This essay develops three arguments. First, it elaborates how some contemporary poets who began working in experimental traditions are turning against the idea that the poem is primarily an aesthetic object emphasizing the material qualities of the medium. Instead, they seek to elaborate notions of rhetoric based on ideas of witnessing rather than on ideals of persuasion. Second, it supports that shift by proposing critiques of those modernist ideals based on the rejection of rhetoric. Finally, it turns to speech act theory as its ground for this new rhetoric. But it proposes replacing the hopelessly overdetermined concept of the “performative” by exploring three properties of the demonstrative—its capacity to invoke ethos, to express care and emotion, and to display paths to knowledge despite the fact that discursive explanation is not readily available. The poem demonstrates the usefulness of the demonstrative by a reading of Williams’ “Spring and All.”


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pp. 65-87
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