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1 USC Rhetorical Theory Conference Rhetorics Conceit October 10-12, 2013 On the Queer Farm: The Rural Challenge

to Rhetorics Urban Conceit Erin J. Rand, Syracuse University

Beginning with the farmer as a figure of rhetoric opens up possibilities for imagining the generative, reproductive, but also fickle nature of rhetorical discourse, and for thinking of the rhetor as one who carefully sows and cultivates, and ultimately reaps the results of her or his speech acts. Both of these depictionsrhetoric as farming, the rhetor as farmeryield a plethora of metaphors that highlight the rich and fecund nature of language. However, there is a third possibility available here: to focus not on the practice of farming or the persona of the farmer, but rather on the place and environment of the farm, or the rural landscape within which the pursuits of the farm and the farmer take place. Unlike farming and the farmer, which lend themselves fairly easily to comparison to rhetoric, the rural space of the farm appears to be, as I will explain below, conceived as somewhat antithetical to the purposes and practice of rhetoric. Thus, as the rural landscape is specifically excluded from rhetoric, it is also, through this founding exclusion, queerly installed at the heart of the history and study of rhetoric. Rhetorics urban bias and emplacement in the city, then, is a queer conceit indeed. Rhetoric vs. Rurality The tendency to think about rhetoric through specifically urban spaces has deep roots in the history of rhetoric. Rhetoric and democracy arose contemporaneously with the organization of people into cities and the creation of the agora as a central gathering place. As Cicero tells it, rhetoric was responsible for the first emergence of human civilization. Previously, humans were wandering at random over the fields and hidden in habitations in the woods, and relied only on their physical strength for survival. But one mans reason and eloquence induced them to assemble together, to adopt a new cooperative form of living, and to become gentle and civilized. For Cicero, only the power of rhetoric could have persuaded individuals to willingly acquiesce to the will of others, to put the good of the community before individual gain, and to submit to law without violence.1 Thus, in Ciceros account, as David Fleming explains, rhetoric accounts for the origins of the city; the city, in turn, provides a function and context for rhetoric. That is, historically, the art of rhetoricand the self-governing city are closely linked; in some places and during certain periods, to think about one was essentially to think about the other. Rhetoric, in such contexts, served as the primary instrument of civic life; and the city served as the primary scene of rhetoric.2 While in Ciceros formulation the honorable, civilized life of the city is juxtaposed with the savage and brutal life of the countryside, the values of the urban/rural binary are often reversed.3 For instance, in Aristophanes Clouds, the action begins with Strepsiades, who comes from the country, lamenting his marriage to his urban wife, whom he characterizes as haughty and luxurious, extravagant and gluttonous, and sexually unrestrained.4 In contrast to Strepsiades simple and pure rural background, life in the city proves not only to be full of temptations for Strepsiades son, but also to present a much more complicated terrain of ethics for Strepsiades. After convincing his son to study sophistry under Socrates as a means for

2 evading his debts, Strepsiades eventually discovers the error of his ways and the danger of false arguments, and violently sets fire to Socrates school. Typically read as a satirical critique of the Athenian sophistic movement, Clouds also suggests an interesting relationship between rhetoric and urban life. Strepsiades, the representative of rural wholesomeness, is not presented as a clearly sympathetic character and therefore does not fulfill the usual role of the comedic protagonist; that is, he does not exhibit strong moral principles, he does not renew citizens commitments to Athenian ideals, and he does not demonstrate the solution to a social problem.5 Instead, his rural navet leaves him ill-equipped to evaluate the sophists tactics or to effectively guide his son, suggesting that the complexity of the ethics of city life require not sophistry, but rhetoric. As Sluiter and Rosen put it, life in the big city makes ethical behavior far more complicated than an agroikos would normally expect.6 Difficult urban decisions, in other words, call for a more nuanced tool of analysis and persuasion; presumably, the simplicity of country life does not present the same conundrums, nor require the same rhetorical skills to navigate them. Once again, rhetoric appears not just as a goad toward city life or an adaptation to it, but also as unnecessary forif not actually in opposition torural life. Queerness vs. Rurality It comes as no surprise that rurality is also often understood in opposition to queer life. That is, while the civilized nature of the city might accommodate queerness, if the queer strays into the rural, the result is typically imagined as tense and uncomfortable, if not actually violent. Some queer scholars have attempted to point out such metronormative assumptions, arguing that they incorrectly conflate queer visibility with urban queer existence. That is, the metronormative narrative maps a story of migration onto the coming-out narrative, such that the closeted subject from the country supposedly finds full self-expression of sexuality only by coming out into an urban community of other queers.7 One result of this narrative is that the rural comes to stand in as the citys other, a place out there on which to project homophobic attitudes and behaviors, while the city maintains its status as the epicenter of liberal tolerance and progressive thinking.8 Thus, when Michael Warner and Lauren Berlant theorized queer spaces through the disruption of norms of intimacy and the public/private binary, they drew their evidence primarily from Christopher Street in New York City. And when Douglas Crimp described gay mens sexual possibilities prior to the AIDS crisis, he centered on spaces unique to an urban environment: back rooms, tea rooms, bookstores, movie houses, and baths; the trucks, the pier, the ramble, the dunes.9 This association between the urban environment and queerness arises from an earlier belief in the iniquities of the city. Just as Aristophanes described the temptations and wantonness of city living, mid-nineteenth century American public discourses cast homosexuality as a product of the impure conditions and degeneration of city life. As Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson put it, there is the assumption that homosexuality is a product of the urban, and that rural and wilderness spaces are thus somehow free from the taint of homoerotic activity. Wilderness spaces, parks, rural life, and physical labor were, in fact, understood as a corrective to the unhealthy influences of the urban, and the valuation of the rural went hand in hand with the condemnation of sexual perversity.10 Whether the city is figured as a queer space because of its immorality or because of its tolerance, then, queerness and rurality seem destined to be antithetical. Just as rhetoric is defined in opposition to the rural, so too does the rural function as queernesss founding exclusion. But my intent is not merely to point out the parallelism of these two formulations; neither is it to assert the existence and positivities of rural rhetoric or rural queerness (claims that are at once

3 too obvious and too complicated to pursue here).11 Rather, I mean to suggest that the rejection of the rural effectively guarantees its continual reinstatement as rhetorics queer remainder. And the safe and stable polis is therefore always troubled by the rural spaces that lie outside of its civilizing influence.12 As I will show in the final section, it is in this imperfect exclusion of rurality that we can get a glimpse of the queer possibilities for thinking differently about rhetorics relationship to rurality. Queer Rurality and Rhetoric I began with Ciceros account of the emergence of cities through the gentling and community-building effects of rhetoric, but his apparent dismissal of the savage countryside may not be the end of the story. For example, Marcia Kmetz reads Cicero to better understand the role of the rural citizens in the social fabric of ancient Italy and to forward Ciceros redefinition of rural people and landscapes and his development of a rural civic ethos. Kmetz emphasizes that for Cicero, ethos was a communal feature, rooted not in an individual speaker, but in a place. Defining ethos as a habitual gathering place, she contends that place is a central component of character, that the physical location of the rhetorical act or the rhetor contains a character of its own that shapes communal values and the rhetors performance of those values. As such, the rural landscape in Ciceros thought does not serve merely as a backdrop to human activities, but is instead an important and indivisible part of human interactions. Kmetz points out that Cicero not only refers to rural people and places in most of his works and maintains his own connections to his rural origins, but that he also emphasizes the importance of the rural for its own sake, especially in the way that it shapes its participants and defines the character of those associated with it.13 Similarly, Sheila Murnaghan examines selections from Odysseus, Hesiod, and Socrates, noting that while the farmer and the tasks of farming were marked by rusticity and a lack of sophistication, in certain circumstances speech about farmingby those who were not necessarily farmerscould confer authority on the speaker. For example, she identifies in Hesiods Works and Days a series of passages that suggest a speakers attentiveness to the proper timing of tasks can be demonstrated through ones observations of the natural world: the arrival of rain and frost, the locations of the stars, certain bird calls, and the emergence of new leaves.14 In other words, a speakers sensitivity to kairos might be exhibited throughindeed, might even be said to emerge fromhuman interactions with the natural rhythms of the rural landscape. Further, Murnaghan characterizes the space of the farm as occupying something of a liminal zone: not quite within the purview of the city, but also distinct from the wild, unsettled, and uncultivated land that looms beyond. The habitual occupants of this space thus have a cleareyed skepticism that arises from being both insiders and outsiders (while not belonging fully to either category) and therefore may make the most trustworthy rhetors and qualified leaders. She describes this unique perspective as just a bit detached, just a bit off-center, or, I might add, just a bit queer.15 These admittedly brief tastes of rhetorics rural places is not merely a way of asserting the value of the rural in relation to the urban, but also a way of understanding the (usually unrecognized) centrality of rurality to the theorization of rhetoric. Acknowledging the rural influences on classical rhetorical thought suggests that the exclusion of the rural serves to reinforce the dominance of the urban, and that reinvigorating our attention to the rural may begin the shake the apparent naturalness of the urban rhetorical model. That is, just as heteronormativity requires queerness as its exclusion in order to consolidate the privileges of heterosexuality, metronormativityin both queer and rhetorical scholarshiprequires the rural

4 as its rustic and devalued foil. Importantly, the American mythos of the ruralin which the rural symbolically represents community, stability, and a truly participatory democracy upholds the possibility for the urban model of democratic participation, even as it is devalued as old-fashioned and unsophisticated.16 In this sense, then, the rural functions queerly in relation to the urban in the history and theory of rhetoric. In short, while I do not mean to posit the rural as a space of liberation or resistance, I do want to suggest that genuine attention to the place of the farm, the rural landscape, might provide a provocative means of queering the heteronormative and metronormative rhetorical tradition.

Notes 1 Cicero, De Inventione, 6. 2 Fleming, The Space of Argumentation, 148. 3 Cicero, De Inventione, 6. 4 Aristophanes, Clouds, np. 5 Henderson, Introduction, 5. 6 Sluiter and Rosen, General Introduction, 1. 7 Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place, 36. 8 Gray, Out in the Country, 9. 9 Berlant and Warner, Sex in Public; Crimp, Mourning and Militancy, 140. For other examples of rhetorical analyses of queer spaces that focus on urban environments, see: Thomas R. Dunn, Remembering A Great Fag: Visualizing Public Memory and the Construction of Queer Space, Quarterly Journal of Speech 97.4 (2011): 435-460; Kyra Pearson and Nina Maria Lozano-Reich, Cultivating Queer Publics with an Uncivil Tongue: Queer Eyes Critical Performances of Desire, Text and Performance Quarterly 29.4 (2009): 383-402; Isaac West, PISSARs Critically Queer and Disabled Politics, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 7.2 (2010): 156-175. 10 Mortimer-Sandilands and Erickson, Queer Ecologies, 15. 11 An account of the specificities of rural rhetoric can be found in, Kim Donehower, Charlotte Hogg, and Eileen E. Schell, Eds., Reclaiming the Rural: Essays on Literacy, Rhetoric, and Pedagogy (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2012). For examples of the specificities of rural queer lives, see: Mary L. Gray, Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (New York: New York University Press, 2009); Scott Herring, Another Country: Queer Anti-Urbanism (New York: New York University Press, 2010). 12 Carter, At Home, Round Here, Out There, 161. 13 Kmetz, For Want of the Usual Manure, 335-340. 14 Murnaghan, Farming, Authority, and Truth-Telling, 104-5. 15 Murnaghan, Farming, Authority, and Truth-Telling, 107, 110, 117. 16 Proctor, Civic Communion, 17-18.

5 Works Cited Aristophanes. Clouds. Ed. M.W. Humphreys. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2010. Berlant, Lauren and Michael Warner. Sex in Public. Critical Inquiry 24 (1998): 547-66. Carter, D.M. At Home, Round Here, Out There: The City and Tragic Space. In City, Countryside, and the Spatial Organization of Value in Classical Antiquity, edited by Rosen and Sluiter, 139-172. Boston: Brill, 2006. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. De Inventione. Trans. C.D. Yonge. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2004. Crimp, Douglas. Mourning and Militancy. In Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics, 129-49. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002. Fleming, David. The Space of Argumentation: Urban Design, Civic Discourse, and the Dream of the Good City. Argumentation 12 (1998): 147166. Gray, Mary L. Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America. New York: New York University Press, 2009. Halberstam, Judith. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York University Press, 2005. Henderson, Jeffery. Translator. Introduction. In Aristophanes, Clouds. Newburyport, MA: Focus Classical Library, 1993. Kmetz, Marcia. For Want of the Usual Manure: Rural Civic Ethos in Ciceronian Rhetoric. Rhetoric Review 30.4 (2011): 333349. Mortimer-Sandilands, Catriona and Erickson, Bruce, Eds. Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010. Murnaghan, Sheila, Farming, Authority, and Truth-Telling in the Greek Tradition. In City, Countryside, and the Spatial Organization of Value in Classical Antiquity, edited by Rosen and Sluiter, 93-118. Boston: Brill, 2006. Proctor, David E. Civic Communion: The Rhetoric of Community Building. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005. Rosen, Ralph M. and Ineke Sluiter, Eds. City, Countryside, and the Spatial Organization of Value in Classical Antiquity, Boston: Brill, 2006. ---, Introduction. In City, Countryside, and the Spatial Organization of Value in Classical Antiquity, edited by Rosen and Sluiter, 1-12. Boston: Brill, 2006.