foss (1996).

      36. On the idea of “conceptual screens,” see Burke's (1966) discussion of terministic screens.

      37. See Gaonkar's (1993) discussion of what he termed the rhetorical signature or the habits that identify a critic as someone from the tradition of contemporary rhetorical studies.

      38. Theoretical reflection on, and critical studies of, the public and public sphere have been of considerable importance to the strategy of defining rhetorical practice as public or civic discourse.

      39. Some scholars (e.g., Leff, 1992) have found hints of the constitutive perspective in the writings of some of the earliest thinkers on rhetoric. So, in a sense, the constitutive “turn” in rhetorical studies also is a “return” to a neglected part of its tradition.

      40. The discussion here is gesturing toward Jacques Derrida's concept of presence. Readers are invited to take up the potentially interesting conceptual issue of the relationship between Derrida's sense of presence and that developed by Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1969) discussed in the entry for presence.

      41. Anything close to a thorough discussion of the topic of deconstruction is beyond the scope of this introductory essay. Short discussions of the topic can be found in any number of glossaries or dictionaries of literary or cultural studies terms. More elaborate introductions can be found in Agger (1998) and Sarup (1989).

      42. Fish (1989) wrote, “Anti-foundationalism is a thesis about how foundations emerge, and in contradistinction to the assumptions that foundations do not emerge but simply are anchoring the universe and thought from a point above history and culture, it says that foundations are local and temporal phenomena and are always vulnerable to challenges from other localities and other times” (pp. 29–30).

      43. As most contemporary rhetorical theorists will argue, situational decision making and closure does not mean that practical questions do not resurface. Rhetorical discourse is, from the perspective of the local situation, finalizable. But from a broad historical perspective, it is commonly unfinalizable.

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    • Name Index

      About the Author

      James Jasinski (Ph.D., Northwestern University, 1986) is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts at the University of Puget Sound, where he teaches courses in rhetorical criticism, rhetorical theory, and the critical analysis of public discourse. He previously taught at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His scholarly work in rhetorical studies has focused on various texts and episodes in American antebellum political culture and has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and numerous collections of essays. His essay, “The Feminization of Liberty, Domesticated Virtue, and the Reconstitution of Power and Authority in Early American Political Discourse, “received the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the Public Address division of the National Communication Association in 1993. Some of his more recent metacritical work has examined key concepts (e.g., context, method and its relationship to theory) in contemporary rhetorical critical criticism. He has served on the editorial boards of the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Western Journal of Communication, and Communication Studies.

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