The Future of Invention: Rhetoric, Postmodernism, and the Problem of Change
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Examines the concept of rhetorical invention from an affirmative, nondialectical perspective.
The Future of Invention links classical rhetorical practices of invention with the philosophical work of Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida and proposes that some of the most crucial implications of postmodern theory have gone largely unattended. Drawing on such classical rhetorical concepts as doxa, imitation, kairos, and topos, and engaging key works by Aristotle, Plato, the Sophists, and others, John Muckelbauer demonstrates how rhetorical invention can offer a nondialectical, “affirmative” sense of change that invites us to rethink the ways in which we read, write, and respond to others.
“Muckelbauer is lucid and compelling both as he reflects on the reasons that dialectal change and oppositional postmodernism can feel a lot like stagnation and spinning wheels, and as he identifies the questions that must be addressed in order to move toward a more real and realistic model of change.” — JAC
“This is perhaps the most interesting and innovative (inventive) book on rhetorical invention I’ve encountered since Deleuze’s What Is Philosophy? Muckelbauer not only contributes to but also fundamentally alters the conversation on this topic. He manages something that is almost nonexistent in the field—to read (to follow textual traces, openings, potentialities) rather than simply to interpret. Most studies in rhetorical invention, until now, have been mired in a host of humanist presumptions about the thinking/inventing subject—this work offers a serious challenge to that approach, not by arguing with it but by performing something very different.” — Diane Davis, author of Breaking up [at] Totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter
“This book contains a wealth of inventive approaches to important issues in both postmodern theory and the field of rhetorical studies. Muckelbauer argues for and offers an original style of engagement with these issues that transforms scholarly discourse on invention.” — Bradford Vivian, author of Being Made Strange: Rhetoric beyond Representation
probability or necessity of those events. In Aristotle’s words, the imitative poet is less concerned with reproducing what actually happened than he is with “events such as might occur and have the capability of occurring in accordance with the laws of probability and necessity” (1451a). It does not matter, for instance, whether or not Oedipus actually killed his father, so long as that event is probable within the structure of the drama (of course, it should be pointed out that probability can
sophists or any inventive itinerary they may have practiced. After all, Plato’s distaste for and distrust of sophistry is no secret. In fact, this distaste is so well known that nearly all contemporary rhetorical scholarship that attempts to assert the value of sophistic rhetoric does so by reproducing an antagonism between sophistry and Platonism.2 Indeed, as Richard Marback points out in his recent study of the historical relationship between Platonism and sophistry, the term “Platonism” is
THE FUTURE OF INVENTION In fact, we might now affirm the maxim that students must “consider their audience,” though only if we complicate this phrase a great deal. For instance, as Phelps writes, the term “audience” comes to stand “for the ‘other’ within the text and self,” a nonindividual, singular articulation of otherness (153). Further, in “considering” this audience we refer not to the importance of knowing these others, but, through the dynamics I have discussed, to provoking a kind of
politics that can overcome the very movement of dialectical change. And yet, if this schematic treatment of the three dialectical styles of engagement teaches anything it is that dialectics is not so much a position or a theme as it is the movement of overcoming itself. In each case, the attempt to move beyond a particular position is characterized by a structural repetition—the repetition of refusal and negation. In other words, any effort to overcome binary logic or move beyond the Hegelian
interest of simple difference or productivity (as if one could just aban- Notes 171 don truth). While a representational version of correctness is neither the primary goal of an affirmative invention nor the objective of the readings that I offer in part II, it is not irrelevant either. That is, rather than abandoning the metaphorics of correctness, we might attempt to rethink them as something other than just an adequate representation. Chapter 3 1. I should emphasize here that for Derrida,