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Inessential Solidarity

Rhetoric and Foreigner Relations

Diane Davis

Publication Year: 2010

In Inessential Solidarity, Diane Davis examines critical intersections of rhetoric and sociality in order to revise some of rhetorical theory’s basic presumptions. Rather than focus on the arguments and symbolic exchanges through which social relations are defined, Davis exposes an underivable rhetorical imperative, an obligation to respond that is as undeniable as the obligation to age. Situating this response-ability as the condition for, rather than the effect of, symbolic interaction, Davis both dissolves contemporary concerns about linguistic overdetermination and calls into question long-held presumptions about rhetoric’s relationship with identification, figuration, hermeneutics, agency, and judgment. Spotlighting a rhetorical ‘situation’ irreducible to symbolic relations, Davis proposes that rhetoric—rather than ontology, epistemology, or ethics—is “first philosophy.” The subject or “symbol-using animal” comes into being, only inasmuch as it responds to the other; the priority of the other is not a matter of the subject’s choice, then, but of its inescapable predicament. Directing the reader’s attention to this inessential solidarity without which no meaning-making or determinate social relation would be possible, Davis aims to nudge rhetorical studies beyond the epistemological concerns that typically circumscribe theories of persuasion toward the examination of a more fundamental affectability, persuadability, responsivity.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

I am very grateful to the students in my seminars over the last few years, for their insights and enthusiasm, their humor and tenacity, which kept me on my toes—thanks especially to Jennifer Edbauer Rice, Kevin Johnson, Johanna Hartelius, Jamie Wright, James Brown, and Trevor Hoag. I am deeply indebted to colleagues who offered me feedback on this work, talking me through small ...


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pp. xi

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Introduction: A Rhetoric of Responsibility

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pp. 1-17

... makes a point that perhaps goes without saying in rhetorical studies today: belonging is fundamentally rhetorical (27–28). That insight will serve as the thesis of this present work, but with a twist. According to Burke, belonging is not fixed ontologically by a shared essence but is instead a function of rhetorical identification, which is itself an effect of shared symbol systems. Scholars ...

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1. Identification

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pp. 18-36

... early history, Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village, Burke’s friends at the Dial probably introduced him to Sigmund Freud’s work sometime in the early 1920s. The impact was profound and sustained: Burke loved Freud. In the 1939 essay “Freud—and the Analysis of Poetry,” for instance, Burke writes: “the reading of Freud I find suggestive almost to the point of bewilderment. Accordingly, ...

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2. Figuration

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pp. 37-65

... with a very different twist—also depicts the interruption in identification as an encounter with the other as other, with a surplus of alterity that I can neither appropriate nor abdicate, and that therefore calls my self-sufficiency and spontaneity into question. Levinas describes this encounter as the opening of ethics: “We name this calling into question of my spontaneity by the presence of the ...

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3. Hermeneutics

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pp. 66-85

... Steven Mailloux has brilliantly performed and explicated a “rhetorical hermeneutics” that demonstrates the “practical inseparability of interpretation and language use and thus of the discourses that theorize those practices, hermeneutics and rhetoric” (RH3). Many rhetoricians have challenged the specifics of Mailloux’s various arguments and have more generally objected ...

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4. Agency

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pp. 86-113

... in which I turn toward an other who is not simply an object, toward an other who may also turn toward me, it first of all implies that neither I nor the other is an enclosed entity but that both are already exposed, posed in exteriority, radically non-selfsufficient; it implies, then, an originary (or preoriginary) relation with alterity—a relation that precedes the apparently self-sufficient self. ...

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5. Judgment

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pp. 114-143

... would be another story. But as a singularity, finite and exposed, “I” come into being only inasmuch as “I” respond to the other, and this preoriginary obligation to respond is called “my” responsibility. Responsibility, from this Levinasian perspective, is not something a self-sufficient subject chooses to take up; rather, “the subject” is ethically structured as response-ability: “the ...

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P. S. on Humanism

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pp. 144-166

... get out, I cannot not address directly Levinas’s humanism, which is in many ways unique and compelling, but remains a problem nonetheless. According to Levinas, the address that opens the space of the ethical relation takes place— first of all, if not exclusively—among human “brothers.” Neither “the animal” nor the “feminine alterity”1 are capable of the ethical saying that Levinas describes: ...


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pp. 167-194

Works Cited

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pp. 195-204


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pp. 205-214

E-ISBN-13: 9780822977643
E-ISBN-10: 0822977648
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961222
Print-ISBN-10: 0822961229

Page Count: 232
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture