Kairos and chronotope: The connected rhetoric of Margaret Fuller

Date

2009-12

Authors

Garrison, Kristen

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Abstract

Margaret Fuller published two books and over 250 essays, and she worked as a journalist for the New York Tribune at a time when few women had such access to the public. Despite her prolific record of publication, however, the rhetorical dimensions of her writings are understudied to the detriment of our discipline. Not only do her texts reveal a rather consistent rhetorical practice, predicated on a dialogic relationship to the world, but her particular practice proves highly suggestive for all rhetorical efforts to assert counter-hegemonic views. Although women's studies values Fuller's role as a thinker who significantly impacted first-wave feminists, feminist rhetoric has not devoted enough attention to the rhetorical strategies Fuller employs; we need to recover Fuller as a key feminist rhetor, not only to fill a glaring gap in the historical record, but also to gain insights into the process of invention, especially those strategies that demonstrate kairos. Kairos, or opportunity, refers to the ways in which a rhetor makes creative use of available discursive means, a process at once immensely important to rhetorical theory and tremendously difficult to approximate, but Mikhail Bakhtin's discussion of literary chronotopes suggests an invaluable tool for illuminating the ways in which a rhetor codifies kairos in her text. By rethinking chronotopes as the time-space representations of a writer's rhetorical opportunities, this research project suggests a method for approximating the kairic elements embedded within a text. Detailed textual analysis of the rhetorical chronotopes in Fuller's writings reveals that she used the dominant discourses of domesticity, transcendentalism, and nationalism to assert alternative ideals to guide the actions of women, men, and Americans. Not only, then, does chronotopic analysis illuminate Fuller's rhetorical strategy, but it demonstrates a productive method for inferring a constituent element of rhetorical invention. Thus, this project advances feminist rhetoric, by recovering Fuller as a key rhetorical figure of the nineteenth-century, and contributes to the discipline's efforts both to dialogue responsibly with Bakhtin's work and rework a classical terms for contemporary theory and criticism.

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Keywords

Social sciences, Language, literature, and linguistics, Bakhtin, Mikhail, Feminist rhetoric, Fuller, Margaret, Kairso, Rhetoric, Womens studies

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