Invoking Darkness: Skotison, Scalar Derangement, and Inhuman Rhetoric


This article asks that we take seriously (and suggests that we have not yet taken seriously enough) Steven B. Katz’s point that nonhuman rhetoric is “supplanting and replacing the physical human body” as the main site for rhetorical agency. Discussing Ian Bogost’s carpentry and James J. Brown Jr. and Nathaniel Rivers’s adaptation of it as rhetorical carpentry as an example of nonhuman rhetoric that does not go far enough, I suggest that Joanna Zylinska’s concept of “scalar derangement”—the pathological need to put all things on a human scale—is a major impasse for a nonhuman rhetoric founded on representational methods. Instead, I offer a model of rhetorical invocation and suggest that skotison, Richard Lanham’s term for deliberately obfuscatory style, provides a rhetorical practice for addressing the nonhuman at nonhuman scales. Instead of a nonhuman rhetoric of things, I maintain that in the age of climate change we should begin to consider an inhuman rhetoric.