Breaking Up (at) Totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter

Synopsis

Rhetoric and composition theory has shown a renewed interest in sophistic countertraditions, as seen in the work of such "postphilosophers" as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Helene Cixous and of such rhetoricians as Susan Jarratt and Steven Mailloux. As D. Diane Davis traces today's theoretical interest to those countertraditions, she also sets her sights beyond them.

Davis takes a "third sophistics" approach, one that focuses on the play of language that perpetually disrupts the "either/or" binary construction of dialectic. She concentrates on the nosequential third -- excess -- that overflows language's dichotomies. In this work, laughter operates as a trope for disruption or breaking up, which is, from Davi's perspective, a joyfully destructive shattering of our confining conceptual frameworks.