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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Quantum Rhetoric The Entanglement of Matter and Meaning
by Leack, Ryan David, Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, 2018, 364; 10935596
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation develops a quantum rhetoric: the entanglement of matter and meaning, language and materiality, being and doing. Rather than exploring intersections between rhetoric, philosophy, literature, physics, and the like, I claim that rhetorical being and practice cut across such disciplines in decisive, generative ways. I stress that rhetoric—an affective, communicative way of being, doing, and relating in the world, of acting despite contingency and relativity—underlies much disciplinary (re)volution in the 20th century and beyond. In this way, quantum rhetoric is the marriage of the humanities and sciences, of language and materiality. Quantum rhetoric overturns the classical epistemology of language as controllable, deployed, and reflective of reality. On the contrary, quantum rhetoric is diffractive, approaching language through difference and unpredictability. Here, physics complements rhetoric for three central reasons: first , for its focus on materiality, which materializes rhetoric into bodies and minds in motion, composed of human and non-human beings, compounds and artifacts; second, for its grounding in uncertainty, rooted in rhetoric’s Sophistic origin; and third, for its emphasis on action, doing, and work, mirroring rhetoric’s concerns. Rhetoric, in turn, complements physics in three main ways: first, rhetoric’s focus on affect, effect, and resonance attend to the consequentiality of physics—of entangled bodies in motion—thus humanizing physics and giving meaning to material facts; second, rhetoric foregrounds the effects of our symbolic instruments on our relation to the world; and third, rhetoric fronts the centrality of language, instrumentation, and symbolic subjectivity, distancing us from our assumptions. Together, rhetoric and quantum physics—quantum rhetoric—make central the materiality, uncertainty, and difference in our symbolic endeavors, unearthing a rhizomatic reality: contingent at root. We are all, Einstein writes, “non-rigid bodies of reference,” and our symbolic systems and ethical practices must be just as fluid, perceptive, and receptive to flux. Applying theory, I envision the university—and first-year writing and critical thinking classrooms in particular—quantum rhetorically, shaping assignments that cultivate rhetorical being: a way of life, grounded in quantum rhetoric, which responds responsibly to chance, change, and the unknown, and which ungrounds assumptions in pursuit of a more viable democracy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nunley, Vorris
Commitee: Axelrod, Steven G., Moten, Frederick C.
School: University of California, Riverside
Department: English
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 80/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Communication, Physics, Rhetoric
Keywords: Autoethnography, First-year composition, Gertrude stein, Quantum rhetoric, Rhetorical being, Sophistry
Publication Number: 10935596
ISBN: 978-0-438-64043-6
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