Rhetorical invention and becoming local



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This dissertation is an effort to understand the role of rhetorical invention in becoming local. The project aims to bring rhetorical studies closer to the building of a sustainable polis. The study revisits classical notions of rhetorical invention to locate concepts and tools for adaptation in contemporary rhetorical theory, pedagogy, and practice. The concepts of energeia, imitatio, topoi, and the rhetorical appeals are used to analyze rural rejuvenation efforts in the community of Aurora, The Partnership for Rural Nebraska, and The Project of Becoming Native. These texts serve as rich sites of rhetorical invention and becoming local. The dissertation establishes a manner of rhetorical invention as production that aligns rhetorical studies with the design arts; this includes theorizing and teaching rhetorical invention with an emphasis on visual symbolic forms. A close reading of Aristotle’s term, energeia, reveals that rhetorical invention is a process of bringing before the eyes the internally active nature of discourse and objects. Furthermore, the analyses of rural rejuvenation projects demonstrate how rhetorical and design tools of invention function in community development projects. Finally, this project articulates a pedagogy of becoming local and a model of rural rejuvenation. The former calls for rhetorical teaching to focus on a place’s longevity while the latter offers conditions and tools for the invention of sustainable new beginnings.