Rhetoric Panel Proposal for Rhetoric Society of America 2022

deadline for submissions: 
August 1, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Rhetoric Society of America
contact email: 




Tentative Panel Title: “Beyond Persuasion: Rhetoric & Response-ability”
Conference Location
: Baltimore, Maryland (May 26-29, 2022)

Conference Theme: The Charge for Change


Chair: Dr. Ryan Leack, University of Southern California


“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 a “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 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 Solidarity: Rhetoric and Foreign(er) Relations (2010), and in “Rhetoricity at the End of the World” (2018), 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 to what unconditionally moves us. Rhetoric, she argues, constitutes the entire realm of address and response in and beyond language. And in 2018, Kevin Musgrave argues in “The Rupture as Ethical Imperative” that “listening . . . is an enactment of responsibility made manifest though a posture of receptivity, a passivity [which is nevertheless active] of receiving the other into oneself without assimilating or appropriation.” Such theoretical work has recently been wrenched down from the clouds in the teaching of rhetoric. For instance, Andrea Lunsford’s textbook Let’s Talk: A Pocket Rhetoric (2021) begins with a chapter on “Listening.” Therefore, “rhetorical listening” is not only a theory of rhetoric, it is—like rhetoric itself—a practice.


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 advantageous end. The necessity of responsible response is of no greater importance than it is now in a (post)pandemic. 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 frameworks:


  • Rhetorical listening
  • Listening-rhetoric
  • Response-ability
  • Rhetoricity and rhetoricality
  • Rhetoric and/as resonance
  • New materialisms
  • Attention and attunement
  • Affect theories
  • Cultural rhetorics
  • And, generally, expanding rhetoric from the faculty of observing the “available means of persuasion” to the faculty which observes all variables (cultural, linguistic, spatiotemporal, material, etc.) that affect responsive/responsible communication.


Abstract (200-250 Words) Deadline: August 1st, 2021

Please Email Abstract to:leack@usc.edu

Please include in your email ​your name, contact information, department, 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 August 2021.