Rhetorical Moves by Olive McKeon


1.0 Thinking

1.1 Think in units of debates. Rather than simply taking a position, note the debate between two positions. This way, you can watch debates play out. You can be on the look out for exchanges which reveal a debate. You can also mark events within a debate and name them things like ‘the ___ turn, the ___ question, the ____ problem.’ or mark beginnings and endings within a debate with names like ‘the death of the [author]’ or ‘the advent of [modernity].’

1.2 Deconstruction: take something that looks coherent and show that it is internally incoherent; dwelling within A is non-A. I looked up at the ceiling of a room on the third floor of ABC No Rio and saw that someone had drawn a picture of a book titled ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.’ Learn how to see not only internal oppositions, but also A inside of B, A hiding in B, A wearing a coat of B. The commodity takes the form of its opposite.

1.3 Examine a place as an event, a thing as a process.

1.4 Watch writers cut and run with each other’s ideas and perhaps try to chart it. X takes this straight from Y‘s (very Z-ist) reading of W in ____, and it is part of Y‘s theory of the ___, which she developed further in___ (not yet translated). [Zizek takes this straight from Althusser’s (very Spinozist) reading of Pascal in Ideology and the State Apparatuses, and it is part of Althusser’s theory of the materiality of ideology, which he developed further in other (recently published) texts such as “Machiavelli and Us”, “Marx in his limits”, and “Philosophy and Marxism.”]

1.5 Marxist methodology. Whenever a rule is invoked as an explanation, you know another reason dwells elsewhere. The invocation of a rule serves the purpose of concealing a latent reason.

1.6 In organizing a set of ideas or works, one can use several organizational schemes: by theme (literary and philosophical works on alienation), by person (the dances of Trisha Brown), by time (Roof Shingle Design, 1845-47), and by place (Quilting in Durham). The axes of space and time, horizontality and verticality.

1.7 The power of metonymy. In Smith’s Wealth of Nations, the term ‘invisible hand’ appears once in the thousand pages of text.

1.8 Take it to the Next Level.

2.0   Reading

2.1 To encounter a text. Encounter variously means ‘to meet as an adversary; to confront in battle, assail;’ ‘to meet, fall in with;’ ‘to meet with, experience (difficulties, opposition, etc.);’ ‘to face resolutely;’ ‘to go to meet;’ and ‘to accost, address.’ Encounters may be hostile, fraught, ambivalent, pleasurable, transcendent, or some combination thereof. One can sit so excited, so excited, so excited, waiting for a reconstruction of a dance that has not been performed since 1971 to begin. One can be destroyed, torn asunder, by a work. One can tremble with the fear of a piece never ending. One can love these encounters, the problems posed by them, how much there is to say, how peculiar the whole apparatus is.

2.2 Read with a set of commitments. Not that these don’t shift and change, but one has a project. The stakes are high.

2.3 Notice when a writer is playing a different role in the text, wearing a different hat. In this passage, he is putting on his accounting hat. Have different hats as a reader: your temporal hat, your safari hat, your poetic hat.

3.0   Writing

3.1 Making distinctions with elegance. Take an idea (the other, the outside, whatever) and modify it by someone’s name. Olive’s outside, not Luther’s. A second method is to use the same word but in a different part of speech, for instance the distinction between politics and the political (e.g. The political is the constituent tensions of a society and politics is the kind of concepts generated by those tensions). You can also do something with capitalization: must we not have a distinction between theory and Theory? You make up different ways of saying the words so they sound different, or use different gestures to use when you are saying them.

3.2 Take a well-known phrase and swap out one word. Where have all the explosions gone? Take a well-known phrase and chop it down to size. I saw a tattoo on S. D.’s arm that read All that is solid…

3.3 Take two words and repeat them with other words sandwiched between. Hell yeah? Hell to the fuck yeah. Steven “all team player” Zultanksi. Steven “no pipes” Zultanski

3.4 State something and then take it back or find someway of nullifying the need to have mentioned it in the first place. I would say I should spend less time in cemeteries, but we both know that would be saying only and that I don’t mean it anyway. There is a bank, about which there is nothing to say, other than it crouches and sweats whitely and that it must be burned.

3.5 Use cinematic cuts when making an argument. Leave a scene, a character, a problem somewhere and skip to something else. We will meet up with Merton and Scholes a little later.

3.6 Restate something to create a moment of risible redundancy. B.G. told a story which involved a sign that read, ‘Here lives the rabbit. The rabbit lives here.’ Sam is a person who cooks and also likes to cook. Historico-historicity

3.7 Name a certain mode of response and then unveil a more thoughtful or complex reply. The one- liner response would be ‘that’s not a pipe! It is a picture of a pipe.’ The trivial point would be…

3.8 Double metaphor. Connect a metaphor to two different referents. Priests among priests. Cops among cops. The trots and administration are hand in glove.

3.9 Layer cultural logics atop of one another. In this interview I transcribed, John Jasperse ran through a long list of personalities, bands, fashionistas, rappers, Baroque composers, and so on in explaining his costume choice of covering his dancers in doilies.

3.10 Take three semi-unrelated things and act like they are generally known to have so much to do with each other. This has become a catalyst for a much more serious discussion about the relationship between death, the University and modern capitalism.

3.11 In titling something, make the part before the colon much longer than the part after the colon. The Frankfurt School’s Interest in Freud and the Impact of ‘Eros and Civilization’ on the Student Protest Movement in Germany: A Brief History

3.12 Take someone’s name and make it into as many parts of speech as possible. Invite me to this party: readings for the evening will include How James Joyce Became Joycean (on Joyce, the Late Joyce, and the Future Joycean), the Joycean psychedelic epic James Joyce Barefoot in Joyce’s Head, and On the Metalanguage of Joyceanism. Photocopies of texts will be made available at the screening.

3.13 Write as if one were in a different setting. Swap contexts – from a seminar to a sportscast to a rock and roll show to a support group. At the bottom of a formal letter of invitation, add: And if there are any ladies left in the crowd, don’t worry—we still do menstrual blood tincture rituals.

3.14 Categorize types of responses. You can do this in terms of content: People tend to fall into two groups in relation to this idea. Also in terms of the form of response: clarification, elaboration, disagreement, and so on.

3.15 Add as many details as possible. Give thought a space, a time, a bodily experience to emerge from. He had this thought while eating a sushi boxed lunch on a bullet train in japan coming from a Lexis factory and hearing about conflict in the middle east. She made the decision while preparing a pot of tea in an attic bedroom in Kentucky staring out at a yard of weeds and thinking about everyone who had betrayed her.

3.16 Self Parody. Do too much of what you think you want to do. Make it ambiguous which is your work and the parody of your work. Attempt to resemble a caricature, a cartoon of yourself. A tagger who writes ‘Don’t Tag.’

3.17 Combine formal speech with informal utterances. Three Songs of Lenin—Like we loved him.

3.18 Use we instead of I. You will feel less lonely.

3.19 In poetry, you don’t have to use all of the words. Look, you can just cross these ones out.

4.0   Talking

4.1 My current research is on x (some subject, contemporary art, biopolitics, what-have-you). I will talk about it next week, but first, let’s discuss y (some other subject, neoliberalism, botany). Everyone came to hear about subject x. And each week, subject x is deferred and subject y is discussed. Over time, y becomes x. We are astonished.

4.2 Anticipate the opposition. I knew that you would ask this question. I must admit that I have prepared an answer.

4.3 State the timing of things to avoid restlessness. okay, now we’re going to listen to a song. it is two minutes and forty nine seconds.

4.4 There is a certain type of dinner table conversation that has little to do with content. More important is motif and the ability to pick up motifs, play them off each other, and make a composition out it. For example, you take the first five things said – warm bread, seeing a lightning bug, coast of Oregon, being tired, kelp – and you attempt to combine them in the most novel and timely ways.

4.5 Historical reference can be used as an intimidation tactic. Learning the history of something can at least prevent someone psyching you out for not knowing it. It can also tame one’s historical audacity.

David Graeber: Well, yes, as you can see, I always try to put things in long-term perspective. One of the vices of academia, and to some degree it washes over into the intellectual life of social movements, is this obsession with rupture, this giddy presentism, this absolute assumption that whatever is happening now is utterly new and unprecedented and marks a fundamental break with the rest of history and human experience. At this point it grows genuinely tiresome. (in an interview with Yiannis Aktimon)

4.6 Censorship as Promotion: Do you see this? Don’t look at it! Denouncing something often has the effect of increasing its circulation.

4.7 If you are making ‘Art’ or something that no one really knows about besides the few friends that are kind enough to ask you about it, act like it is an international force slicing through the totality of the social.

4.8 Take something whose main subject is widely known, and show how the text is about everything other than what it is known for. Richard Dienst made the claim that there is not much in The Coming Insurrection about armed insurrection. Horror movies as being about everything other than horror.

4.9 Specify the criteria of good taste, the knowing of when you have an excellent specimen of something. Like all good graves, it’s smaller than you’d think, and at least partially in shadow. Specify the criteria for when something adequately plays its role, the boundaries of a specific category. Like any good spy, a spy gives a report. Any decent French marxist would deconstruct the film as a critique of the idle and excessive aristocracy.

4.10 Insist on calling someone by a different name of your choosing. I will call you Julius.

4.11 When introducing a work or paper, explain the conditions of how it originated, why you wrote the paper. This envelopes the audience in a project. They are here with you to help in the process and unfolding, not mince you to fine pieces.

4.12 Name someone long dead a posthumous follower of someone alive after them. Marx was a Sraffian. Put a concept into someone’s mouth that they do not have access to historically. Freud had not yet found his body without organs.



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