To everything – turn, turn, turn.

                                                -The Byrds

Pisthetaerus: Turn your head round.

Epops: Ah! It will be pleasant for me if I end in twisting my neck off!

                                                                                           -Aristophanes, The Birds


So many turns, in(side) and out(side), to the point of vertigo. So many turns, to and fro, the movements of transition, some twisting, others upsetting, all perplexing: the linguistic turn, the ethical turn, the affective turn, the material turn, the (insert concept here) turn. There is a turning to rhetoric, with rhetoric—for insight, relief, rationalization, and power. And there is rhetoric’s turn, through rhetoric, a movement that appears between hope and despair and which holds the problem of what rhetoric may yet turn into and how its turns bear on its upside and betray its downside. The turns are all around. They are on again, off again. They are here and now, as well as then and there. So many turns, so many that it seems  at times to be the only question at hand, which would mean that it is not question at all, that the question remains to be asked.

From a reflection on rhetorical theory’s others, we turn this year to the question of turning rhetoric. With this query comes a chance to consider a number of fundamental concepts and concerns, including movement, action, shape, direction, manner, relation, and custom. And, of course, the question of the turn holds the problem of the trope, the turn that has long defined, performed, defended, and discounted rhetoric. Perhaps there is a good bit more to understand about the ways, forms, and power of the tropos, particularly at a moment when it is increasingly conflated and confused with the idea of a topos. Or perhaps, the tropic has left rhetoric to linger and loiter such that it is time to move along, to make a turn against what may only and endlessly return rhetoric to its so-called proper place. Has rhetoric mastered its tropes or have the tropes mastered rhetoric? And beyond this dilemma, to what might rhetoric yet turn, whether in the name of turning itself into what it is not, entering new spaces, cutting a different line, or transforming the relationships through which it is conceptualized, enabled, and rendered. Perhaps turning rhetoric may open theory at the same time that theory sets rhetoric turning. The guideposts along the way are cryptic. Perhaps that’s the only way.


2017 Conference Participants

Michelle Ballif (Georgia)

Scot Barnett (Indiana-Bloomington)

Michael Bernard-Donals (Wisconsin)

Barbara Biesecker (Georiga)

Sarah Burgess (San Francisco)

Casey Boyle (Texas)

James Brown (Rutgers)

Jim Crosswhite (Oregon)

Diane Davis (Texas)

Erik Doxtader (South Carolina)

Jonathan Edwards (South Carolina)

Chris Garlough (Wisconsin-Madison)

Tom Goodnight (Southern California)

Daniel Gross (UC-Irvine)

Kelly Happe (Georgia)

Byron Hawk (South Carolina)  

Kyle Jensen (North Texas)

Michael Kaplan (Baruch, CUNY)

Chris Lundberg (UNC-Chapel Hill)

Steven Mailloux (Loyola Marymount)

David Marshall (Pitt)

Stuart Murray (Carleton)

John Muckelbauer (South Carolina)

Jody Nictora (Idaho)

Thomas Rickert (Purdue)

Brooke Rollins (Lehigh)

Nathaniel Street (Valparaiso)

Nathan Stormer (Maine)

Victor Vitanza (Clemson)