The Rhetoric of Emergence in Narrative


  • Brian J. McAllister


This essay addresses rhetorical narratology’s approach to widely disparate scales of time and space in narratives of emergence, in which microevents without centralized agents or clear causal relationships produce macroscale effects. It uses rhetorical narratology’s a posteriori approach to address the difficulty of narrating causality between these scales and resists systematizing relationships of scale. Rhetorical narratology worries less about conditions of scalar interaction that undermine narratability, focusing instead on contingencies that mediate these scalar engagements. In particular, it explores hybrid relationships between rhetorical modes of narrative and lyric that emphasize interrelationships between event causality and conditions of being that are key in narratives of emergent behavior. If truth value is determined by ways that narratives establish coherent relationships between narrator and narratee in terms of purpose, then a rhetorical approach to scale and emergence considers how individuals use available resources to describe and explore relationships between different scales to achieve certain purposes.