Everyday intensities: rhetorical theory, composition studies, and the affective field of culture
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Culture is not only constructed by articulated discourses and social forms, but also through lived experience, embodied processes, and public feelings that are best described as what Raymond Williams calls the “practical consciousness” and “structures of feeling” of everyday life. Rhetorical theory has yet to account adequately for this operation of rhetoric through circulating affective channels. This dissertation addresses three key concepts of rhetorical theory, and recontextualizes them within an affective field: rhetorical situation, rhetorical analysis, and epistemic rhetoric. Drawing from Spinozan theory to delineate the connections between affect and culture, I begin from the premise that rhetoric is a means of production within culture, as well as a hermeneutic tool for reading culture. Yet our theories and pedagogies have tended to privilege the latter over the former. By locating three specific instances of this tendency (in theories of rhetorical situation, textual analysis, and epistemic rhetoric), and reconsidering them in light of contemporary scholarship on affect and culture, this project seeks to broaden our pedagogical and theoretical vocabularies, making them more suitable for describing the full range of rhetorical practice in culture.