The Machine That Therefore I Am
Abstract

Following Derrida, who follows the animal, this article seeks to proliferate the figures that mark the limits of the space between the “machine” and the “human.” Drawing on Erasmus’s De copia, I argue that rhetoricians have long been interested in robot-like procedures. Given these machinic roots, we can understand a rhetorical education as procedural and computational and as particularly well suited to a cultural moment in which we write with (alongside) machines. In addition, I describe a robot that enacts Erasmus’s method of continually rewriting the sentence “Your letter pleased me greatly.” The article thus demonstrates two ways of addressing the robot rhetor. First, it suggests that a rereading of the machinic tradition within rhetoric opens up new ways of understanding all rhetorical action as robotic. Second, echoing Ian Bogost, it demonstrates how works of “carpentry” can offer a window (albeit, a cloudy one) onto extrahuman rhetorical relations.


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