RHETORIC AT DAVIS FALL TALK: “Quasi-Metaphoricity and the Turning Force of Alterity”
Pheng Cheah, Professor of Rhetoric At UC Berkeley
In Rogues, a text from the final phase of his work that is more patently pertinent to political thought, Derrida suggests a fundamental connection between democracy and the turnings of rhetoric, more specifically, the rhetorical figure of irony, The opening of public space—the very phenomenality and spatiality of public space itself—occurs because of a right to various “phenomena” that are commonly associated with rhetoric. These figures or tropes manifest the exigency of a radical undecidability that exceeds and cannot be mastered by a subject of intentional signification, a subject that knows fully well what it intends to say and mean. For Derrida, the turning force of rhetoric is essentially a certain undecidability that constitutively problematizes sovereignty. But in what manner of speaking is rhetoric a force? How is this force political and, indeed, even that which opens up the political? Pheng Cheah argues that Derrida’s account of force is already found in his earlier engagements with metaphor, which understand the process of metaphoricity in terms of a radical force that arises from temporalization and the inhuman coming of time. It has fundamental political implications because it radically puts into question the value of the proper, especially the power of mimesis that is proper to the human anthropos.
Sponsored by the Digital Humanities Institute, the Department of English and the Department of Comparative Literature