Winter 2008, 38:1, pages 2-24
Negation and the Contradictory Technics of Rhetoric
Abstract: Responding to critiques of instrumental approaches to rhetoric and writing, this article explains why such approaches do not necessarily suppress the materiality of language or inhibit the writer's ability to experience that materiality. Relying on Samuel Weber's re-translation of Heidegger's term, Ge-stell, as "emplacement" and Maurice Blanchot's understanding of the contradictory function of negation in language, the article demonstrates how rhetoric both secures language in place with a particular meaning for the sake of an external goal and unsecures language from that meaning. Without endorsing all instrumental approaches to rhetoric and writing (or the concept of instrumentality in general), the article then argues that there is no reliable way to distinguish inherently valuable writing from instrumentally valuable writing.