Genealogy Project

2nd Generation

1.  Hawhee, Debra.  “Kairotic Encounters.”  Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention.  Ed. Janet M. Atwill and Janice M. Lauer.  Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2001.  16-35.

Executive Summary:

Hawhee begins her article by discussing how invention is conceived in either exterior or interior terms.  That is, invention happens when the rhetor either: a)finds things that exist in a preexistent rhetorical order or b) relies of generative subjectivity to find things from within.  Hawhee notes these perspectives to demonstrate the autonomous author problem – i.e., how does subjectivity work when conceiving rhetorical invention?  Are there any alternatives to the current conception of subjectivity that might be more useful in a reconfiguration of rhetoric itself?


This is a concept derived from the word “heurisko” in Greek – or heuristic in English.  It’s the term that usually implies “I find.”  Yet, there is another form of the word that implies that the subject at once becomes the object. . . in other words, an emergent subobjectivity.  This concept always occurs at the spur of the moment as a response to a particular encounter – in this sense, it’s kairotic.  But there’s another duality at work here.  Not only is the rhetor producing discourse relevant to the situation at hand, the situation at hand also produces the rhetor.  In other words, the subject works on and is worked on by (18) the situation.

Sophistic Movement

First, Hawhee traces Kairos the immortal through an investigation into sculpture from antiquity.  Through his representations, Hawhee further demonstrates how Kairos was in the right moment.  She then discusses how Kairos’ corporeal representations in antiquity point to 1) an embodiment of rhetorical movement.  Next Hawhee ties this “rhetorical movement” to Gorgias’ masterful use of rhythm.  Next she illustrates how all of Gorgias’ tropes (metaphor, hypallage, apostrephein, etc.) were verbal representations of movement.  In the Encomium, Hawhee finds a duplicity of movement.  Gorgias suggests that the power (dunamis) of logos is responsible for Helen’s flight to Troy.  In so doing, he demonstrates the dunamis of logos itself – by convincing the crowd. .. by having them “Listen as I turn” from one argument to another.  In this turn, they are all moving, all in-between.


In the intermezzo, the be-between of dualisms is where you find kairos.  Hawhee draws a distinction between kairos and exigence by explaining exigence’s allegiance to a two step process: 1)decode the rhetorical situation from the outside and 2) consciously select appropriate arguments.  The kairotic is the moment of emergence that disrupts this linear path.  Kairos is also a part of the rhetorical encounter itself (read ambience/environment from Rickert), and is shaped as such.  Because Kairos is the moment of decision, he is usually depicted with razors so that he can designate (and clip appropriately) the “encounter between self and other” (25).  In Gorgias’ choice of divergent discourses in the Encomium (Helen is a goddess, she’s a witch, she’s swayed by language, or was it force? etc.), he removes ontological certainty in favor of a conjunction of forces (these are the many, many reasons why Helen isn’t guilty).  This is not a negation of guilt on the part of Helen; rather, it’s a negation of the truth of guilt.  Hawhee provides analogs between this and the Dissoi Logoi for the non-existence of truths.  This is consistent with D&G’s concept of “And” (See 1000 Plateaus, pg. 98) or the ever-multiplying ontologies of extension through “and.”

The Gorgianic Logos-Dunamis Complex

In this section, after tracing the use of pharmakon through Gorgias’ Encomium and Derrida’s Dissemenation, Hawhee makes the argument that the dunamis (power) of logos is its capacity to effect change.  In this sense, the dunamis of logos produces reality because it produces power.  According to Hawhee, “linking dunamis to a productive notion of power yields a different reading of Gorgias’ notion of discourse.  . . . Gorgias’ comparison of the power of speech to drugs might be read as a suggestion of the ‘can-do-ness’ (dunamis) of speech.  The function of logos, then, resides in its relations, at the specific junctures where it encounters and is encountered by other forces” (30).  The key here is that “the dunamis of logos, like the bodily arts of pharmacology and athletic training, emerges in the encounter itself” (31).

In closing, Hawhee notes that “I have suggested ‘invention-in-the-middle’ as an alternative mode of rhetorical invention, one that depends on a reshaping of rhetoric itself.  This particular reshaping invokes the movement of discourse rhetoric’s betweenness and the productive dimension logos’s power. . . . Rather than the five-step program (invention, style, arrangement), the cannons would cluster around ‘ands’ held in tension and enacted only through movements – or turns – of discourse. . . . It is only through the timely kairotic encounter that ‘turns’ happen, different ethoi emerge and logos becomes actions. . . words make themselves deeds” (32).

Major Influences:

White, Eric Charles.  Kaironomia:  On the Will-to-Invent.  Ithaca:  Cornell UP, 1987.

Poulakos, John.  Sophistical Rhetoric in Classical Greece.  Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1995.

Derrida, Jacques.  Dissemination.  Chicago:  U of Chicago P, 1981.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari.  A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.  Minneapolis:  U of Minnesota P, 1987.

Miller, Carolyn.  “Opportunity, Opportunism, and Progress:  Kairos in the Rhetoric of Technology”  Argumentation 8  (1994): 81-96).***

Young, Richard, and Yameng Lieu.  Introduction.  Landmark Essays on Rhetorical Invention.  Ed. Richard E Young and Yameng Liu.  Mahwah:  Erlbaum, 1994.***


1.  Close textual analysis in translation

2.  Create a method from an existing concept

Key Issues/Questions:

1.  How do we come to invention – from exterior or interior forces?

2.  Are these forces/matter a priori or invented in the in-betweeness of experience?

3.  How is Gorgianic rhetoric a site of investigation for kairotic moments?

One Response to “CCR601 – Genealogy – 2nd – Hawhee”

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