object-oriented ontology for rhetoricians

So I am thinking today about the intersections of folks like Agamben, Nancy, Deleuze, Latour, De Landa…

What, you're still here?

Clearly Deleuze gets some play among rhetoricians, at least as a figure one encounters in grad school these days. But you won't find many citations for Deleuze in CCC; let's put it that way. Latour and actor-network theory has gotten some recent attention (i.e. this decade) in the new media and tech writing sectors of our field. You might have encountered Agamben or Nancy in Vitanza or Ulmer and those doing related "theory" work. And De Landa? Well, go ahead and google de landa rhetoric composition and see what you find (beside this post, I mean).

As one steps closer to these thinkers, there are differences that are really important (to some), depending on how one wants to slice it. For instance, Agamben and Nancy take interest in community, in opposition to a concept of immanence. Immanence is integral to Deleuzian philosophy (though maybe immanence means something different here than it does for Agamben or Nancy). Arguably, Latour and De Landa both extend upon Deleuze, though for some Latour is constructivist (focusing on how humans construct reality) while Deleuze and De Landa would be realists (in pursuing a reality independent of humans). Depending on where you sit, of course, these are all shooting offenses. Plus there's plenty of reason to object to any of these thumbnail descriptions/accusations.

I see it this way (and I'll turn the lens more on rhet/comp interests). Let's say that one wants to be done (if it is possible) with the self-present, authorial subject who writes to make hirself immanent to hirself (i.e., the traditional, humanist writer). Maybe one doesn't care for the politics, maybe one is interested in being experimental, or maybe one thinks the humanist concept is inadequate. Whatever. One requires a theory of composition that articulates cognition and subjectivity as external rather than internal, effectively quashing the distinction, at least from the humanist perspective.

So I have titularly promised to discuss object-oriented ontology (OOO). Ian Bogost offers a good entry point into what OOO might be, though one could also look at Levi Bryant. Object-oriented and ontology certainly resonate with philosophy and psychoanalysis. They also intersect with computer programming, though I am not going there today. The basic premise of OOO is that all objects (including subjects as objects) or actors (to go Latourian if you please) share a common material plane (that would be Deleuzian, a la "plane of consistency," at least for my money). For those who would further distance themselves from Deleuze at al, there is an increased insistence on the objects rather than aggregates/assemblages or becomings.

For rhet/comp, let's say that I wanted to take up the issue of "mutt genres" in FYC, as Elizabeth Wardle terms them, and the underlying issue of transfer. As we know, learning to write a humanist-interpretive essay (or however you want to characterize FYC) does not equal learning to write a chemistry lab report, or anything else. That's the issue/myth of transfer. But that doesn't mean that writing activities, actors, events, objects, and networks linked to FYC do not exchange forces, do not transfer something to subsequent writing tasks.

Just as we might rethink writing activities within a writing course in terms of these object relations, we might also rethink the operation of writing pedagogy/curriculum as a class of objects. What do they do? What differences do they make?

In the end, I'm not sure I can go as far as some of these OOO folks, Graham Harman, for example. I am still stuck (productively stuck, maybe) on how to describe the very task I'm involved in here. This text is an object in itself, composed of other objects (certainly), but also exhibiting characteristics not present in its constituent objects (letters, words, computer programming, monitor light source, etc.). Then there are also the event(s) of composing and reading. How do those objects and object relations connect with the other objects I am discussing here? Our knowledge of the world (which is a class of objects itself) exists only through our exerting of force through object relations onto/through the world. I am still left going back to Deleuze and Guattari working through concepts and immanence in What is Philosophy?

But that's where I am. You are likely (certainly) somewhere else (cause I'd smell you if you were here). In any case, there are some worthy ideas here to explore.

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