Lars Soderlund

Catalyzing persuasion: Toward a theory of kairos and repetition

Lars Soderlund

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2011 pp: 242
  • Advisor: Rickert, Thomas
  • Source: DAI-A 73/02(E)
  • Subjects: Language, literature and linguistics; Communication and the arts; Celebrity; Credibility; Ethos; First-year composition; Remediation; Social networking
  • ProQuest Document Number: 909994745
  • ISBN: 9781124985107
  • UMI Number: AAT 3481153

Abstract:

This dissertation begins to articulate the relationship between repetition and kairos. Kairos is a rhetorical term generally defined as the “timely” or “opportune,” and it classically denotes the time and place (or, similarly, the requisite decorum) necessary to convince an audience of a message. Kairos is translated in the King James Bible’s Ecclesiastes 3 as “a time to …”, a special time for successful action, and we could say that classical rhetoric narrows kairos into “a time to persuade” an audience of a given argument. Kairos has scarcely been connected with repetition because a “special time” seems non-repetitive by definition; classical rhetors such as Gorgias and Isocrates made kairos central to their rhetorics precisely because it designates discursive conditions made powerful by the fact that they cannot recur (Sipiora “Introduction” 11). This dissertation utilizes theories of non-linear causality to show how repetition can give rise to kairotic moments. Put simply, disciplines outside of rhetoric have exposited theories of repetition that allow for the production of novelty while accounting for repeating processes. Mechanisms such as evolution, emergence from complexity, and feedback loops (expanded into what Douglas Hofstadter calls “strange loops”) are not the reproduction of identical units in time (the typical definition of repetition) but processes whereby units can accrue additional content by circulating throughout systems, influencing the repetition of other units and giving rise to additional processes. In this dissertation, the word “repetition” will include these sorts of procedures as well as the traditional definition of identical propagation, as the two are intertwined: complicated processes of repetition such as evolution still include identical reproduction to some degree, as in the repetition of genes, and such identical reproductions still promote change as they are iterated over time in varying conditions, as in the way genes are irregularly allowed to repeat by natural selection. Repetition includes elements of the identical and the changing. Repetition envelops us, I argue, and creates the ground for what kairotic moments can occur. Repetition not only creates the ground for an audience’s reaction, immersing each individual in a different pattern of circulating discourse that affects their capacity to accept certain ideas and perspectives, but it also affects what the author of such discourse will say, structuring the ideas she is likely to espouse and the words the author is likely to use. Repetition is a constant, subtle process of influence, and the kairotic moments of persuasion that we perceive are catalyzed by processes of repetition that prepare audiences to respond to certain forms of discourse.