Dale Smith
Ten Easy Pieces: A Poetics of Inquiry           (page 6)

6. To get technical for a moment—I must return to Aristotle, although this time it’s his Logic not the Rhetoric or Poetics I want to consider. (Dear reader now is the time to nod off!) As Nancy S. Struever explains: “The most inclusive inquiry rubrics are those of modality: necessity, contingency, actuality, possibility. But there is more. Modality is, of course, a defining element of Aristotle’s logic; thus, the true is predicated as necessary.” She goes on to locate an important link between potential (dunamis) and possibility (endechomenon). Rhetoric (or poetry) is performative action, inquiry, motive, and investigative movement into situations of cultural and social value. “The excitement here,” observes Struever, “is the fit between Aristotle’s most basic structure of process and the pertinence of modality issues to defining investigative and performative priorities; the linkage between potential and possibility becomes the engine for exploration of a range of life capacities and actions” (Rhetoric, Modality, Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Following Struever, it’s possible to imagine a poetics of active engagement—one with inquiry potential. While she seems concerned with a philosophical form of rhetoric based in political science and inquiry, she turns to Walter Benjamin, too, as “a prime example of rhetorical brilliance in investigation.” For Benjamin, “the code of gestures proceeds from openness.” She goes on: “Gesture is essential to Classical rhetoric as both diagnostic and performative, performing in posing, suggesting an ‘inarticulate’ possibility, where suggesting is either a vivid or a subtle physical marking of a value or operation not programmable in a proposition. Gesture is essential to Benjamin as well as Kafka; both are interested above all in literature and criticism as ‘rhetorical’ investigation; that is, intervention, interference, ‘acting up’: that is, as theatrical gesture.”

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