Situation and Occasion

Jeanne Fahnestock

in Rhetorical Style

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199764129
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918928 | DOI:
Situation and Occasion

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In everyday conversation, speakers and hearers inhabit specific places and times. Languages include deictic terms to refer to these givens of the physical situation. Speakers can choose to refer explicitly to their immediate location and moment, and in fact politicians typically do, even to the point of arranging to give a speech in a location that they can strategically reference. Though written texts seem to transcend the particulars of time and place, writers in some circumstances can use immediate deixis. But more often writers, and even speakers, can construct absent or hypothetical places and times through imaginary deixis. The result is the set description, recommended in rhetorical exercises since antiquity (as descriptio, ekphrasis, etc.). Time and place can also be invoked in broader senses. For example, the time referenced or constructed in an argument can ignore a particular hour or date and focus instead on time in the sense of an occasion, a kairotic moment that the arguer seizes on, such as an anniversary or a “first time.” Campbell in the eighteenth and Chilton in the twenty-first century note the argumentative potential in constructions of time and place, and Bitzer labeled these aspects of the rhetorical situation, calling special attention to the exigence, the immediate need for rhetorical discourse. To Burke, time and place were elements of the arguer's scene whose circumference was malleable. The number of critical terms in rhetoric covering notions of time and place shows the importance of this dimension of speaker/audience interaction.

Keywords: time; place; deixis; description; occasion; kairos; Campbell; Chilton; rhetorical situation; exigence; Bitzer; Burke; circumference; ekphrasis

Chapter.  8280 words. 

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

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