Edbauer and Boyle – Rhetorical Ecology, Practicing Posthumanism, and Oryx and Crake

These three readings all work towards the same point: society’s shift to posthumanism will be both difficult to slow and difficult to track. The post-human shift in society will be in all corners of our lives in different ways and we will perpetuate and continue the transition through our daily lives. Oryx and Crake exemplifies this principle in its presentation of the society.

Edbauer presents the concept of rhetorical ecologies, which is essentially the idea that rhetorical situations are connected to each other in many, often tangential, ways. “Rhetorical situations involve the amalgamation and mixture of many different events and happenings that are not properly segmented into audience, text, or rhetorician. (Edbauer 20)” We see this principle at play in Oryx and Crake. For example, Jimmy and Crake’s visit to the pleeblands reveals to Jimmy that the people that live there are not as simple reprehensible as he had been taught. He realizes that the point of view that the compounds presented to him was only a small distorted part of the whole picture. Furthermore, the compounds themselves work as a system of rhetorical ecologies. Their products and practices are affected by numerous different factors including but not limited to competitor activities, the need for the product, the state of the market, the ad campaign, etc. The public opinion of the compounds themselves are a part of the system of rhetorical ecologies that make up the country that Jimmy lives in.

Boyle presents the idea of rhetorical practice changing humanity over time and how that relates to posthumanism. “A practice functions as a germ that activates (metastatis) new relationships (metamorphosis) within an ongoing habit (metastability) of relations (metaphysical). (Boyle 58) Posthuman practice offers rhetoric a return to many of the inventive, ethical, aesthetic, and pedagogical opportunities that rhetoric engaged in during he tradition’s early emphasis on practice and bodily experience. (Boyle 58-59)” Essentially, we can reframe the role of rhetoric to account for this effect that practice has on society. Further, a posthuman perspective can re-invigorate rhetoric in this new intellectual landscape.

In the society portrayed in Oryx and Crake, we see the effects of the collective’s desires and habits morphing the society itself. Many of the people desire youth and beauty which is what gives Rejoovenesense its power. The practice of the people has altered the society to the point that melting off the entire epidermis to replace it with a new one, has become commonplace. The chickienobs are another more particular example of this. When Jimmie first sees the chickienobs he is unsettled, but he eventually adjusts to them and enjoys them after eating them often enough.

Essentially, we see Edbauer and Boyle’s theories at work (albeit in a rather dire context) in Oryx and Crake. Atwood’s novel provides a probable model of how these theories would play out together in relation to posthumanism.

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