Fall 2014, 44:4, pages 299-322
Reinventing Invention, Again
Abstract: Since the 1960s, invention theory has reinvented itself. This essay aims to map and advance that process. It provides a window into the recent intellectual history of rhetorical studies and advocates continued development of sociologically informed rhetorical theories open to culture, materiality, and post-humanist understandings. I argue that invention theory has productively organized itself around two sets of dialectical tensions but remains constrained by two longstanding prejudices. The productive tensions revolve around (a) breaking with and affirming inherited rhetorical traditions and (b) conceiving invention as emplaced or dispersed. The prejudices consist of a continued logophilia and normative privileging of creativity and newness. I map the dialectics and prejudice across modern, premodern, and postmodern orientations. I then provide a revised definition and heuristic framework revolving around a concept, inventional media, which aims to capture invention’s simultaneous emplacement and dispersal across processes of discovery, creativity, and rhetorical reproduction.