Noah Roderik: "A Return to Form"

The Higher Seminar in Rhetoric

Noah Roderik, Örebro University: "A Return to Form: The Role of Aesthetic Experience in Rhetorical Genre Evolution"


Abstract
Form used to be central to the concept of genre in both rhetorical and literary studies, but there the understanding of form was limited to the persistence of certain logico-syntactic structures. With the emergence of modern rhetorical genre studies (RGS) in the 70s and 80s, genre was re-conceptualized as “social action,” and its role in the social recognition of exigence became central, with form being demoted to a secondary effect. Thus the current picture of genre evolution in RGS follows the model of classical natural selection in which genres continuously adapt to new social exigences. I argue in this presentation that form must once again be considered a vital aspect of genre, especially as it pertains to our understanding of genre evolution. But here form needs to be understood as arising from the repetition of aesthetic intensions rather than the persistence of syntactical extensions. As such, genre forms are plastic, and formal changes are not always adaptations to an existing exigence. Indeed, as I demonstrate, formal changes can occasionally affect the very social exigence to which a genre is adapting. Thus I argue that RGS needs an evolutionary model capable of describing the relationship between formal innovation and adaptive purpose in a less linear fashion than, for instance, classical natural selection gives us.

Bio
Noah Roderick is a senior lecturer in Rhetoric at Örebro University, where he also teaches cultural studies (English) and the philosophy of science (Graduate Studies). His research interests include rhetorical genre studies; object-oriented philosophy, as well as aesthetics and cognition. He is the author of The Being of Analogy (Open Humanities Press, 2016), and has published essays in journals such as Open PhilosophyLogos & Episteme, and Composition Forum.

Seminar in English