- Editor’s Note
Early days, things fallen asleep, hidden things, possibilities, melodies of the past and the future, timeless plans, float by, one after the other, and I feel rich under a hoard of gifts and must have hope. Then the day wakes, the nearness, the sharpness, and I am disturbed. I close my eyes in order not to see it, fall asleep again, heavily, am assailed by dreams, and frequently awaken only in the course of the afternoon without feeling restored.—Paul Klee, Diary II, 1902
Now is never quite here, at least as we might hope, or as we might insist. Its inspiration is riddled with disappointment that provokes. And so on— never quite here, this now that both enlivens and restrains, an experience of chance and a moment of choice, a question of conditions and consequences that defies full reply. Perhaps this is one beginning of theory, one way that it begins again, for now.
One way—a path then, not least the path that was held in antiquity to lead outside the city, past the wall, without the comfort of given topoi and taken for granted logos, beyond the reach of law and its exception. The theoros took leave, in uncertain direction, and with no assurance of comprehension let alone recognition. Theory thus struggles, not least to overcome the entrenched expectation of (its) utility and discover a question.
Here, for now, theory appears with space. It appears with a certain indifference—its distinction from “method”—if not a commitment to resistance—a stance that provokes the banal claim that it is just so much “bad writing.” And yet, theory’s own history betrays that its promise has often been reserved for those who were deemed to “properly” belong to the city in the first place, just as its power has frequently come at the expense of those whom it has “encountered” along its way. Theory is never far from the problem of (its) violence.
The fifty-third volume of Philosophy & Rhetoric begins with an extended and wholly engaging forum—Why Theory Now? As forum editor Daniel Gross notes in the introduction, the essays that follow contain a number of crucial arguments. And they feature significant argumentation, rhetorical and philosophical clash that raises important questions about the contested power of theoretical expression and the potential of theory’s contention. [End Page v] There is then, as Gross suggests, the beginning of a genealogy here, an inquiry that not only discloses but performs something of the uncertain ways in which theory unfolds, that is, how it is imagined, undertaken, articulated, and troubled, sometimes in the name (and sometimes against the name) of both rhetoric and philosophy—perhaps to the satisfaction of neither. Today, it is this how that may press, a call to grasp and give way to theory’s ways of beginning again—for now. [End Page vi]