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  • Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice by Casey Boyle
  • Jason Kalin and Diane Keeling
Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice. By Casey Boyle. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2018. 232 pp. Paper $29.95. ISBN: 9780814254974.

In Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice, Casey Boyle—or rather, the habitual practice referred to as Casey Boyle—participates in rhetorical studies' recurring concern with relations between humanism and posthumanism. Boyle's posthumanist project crafts another space within the field to think about what rhetoric is, what it does, and what it may become. Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice recalls the purpose of rhetorical education in the Isocrates and Quintilian traditions—"to become a certain kind of person" (Fleming 1998, 179), but with a posthuman return: Whereas classical rhetorical education aimed at ethically stable character formation—the humanist subject—Boyle's posthuman practice enacts character as in-formation, a process of individuation whereby individual bodies achieve stability, but only for so long—a metastability, which is not an essence, but a series of sense-abilities. Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice expands the many ways (euporia) of doing rhetoric, including the many ways things become different without becoming something separate as well as the many ways of being human without becoming something other than human.

The book is organized into three parts: "Preface to Practice," "Theorizing Rhetorical Practice," and "Practicing Rhetorical Theory." In part 1's "Questions Concerning the Practice of Rhetoric," Boyle introduces readers to the work of Gilbert Simondon. Specifically, Boyle brings Simondon's philosophy of information and media-techno-aesthetics into rhetorical studies and demonstrates how his philosophical concepts, such as individuation, transindividuation, transduction, and metastability, may be incorporated into the body of rhetoric. For example, Boyle argues [End Page 88] that information—as material processes—informs bodies so that bodies are always already in-formation, or rather, resolving and dissolving individuations. This incorporation activates new rhetorical capacities by which rhetorical exercises, such as the enthymeme, dissoi logoi, topoi, and copia, may be practiced differently, which, in turn, activates new rhetorical bodies, which, in turn, may exercise and be exercised differently.

Part 2 begins with "Rhetorical Ecologies of Posthuman Practice." Three seemingly disparate analogies open up the practice of practice: learning to use the telegraph, the literary style of Deleuze and Guattari, and the development of technical objects. What each practice shares is its self-erasure. Practice for Boyle is not self-preservation or self-improvement because the repetition of practice enacts changing conditions of its existence. Repetition with difference is what Boyle means by posthuman practice: "ongoing, serial encounters within ecologies" (34). Boyle compares practice to Karen Barad's quantum diffraction, accenting the continual entanglement of matter. Posthuman practice does not reflect the same thing over and over again. Instead, it diffracts, creating "new versions of what might otherwise be seen as the same" (34). For example, reflecting on how one wrote an essay does not reflect the writing of that essay; rather, the reflection essay diffracts the writing of that essay. The writer does not reflect; reflection in-forms the writer. According to Boyle, the reflection on writing does not grant privileged access to interiority, decision making, and rationality. Instead, it is another exercise that may be no more or less insightful than any other exercise. Reflective practices, however, have been a dominant pedagogical tool in the field of composition studies. Thus, the chapter offers a concise history of how this reflective practice emerged in skill development literature on metacognition, demonstrating the shortcomings of this humanist orientation. It then surveys posthuman theories both broadly and within the field of rhetoric to emphasize practice as something other than conscious, intentional activity—what he calls serial: "A series is composed of items that are continuous with but also distinct from one another without being separate" (53). Throughout, Boyle amplifies this point: all practices, including writing and reflection in-formation, create novel possibilities in bodies and environments, and for him, this is a posthuman ethic.

Chapter 2, "Posthuman Practice and/as Information," refines the seriality of posthuman practice as a process of information. Boyle incorporates Simondon's "transductive version of information" to show how information is converted across multiple media in a process...


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pp. 88-93
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