ENGL 564 -- Winter Quarter 2006

Current Rhetorical Theory Kennedy MW 3:30-5:20

Critical Moments in Rhetoric and Composition Studies

“We have a moment,” began Kathleen Blake Yancey’s 2004 CCCC keynote address, to pause and rededicate ourselves to goals she presented as crucial to the future of rhetoric and composition studies. The crisis, as Yancey identified, is clear: to resist changes brought on by new technologies and discursive demands from outside the university is to court irrelevance. She left the audience with a call to action—to evaluate and revise existing curricula and programs, the least of which is a reconsideration of the way we even conceive of first-year writing. In defining a critical moment for the field, Yancey seized what she saw as a kairotic moment demanding collective action.
In just a few of its many meanings, the rhetorical concept of kairos can be understood as “right time” and opportunity. Kairos can also describe an urgent situation demanding decision. We’ll begin this course by getting acquainted with what this nuanced term meant in its ancient past and what it offers us now for theorizing the temporal dimensions of discursive action. We’ll do so by examining contemporary rhetorics of crisis and change within the field of rhetoric and composition studies and the role these play in shaping the field’s ethos. Several related questions will no doubt emerge from this inquiry, namely, What exactly is kairos, and if it means so many different things, can it retain any real theoretical or explanatory power? Since kairos demands decision-making of some kind, who or what authorizes judgment in rhetorical situations? Does kairos have any implications for pedagogy?

back to schedule

to home page
top of page