Rhetoric Panel Proposal for Rhetoric Society of America 2020

deadline for submissions: 
July 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Rhetoric Society of America
contact email: 



“Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion or Response-ability?”
Portland, Oregon (May 21-24)

rhetoric / hospitality


Chair: Dr. Ryan Leack


“Language speaks. Man speaks in that he responds to language. This responding is a hearing. It hears because it listens to the command of stillness.”


—Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought (1971)


This panel will gather the threads of movements that push rhetoric beyond persuasion and the art of speaking. Although Heidegger redefined rhetoric in 1924 as “the art of listening,” decades passed before Heidegger’s vision of rhetoric was made more concrete. In 2003, Krista Ratcliffe formulates one such approach in her Rhetorical Listening, wherein she argues for the importance of listening for cross-cultural communication. One year later, Wayne Booth, in The Rhetoric of Rhetoric, offers an approach to “listening-rhetoric” where the balance is shifted from the art of speaking to the art of listening to our interlocutors, lest arguments simply do the work, or lack thereof, of reaffirming one’s prejudices and assumptions. In 2006, Daniel Gross, in Heidegger and Rhetoric, recovers Heidegger’s approach to rhetoric as that which listens and attends to the quality of our “Being-moved,” which Gross—through Heidegger—dubs “the shared ontology of all being.” Both expanding and sharpening rhetoric’s attunement with listening, Diane Davis, in Inessential Solidary: Rhetoric and Foreign(er) Relations (2010), and in her 2018 article in Philosophy & Rhetoric, argues for an attention to our responses to others and to difference writ large. Here, she frames rhetoric not only as the art and practice of effective communication (speaking, reading, writing, listening, etc.), but also as the responsibility to respond. Rhetoric, as such, constitutes the entire realm of effective, ethical address and response. Finally, in 2015, Jane S. Sutton and Mari Lee Mifsud, in ARevolution in Tropes: Alloistrophic Rhetoric, magnify this approach through a rhetoric which turns toward the other (alloistrophic), thereby providing a theoretical framework for a more responsible rhetoric.


Each of these rhetorical outgrowths shares a nucleus of response-ability, the rhetor’s responsibility to respond to others—to the infinity of difference, returning to Levinas—in ways which far exceed persuasion toward some useful or advantageous end. The necessity of responsible response in and through language in all its forms and mediums is of no clearer and greater importance than it is now. In precarious political and ecological times, this panel calls for theoretical and/or practical approaches to moving rhetoric beyond persuasion. Such approaches may include and/or exceed these topics, genres, methods, and approaches:


  • Rhetorical listening
  • Listening-rhetoric
  • Response and responsibility
  • Attention and attunement
  • Cultural rhetorics
  • Affect theories
  • Feministic and queer theories
  • Postcolonial theories
  • And, generally, expanding rhetoric as a faculty of observing the “available means of persuasion” to the faculty which observes all variables (cultural, linguistic, spatial, material, etc.) that affect responsible communication.


Abstract (200-250 Words) Deadline: July 1st, 2019

Please Email Abstract to:rleack@gmail.com


Please include in your email ​your namecontact informationdepartment, and institution. Also include a short bio (50 words) with your abstract.


*      This panel is contingent upon acceptance by RSA, which requires all panels to be formed prior to submission. Submitters will be contacted with the final decision in the summer of 2019.