A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

Intrinsic Appeals Ratios: A Methodology for Multiplying Perspective on Language and Bodies

Kellie Sharp-Hoskins, New Mexico State University

(Published May 19, 2016)

The relationship between language and bodies occupies crucial conceptual ground within rhetorical studies.1  It not only has a long history in the classical tradition (as argued, for example, by Hawhee; Selzer and Crowley) but fundamentally grounds how rhetoricians imagine possibilities for persuasion—who is capable of persuasion, which bodies are marked (and how), what means are available to which bodies, how language works on bodies, and so forth. Indeed, how we conceptualize the relationships between language and bodies not only grounds rhetorical concepts but provides its ethics, creating the logics through which we determine which bodies get attention, whose merit recognition. As has been made all too evident by Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, three graduate students in North Carolina (Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha), and the patrons of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the stakes of this work could not be higher. How we imagine the relationships among language and bodies not only manages who counts in public discourses of recognition and rights but allocates—borrowing terms from Judith Butler—survivability, injurability, livability, grievability (Frames).

Recognizing this ethical imperative, a range of contemporary scholars in the last twenty years have turned to diverse theoretical and methodological objects and practices to shift accounts of language and bodies, fundamentally altering the landscape of rhetorical inquiry by contesting, expanding, and revising the classical rhetorical cannon. Decolonial scholarship, for example, invokes indigenous and local knowledges to disrupt Western language/body binaries and surface different possibilities for relationships among language, knowledge-making, bodies, and the material world (see, for example, Haas; Powell; Rìos); queer, disability, and critical race scholarship directs attention to economies of language and meaning wherein bodies are marked and made meaningful (see, for example, Dolmage; Ronald and Ritchie; Royster; Mao and Young; Walters; Young) and draws attention to diverse histories of language use and rhetorical practice (Enoch; Sohn). And new materialist rhetorics shift attention away from human bodies in order to develop more nuanced accounts of how diverse bodies emerge as recognizable, circulate, interact, and produce rhetorical and material effects (Gries; Boyle and Barnett). Such scholarship rhetorically intervenes in reductive equations of language with particular bodies, providing rhetoric scholars the conceptual ground from which to challenge racist language policies and practices (which mark the bodies of those with complex language histories as needing remediation); expose gendered, racist, ableist, and heteronormative enthymemes that circulate in popular, public, and institutional discourses (Dolmage; Jackson); and protest the rubrics under which only some bodies and lives matter (Hesford; Price; Rivers; Scott; Sharp-Hoskins).

Motivated by the ethical imperative to challenge which and how lives matter, and allied with those who draw on diverse theoretical traditions to reconsider our rhetorical imagination of the relationship between language and bodies, I submit that we must also reconfigure extant rhetorical concepts that continue to shape how we understand those relationships. That is, insofar that canonical concepts—with Greek and Roman histories—continue to circulate and shape rhetorical studies, we have the opportunity (read: obligation) to investigate how they provide the grammar for our understanding of the relationships between language and bodies. In this article, I respond to this opportunity/obligation by intervening in a specific conceptual category that has been paramount in our rhetorical imagination of language and bodies: the intrinsic appeals—ethos, pathos, and logos. More specifically, I theorize ratios among the appeals that both draw attention to and challenge extant understandings of relationships between language and bodies.

Since articulated in Aristotle's Rhetoric, the appeals have indelibly organized the Western imagination of language and bodies, revealing how the work of language cannot be divorced from the body of the rhetor or her audience. George A. Kennedy translates Aristotle to define the appeals as follows: "the first kind [ethos] depends on the personal character of the speaker; the second [pathos] on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind; the third [logos] on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself" (8). These definitions bespeak an implicit relationship between language and bodies wherein persuasion works at the intersection of the two. Contemporary scholarship on the intrinsic appeals corroborates this relationship, more explicitly drawing out aspects of the relationship invoked by each appeals. Ethos, for example, is not only explicitly disarticulated from individual and their bodies (Harris) and associated with communities (Harris; Reynolds), but frequently posited as a "haunt" or "dwelling place" of language and bodies (Holiday; Hyde, Ethos; Jarratt; Smith) or recognized to "concer[n] the problematic relations between human character and discourse" and "rais[e] questions concerning the speaker's character as an aspect of discourse" (J. Baumlin xvii). Logos, too, is understood not only as affiliated with the Greek meanings traditionally associated with language—"'speech,' 'the word,' 'the law,' and 'the voice,'" (Crowley, "Of Gorgias" 280)—but in terms of its power over bodies, likened to drugs (Kerferd, speaking of Gorgias) or seduction (Lincoln). And pathos, long synonymous with the body in popular usage, is reinterpreted as essential to discourse, rationality, and logic by critical emotion scholars within and beyond rhetorical studies proper (see, for example, Crowley, Toward; Jaggar; Jung; Worsham).

Despite a wealth of scholarship devoted to tracing out the complexity of each of the appeals, however, and despite the overlaps among them that emerge upon close examination of their definitions and work, when we examine their co-incidence, ethos, pathos, and logos almost always function as the intrinsic appeals, simultaneously isolated from each other but stuck together as tri-part analytical model.2 Not only do basic introductions to rhetorical analysis—as represented, for example, in textbooks—circulate the appeals as discrete conceptual categories (see, for example, Crowley and Hawhee; Heinrichs; Ruszkiewicz and Dolmage) but they are further reinscribed as such by the consistent grounding of rhetoric itself in an Aristotelian tradition (see, for example, Bizzell and Herzberg; Herrick). We might attribute this pattern to what Sharon Crowley calls the "weightiness" of the rhetorical tradition, which not only "invites reification" but "is exacerbated by an equally long history of reduction and implication of its major terms for use in elementary instruction" (Toward 46). Not without its own merits, such a model nevertheless elides the insights that emerge when we consider relations among the appeals, relations that inform and shape our rhetorical imagination of language and bodies. In this article, then, I enjoin and build on rich work with the individual appeals in order to theorize a methodology capable of reconfiguring our work with some of our most valued rhetorical concepts. Such a methodology contributes to and allies with the field's emerging commitment to rethink relationships between language and bodies and, in so doing, rethink who and what matters in rhetorical studies and contemporary rhetorics writ large.

I turn to the figure of the ratio to develop such a methodology, which—as I discuss in detail below—emphasizes both perspective and relationship. Inspired both by Kenneth Burke's pentadic ratios and the metaphorical resonances of mathematical ratios, I theorize intrinsic appeal ratios both to generate perspective on the appeals' co-construction and intervene in the ways that they organize our conceptualizations of the relationships between language and bodies.3 After articulating a rationale for ratios themselves, I create ratios out of the appeals, ratios which teach us how bodies are made visible (or not) and livable (or not) in contemporary rhetorics and which, importantly, direct us to reconfigure how we imagine language and bodies.

Composing Ratios

As noted above, the ratios I articulate in this article are premised on and emerge from two conceptual domains—Kenneth Burke's dramatistic ratios and mathematical ratios—which I combine to create a methodology for studying how intrinsic appeals shape our understanding(s) of relationships between language and bodies. I turn first to Burke's dramatistic approach to language because it emphasizes the "necessarily suasive" function of all language (On Symbols 45) and "treats language and thought primarily as modes of action" (Grammar xvi). This approach and treatment focuses attention on the work of concepts and terms and thus has the potential to generate additional perspectives on the effects of the intrinsic appeals as they circulate within rhetorical studies and rhetorics.

In A Grammar of Motives Burke uses a dramatistic method to investigate "what people are doing and why they are doing it" (Grammar x), the "grammar" of which is grounded in five terms—scene, act, agent, agency, purpose—and the questions they provoke: "what was done (act), when or where it was done (scene), who did it (agent), how he did it (agency), and why (purpose)" (Grammar x). Following this model, I seek to investigate how we imagine the relations between language and bodies and the effects of those imaginations vis-à-vis the classical rhetorical "grammar" of ethos, pathos, and logos. As William H. Rueckert makes clear, using grammatical terms in isolation does not adequately reflect what Burke calls "the main ideal of criticism," which is "'to use all that is there to use'" (qtd. in Rueckert 73). For Burke, Rueckert suggests, "there is much more 'there' than meets the eye because of certain relationships which necessarily exist between the various terms of the pentad. . . . Burke calls these 'ratios': and they constitute a kind of Burkean logic" (74). Burke's ratios articulate specific relations between terms in the pentad wherein "Each ratio contains two terms and asserts a causal or equational relation between them" (74). For example, Burke explains of the scene/act ratio that "the scene contains the act" (Grammar 3).

In the Grammar, the potential relationships between the terms are predicated on their sequencing, such that the scene/act ratio (examining a scene in terms of an act), for example, presents a different relationship between the concepts than does an act/scene ratio (which would posit an act in terms of a scene). From Burke, then, we learn that our understanding of terms emerges not only in relation but through perspective. His conceptualization of ratios, for example, can account for both relationship and perspective, not only x next to y, but x/y, which is to say x in terms of y, and y/x—y in terms of x. By insisting that perspective counts, that whether we see x in terms of y or vice versa matters, ratios disrupt accounts of relationships between terms that mark those relationships as essential, given, or static. This work calls into relief how our conceptualizations of terms are always made relationally—in terms of our understanding of the function and work of other terms; in Burke's words, "To tell what a thing is, you place it in terms of something else" (Grammar 24). Considering the scene/act ratio: we more fully understand the work and function of the scene (as a container) and an act (something we conceptualize as contained) when we study them in relation than when we study them in isolation. In other words, positing a relationship between them makes possible more acute definitions of each.

Importantly, this placement in terms leads Burke to predicate each ratio on specific conceptualizations of the terms that make it up. Introducing the scene/act ratio, for example, Burke carefully qualifies his use of scene and act before articulating a relationship between them: "Using 'scene' in the sense of setting, or background, and 'act' in the sense of action, one could say that 'the scene contains the act'" (Grammar 3). Clearly, the specific conceptualization of each term he offers is fundamental to the relationship that Burke theorizes. It is only insofar as he considers the scene a setting and the act in terms of action that "the scene contains the act." This explicit qualification, generated through definition, allows Burke to simultaneously acknowledge the limits of his analysis and make a convincing case for its veracity. But Burke is also careful to acknowledge the imprecision of his grammar, explaining that "What we want is not terms that avoid ambiguity, but terms that clearly reveal the strategic spots at which ambiguities necessarily arise" (xviii).

Following Burke, then, ratios articulate specific relationships between terms that are based on how those terms are defined. The intrinsic appeal ratios I theorize in this project are thus dependent on and emerge from the definitions of the appeals I specify, which (as reviewed earlier) invoke particular conceptualizations of language and bodies. The ratios are also dependent on the sequence in which I posit the terms that make them up, which is neither definitive nor comprehensive. Sequencing offers, instead, temporary relations which determine perspective; in Burke's words, "The ratios are principles of determination" (Grammar 15). But whereas Burke's pentadic ratios explicitly serve to determine motive, I argue that intrinsic appeal ratios determine perspective on language and bodies, insofar that the appeals supply a grammar of language and bodies. While both the definitions and the form (modeled on Burke's very sentence structure) of these ratios necessarily (if temporarily) limit how those appeals can signify, these limits also create the conditions under which specific relationships can be articulated.4 And such relationships may, ultimately, generate important rhetorical perspectives on the relationships between language and bodies previously unarticulated.

Whereas Burkean ratios ground the project in dramatistic and perspectival thinking, mathematical thinking directs us to consider the composition of each term in the ratio, or, in other words, how the terms of a ratio are always already composite. In mathematics, of course, a ratio is defined as the relation between two quantities where one is divided by the other, which reaffirms a Burkean emphasis on sequence—2/3 does not equal 3/2. Elementary mathematics also suggests that all whole numbers are themselves ratios: they can be expressed as one number in terms of another such that the whole number 4 is equivalent to the ratio 16/4 or 8/2 and so forth. This, too, upholds a Burkean orientation in which ratios can intervene in imagining terms as singular or whole by foregrounding their relationship to other terms. Again, returning to Burke, "To tell what a thing is, you place it in terms of something else" (Grammar 24).

But a mathematical perspective on ratios also directs us to consider how prime numbers—which are not only whole but seemingly indivisible—can also be expressed as ratios: 3 can also be expressed, for example, as 3/1; 13 as 13/1. From this perspective on ratios, we can consider how disciplinary terms (including the intrinsic appeals) often conceptualized as prime (read: only considered in terms of themselves) can also be represented in relation, as ratios. We can further consider how we will understand them differently if we imagine them as composite concepts—concepts that are divisible by others, that can be viewed in terms of others. Imagining concepts as composite destabilizes their singularity, contests their codification, and rejects the rigidity with which they perform rhetorical work. In short, a concept-as-composition has been composed and could be composed otherwise. Moreover, mathematics offers language to metaphorically understand how ratios produce a remainder: neither quantities nor concepts necessarily divide easily, and the language of remainder reminds us of the excess co-incident with numerical and conceptual relationships.5 Positing the appeals in ratios thus not only invites critical consideration of how they co-construct and corroboratively manage our imagination of language and bodies, then, but directs attention to what (and who) remains outside of those expressed relationships.

Synthesizing these conceptualizations, in this project I theorize ratios that interrupt intrinsic appeals as prime grammatical units and direct us to address them as composites. Such ratios, as I define and sequence them here, generate perspective on how the appeals compose—and potentially challenge—our extant understandings of the relationships between language and bodies. I begin this work by composing ratios that interrupt the prime work of ethos and pathos (ethos/pathos and pathos/ethos), which show how bodies do not just take on ethos or persuasive potential but are afforded it in a "cultural politics of emotion" that masks its own work. I then move to a pathos/logos ratio which demonstrates logos' complicity in the persuasiveness of emotional attachments. After theorizing these ratios, I conclude this article by discussing how we might work with their remainders, multiplying possibilities for language and bodies, making them matter.

The Ratios

In this section I articulate three ratios that leverage perspective on our extant grammar of language and bodies. I model each ratio on Burke's ratios, which take a specific form at the sentence level, exemplified by the following: "Using 'scene' in the sense of setting, or background, and 'act' in the sense of action, one could say that 'the scene contains the act'" (Grammar 3). Using the same form—as a sentence-level formula for building ratios—I begin by replacing pentadic elements and definitions with intrinsic appeals and definitions, so that, for example, in place of a ratio that begins with "Using 'scene' in the sense of setting or background," I posit "Using 'ethos' in the sense of dwelling place or location." The specifically defined appeals I employ, of course, enjoins me to articulate different relationships than does Burke for the element of the pentad. Whereas Burke concludes his scene/act ratio with the claim, "the scene contains the act," for example, I conclude an ethos/pathos ratio with the claim "pathos sticks to ethos." I follow this shorthand for each ratio with an extended justification for both how I define the appeals in the ratio as well as how such definitions compose a rhetorical grammar for understanding relationships between language and bodies.


Using ethos in the sense of dwelling place or location, and pathos as sticky with a history of social relations, one could say that pathos sticks to ethos.

This first ratio follows definitions of ethos from that last three decades that shift attention away from ethos as character and toward understanding ethos in its more "primordial" sense as a "dwelling place" (Hyde, "Introduction" xiii). Jim W. Corder marks this shift in his 1989 article "Hunting for 'Ethos' Where They Say It Can't Be Found," wrestling with the influence of postmodern theory on his (in)ability to pin ethos to character. Whether primordial or postmodern, considering ethos as a dwelling place rejects "modern notions of the person or self[,]. . . emphasizes the conventional rather than the idiosyncratic, the public rather than the private," and "reestablish[es] ethos as a social act" (Halloran 60; Reynolds 327). More recently, Nedra Reynolds suggests that the "rhetorical concept of ethos . . . encompasses the individual agent as well as the location or position from which that person speaks or writes," or, in other words, ethos "refers to the social context surrounding the solitary rhetor" (326, 327). Michael S. Halloran explains that "the most concrete meaning given for the term in the Greek lexicon is 'a habitual gathering place,' and I suspect that it is upon this image of people gathering together in a public place, sharing experiences and ideas, that its meaning as character rests" (60). And further affirming the relation between ethos as place and ethos as character, Michael J. Hyde argues that "dwelling places define the grounds, the abodes or habitats, where a person's moral character take form and develop" ("Introduction" xiii). According to these scholars, ethos is socially circumscribed: publics give ethos its space and value. Less clear is how that circumscription functions: how does character develop a place such that embodied rhetors who dwell there can command attention, invoke authority, and speak or write persuasively?

To answer these questions and begin to articulate ethos in relation—or ratio—with pathos, I turn to theories of emotion that focus on their (social and cultural) work, their appeal. In The Cultural Politics of Emotion, for example, Sara Ahmed "explore[s] how emotions work to shape the 'surfaces' of individuals and collective bodies" (1). According to Ahmed, "it is not difficult to see how emotions are bound up with the securing of social hierarchy: emotions become attributes of bodies as a way of transforming what is 'lower' or 'higher' into bodily traits" (4). She argues that emotions "stick" to bodies because of histories of use, explaining that "we can think of stickiness as an effect of surfacing, as an effect of the histories of contact between bodies, objects, and signs" (90, emphasis in original). The contact between bodies organized by a history of white supremacy, for example, sticks hate to black bodies because "Histories are bound up with emotions precisely insofar as it is a question of what sticks, as what connections are lived as the most intense or the most intimate, as being closer to the skin" (54). And not only does the emotion stick but it "leaves an impression." As Ahmed argues, "We need to remember the press of impression. It allows us to associate the experience of having an emotion with the very affect of one surface upon another, an affect that leaves its mark or trace" (6, emphasis in original). Ahmed's work corresponds with others that reject emotion as an individual or strictly personal phenomena and instead track its effects, its pathos. Alison Jaggar explains that "human emotions are not simple instinctive responses to situations or events; instead, they depend essentially on the ways that we perceive those situations and events, as well as on the ways that we have learned or decided to respond to them" (56). Like Ahmed, Jaggar argues for the historical emergence of emotions, saying that "like all social constructs, they are historical products, bearing the marks of the society that constructed them" (60). And Martha Nussbaum corroborates the sociality of emotions, linking them to social dependence and vulnerability; more specifically, she claims that "our social relations . . . are structured by the disgusting and our multifarious attempts to ward it off" (Hiding 72); elsewhere she affirms that "emotions are . . . [,] in effect, acknowledgments of neediness and lack of self-sufficiency" (Upheavals 22).

Dividing ethos (in the sense of dwelling place or location) by and pathos (as sticky with a history of social relations), then, we begin to understanding how bodies can dwell in ethos, based on the histories of contact that allow specific emotions to stick to them. Fourteen-year old Texas high school freshman Ahmed Mohamed, who in September 2015 was arrested under suspicion of bringing a bomb to school when he attempted to show his teacher the clock he made, clearly illustrates how pathos sticks to ethos. As CNN reported the incident:

When Ahmed Mohamed went to his high school in Irving, Texas, Monday [September 14, 2015], he was so excited. A teenager with dreams of becoming an engineer, he wanted to show his teacher the digital clock he'd made from a pencil case.

The 14-year-old's day ended not with praise, but punishment, after the school called police and he was arrested.

"I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her," Ahmed told reporters Wednesday. "It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it." (Frentz)

In a racial economy that tags biological and linguistic morphology, Mohamed's features, name, and interest in technology combine to invoke fear, anxiety, even anger and hatred: they stick to his body, which was handcuffed and ostensibly read his "rights:"

"They arrested me and they told me that I committed the crime of a hoax bomb, a fake bomb," the freshman [explained]. . . . Irving Police spokesman Officer James McLellan told the station, "We attempted to question the juvenile about what it was and he would simply only tell us that it was a clock." The teenager did that because, well, it was a clock, he said. (Frentz)

The belief—of his teacher, the school, the police officers—that Mohamed needed to explain his invention, assert its harmlessness, and declare his innocence emerges in context of Muslim bodies sticky with culpability and guilt. Indeed, the headline of CNN's article itself announces "Muslim Teen Ahmed Mohamed Creates Clock, Shows Teacher, Gets Arrested," reinvesting his body with the racialized features that make the story sensible. This stickiness, as Sara Ahmed explains, does not come only from an individual (his teacher, an administrator, a police officer) but from a history of contact between bodies, in this case a history of orientalism, xenophobia, and white nationalism. And although Ahmed's project explicitly focuses on how emotion works—how bodies like Mohamed's body make a pathetic appeal—we can also see the function of ethos and the ways that ethos and pathos together shape and constrain the possibilities for Mohamed's brown body. The dwelling place attributed to Mohamed (a threat) emerges despite his insistence to his teacher that he built a clock: the assessment of his ethos is made through a cultural, emotional investment in the status quo—brown bodies are dangerous.

This example demonstrates Jennifer Harding and E. Deidre Pribram's argument that "how [subjects] are positioned as well as participate in the positioning of others is emotional—is part and parcel of the reproduction of specific categories of subjecthood and the power relations that constitute them" (13). Using their insight in context of the current discussion, we might say that the ethos allotted to certain subjects—the places they are allowed to dwell and the characteristic deemed appropriate to describe them—sticks. Further, this stickiness is maintained in economies of emotion in which identity and identification are on the line: high stakes that are violently defended. Ahmed defines the economy with respect to affect—explaining that "[a]ffect does not reside in an object or sign, but is an effect of the circulation between objects and signs. . . . the more signs circulate, the more affective they become" (Ahmed 45). Epithets and descriptions of bodies in discourse become sticky with affect based on the economies in which they circulate. So, for example, the brown body of a young man in critical race discourses might better dwell in wisdom and virtue (two of Aristotle's three qualifications for ethos) than in a public school in Irving, Texas. Ahmed clarifies that her "model of . . . an affective economy suggests that emotions do not positively inhabit anybody or anything, meaning that 'the subject' is simply one nodal point in the economy, rather than its origin and its destination" (46). Given this explanation, subjectivity is not synonymous with ethos, just as ethos cannot be reduced to character. It is pathos, or more specifically, the work of emotion, that creates locations for ethos.

Lynn Worsham implicitly corroborates this claim when she defines emotions as "the tight braid of affect and judgment . . . through which the symbolic takes hold and binds the individual . . . to the social order and its structure of meanings" ("Going" 216). This hold and bind (or stickiness) is further spelled out by Teresa Brennan's theory of The Transmission of Affect when she explains how affect circulates between subjects and is taken up in ego "structuration" and defense (113). From Worsham and Brennan, then, we understand that emotion does not come from individuals but is bound to them—sticks to them—and that sticky emotional attachments are both culturally coded and pedagogically enforced.6 Worsham argues:

grief, hatred, bitterness, anger, rage, terror, and apathy as well as other emotions of self- assessment such as pride, guilt, and shame . . . form the core of the hidden curriculum of the vast majority of people living and learning in a highly stratified capitalist society. This curriculum holds most of us so deeply and intimately and yet differently within its logic that our affective lives are largely immune to the legislative efforts of social critique and to the legislative gains of progressive social movements. ("Going" 216)

Only ostensibly at odds as psychological and social theories, respectively, Brennan's and Worsham's theories of emotion teach us the powerful social workings of emotion on individual subjects who are bound to social systems and stratification through emotions that offer a sense of self, identity, and place, or, in the terms of this project, ethos.

Though I use Mohamed's arrest as an instance of fear and hatred sticking to bodies, in context of the ethos/pathos ratio under discussion, we are also afforded insight into a complex relationship between language and bodies. Mohamed cannot dwell in a space or use language or gestures that are free from the emotional economy within which his body is figured. Likewise, we cannot read accounts of this action without an attendant emotioned response (i.e. shame). This does not suggest an immovable or essential ethos for either Mohamed or us—ethos is not simply stuck. Ahmed argues, after all, that "emotion sticks . . . as well as moves" and Reynolds explains "like postmodern subjectivity, [ethos] shifts and changes over time, across texts, and around competing spaces" (326). Rather than suggest that ethos is stuck, then, this ratio affords insight into how pathos always already participates in structuring the dwelling places for bodies: what they can mean, where they can live, how they can signify.


Using ethos in the sense of the audience's judgment of character and pathos as an organization of social relations, one could say that ethos conceals pathos.

Without dismissing the definition of ethos supplied by the first ratio (as a dwelling place), this second ratio—which purposefully reverses its terms—calls attention to audiences' belief in or judgment of character as possessed and displayed by individuals. Indeed, appeals to ethos and instructions for its use often rely on Aristotle's three-pronged recommendation that the rhetor him- or herself convey practical wisdom, virtue, and goodwill. Reducing ethos to the individual rhetor is somewhat of a rhetorical sleight of hand, however, since ethos must match audience values and expectations to be deemed wise, virtuous, or benevolent, and thus contemporary scholarship on ethos suggests that we must consider how ethos is interpreted. Harris explains:

[W]hat one audience (or section of an audience) perceives as virtue (say, recognition and publication of political outrages), or common sense (say, the restraint from offering theoretical principles that only work for small subsets of data) or good will (say, loopy humor) can be perceived as petulance, irresponsibility, or smart-assedness by another audience (or section of an audience). (151)

This echoes Tita French Baumlin's claim that "in any age, ethos necessarily shapes itself in accordance with the dominant ideologies of the culture" (230) and her claim with James Baumlin that "an audience's projections of internalized figures of authority onto a speaker occur spontaneously, involuntarily, and unnoticed" (Baumlin and Baumlin 100). Similarly, Roger D. Cherry asserts:

In point of fact, the prior idea which one forms of the speaker and the image of self which the speaker constructs in discourse cannot be totally singular. To be recognized by the audience, both have to be bound up with a doxa, or linked to shared representations. The images must be referred back to cogent, albeit controversial, cultural models. (7)

And Susan Jarratt and Nedra Reynolds further corroborate ethos as "an agreement by the audience to participate in the refraction of self created by the flashing, momentary, prismatic presence of the speaker" (53). These scholars introduce audience evaluation of ethos as momentary, fleeting, and instantaneous—evaluations made quickly because of their reliance on cultural milieus and stereotypes. Tita French Baumlin quotes Marilyn French to offer a compelling example of the work of stereotype when discussing the potential for women's bodies to have, use, or display ethos: "Females may be saints and goddesses, or they may be whores and witches; they may be the martyred mother or wife, or the castrating bitch" (qtd. in Baumlin 105). Baumlin continues, "It remains for the female speaker not simply to struggle against the projections of an audience but to reach beyond all typological models of selfhood" (105).

These stereotypes function as placeholders for bodies; for Baumlin and French specifically, they serve not only as places for women's bodies to dwell but also places that hold bodies—stick to them and stick them in place. Thus, to "reach beyond all . . . models of selfhood" is a tall order, made all the more so if we return to Worsham's conceptualization of emotion where "each individual [is bound] to the social world in a complex and often contradictory affective life that remains, for the most part, just beyond the horizon of semantic availability, . . . its success depend[ing] on a mystification or misrecognition of this primary work" ("Going" 223). We can further unpack this mystification by turning to Peter Lyman's work with Barthes' concept of mythology. Lyman explains that "Psychology without [a] sense of social relations 'mythologizes' human suffering, treating it as essentially individual and as a problem of 'personality'" (58-59). Mythology—defined by Barthes as "depoliticized speech"—Lyman continues, "suppresses the possibility of identifying the causes of an emotional response by attributing it to unchangeable essences" (59). In short, the mythos of pathos—its mystification and misrecognition—binds individuals to the social, political world. And pathos thus construed offers important insight into relationships between language and bodies: it structures possibilities for inhabiting bodies and embodied experiences. But dividing this sense of pathos by ethos (in the sense of the audience's judgment of character) provides another perspective on these relationships by directing our attention to how an instantaneous evaluation of character codifies and conceals this work of emotion, dismissing the pathetic appeal under the sign of individual character.

This ratio, then, complicates definitions or applications of ethos that would isolate it from its pathetic work. For example, Harris mystifies the organizational force of emotion to authorize appropriate dwelling places for ethos when he claims that "to be an identifiable member of a group . . . is (as rhetor) to draw on its vocabulary, to echo its enthymemes, to wallow in its stylistic proclivities" (127). While vocabulary, enthymemes, and style certainly contribute to ethos, they are—as shown above—necessarily constrained by politics of emotion. Returning to Tita French Baumlin's argument about gendered ethos, it is clear that the ethos available to women's bodies, that is, ethos that is recognizable and readable as such, is always already emotionally situated; ethos is not merely a question of proclivities (how we seek to perform) but of emotional sanctions and authorizations.

In the introduction to the edited collection Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, Angela P. Harris and Carmen González call this emotional sanction into relief by explaining expectations of bodies in the academy:

[S]tudents want their black women professors to be more "motherly." White faculty may feel comfortable learning salsa with the Latina colleague or treating her like a maid, nanny, or secretary who ministers to their personal needs. . . . Yet faculty and students of all ethnicities and genders may feel threatened when their colored female colleague acts like a serious intellectual rather than a mascot, cheerleader, or seductress. When an academic woman of color's behavior thwarts expectations, the result may be what Peggy Davis calls microaggressions[:] subtle or blatant attempts at punishing the unexpected behavior. (3)

While Harris and González (and their contributors) point out the racialized and gendered politics that sanction limited ethoi (mother, mascot, cheerleader, seductress) for women faculty of color, they are, nonetheless, interpreted under the rubric of their audience's feelings of comfort and discomfort. That is, if a student or colleague feels uncomfortable, they attribute such feelings to the character and credibility of the woman of color in question rather than a history of social relations that also organize relations among language and bodies: ethos conceals pathos.

These concealed sanctions are neither disinterested nor ideologically neutral. They assert and reify, then mystify and misrecognize, decorum, decency, propriety itself: what counts as ethos, which bodies are able to display it, and how. Worsham explains:

Legitimate and illegitimate (or appropriate and inappropriate) objects of affective attachment . . . are structurally and systemically related and, in prohibiting particular objects or persons as legitimate attachments, a society automatically invests them with great value and interest—if only for their disciplinary value in reproducing or policing authorized distinctions. ("Going" 223)

Insofar as objects and bodies are denied legitimation, they are denied dwelling places—ethos. Tracing these effects even further, Kelly Oliver argues that delegitimated bodies are denied emotional expression itself: "Women, and racialized or sexualized others, are denied full participation in mainstream cultural and social institutions, and the affects that result from the experience of that exclusion are also denied social space for articulation" (87). And Judith Butler argues that 'illegitimate' bodies are invisible and ungrievable, lost without even the ability to be mourned (Bodies 3). Situating Oliver's and Butler's claims alongside Worsham's, we see the violence that can result when ethos conceals pathos as well as the ethical imperative to account for the effects of its concealment. What is perceived as the ethos of bodies (signified, for example, by marked or othered bodies) overwrites recognition of the social relations that interpret those very bodies, reinscribing relations that perpetuate exclusion.


Using logos in the sense of composition and pathos an organization of social relations, one could say that logos narrates pathos.

As suggested by the last ratio, pathos does not organize and manage social life according to neutral, objective, or universal laws but within ideological schemas or what Ahmed calls a "cultural politics of emotion," which legitimate particular lives, bodies, and experiences. This process of legitimation, however, is not produced individually or anachronistically, but through a narrative process whereby illegitimate lives, bodies, and experiences are named as such. As emotion circulates among bodies and signs in particular economies of emotion, it is not only felt but narrated, not only named as emotion—fear, rage, love—but articulated (and validated) as arguments that assign significance, value, or legitimacy to particular emotional experiences. Admittedly, Megan Boler seems to assert the opposite in her work with emotions and education, wherein she claims that "one's learned emotional selectivity inevitably reflects the effects of specific cultural agendas" (180; emphasis added). This suggests that agendas precede emotion. But reading this claim with emphasis on timing misrecognizes "cultural agendas" as compositions that always already narrate emotional experiences; thus, it is not the timing of logos but its narrative function, its capacity to explain how emotions "fit" larger narratives, that this pathos/logos ratio calls into relief.

The composing function of logos draws on definitions that reach back to pre-Socratic philosophers. Gorgias, according to Crowley, described "the power of discourse" to be "as irresistible as violence" ("Of Gorgias" 280). While Aristotle equated logos not with logic but with argument itself—which functions "by showing or seeming to show something"—Baumlin and Baumlin suggest (by recourse to psychoanalytic theory) that the logical appeal "seeks to divide, to analyze, to force a singular correct meaning or choice" (257). The definition of logos I invoke in this ratio combines this violent singularity with David Hoffmann's articulation of logos as a composition "in the most literal sense of 'an entity which has been created by the gathering of discrete elements,'" or what he elsewhere simply refers to as a "gathering/ composition," a definition he suggests dominated sophistic thinking through the fifth century BCE (27, 28). He tracks this definition, in part, to Aristophanes' Clouds and Gorgias' Encomium of Helen, both of which, he argues, show that logos functions as "one persuades by making small substitutions and changes in a composition, small changes that can have a radical effect on the meaning of the whole" (35). Logos thus conceptualized—not as rationality but as a gathering of parts that creates a particular, powerful whole—is capable of giving shape to (narrating) the cultural politics organized by emotion.

Ahmed demonstrates logos as a composition that narrates pathos in context of national identity and pride. She explains:

The nation becomes the object of love precisely by associating the proximity of others with loss, injury, and theft. . . . To become the "you" addressed by the narrative is to feel rage against those who threaten not only to take the "benefits" of the nation away, but also to destroy the "nation," which would signal the end of life itself. Emotions provide a script, certainly: you become the "you" if you accept the invitation to align yourself with the nation, and against those others who threaten to take the nation away. (12)

The emotions that organize citizenship and nationality here not only do so as citizens experience emotion—loss or injury, rage or threat—but as those emotions are narrated in terms of "you," "benefits," and "nation." As Jennifer Harding explains, "Vocabularies of emotion work as a means of distinction, defining boundaries and relations between those who fear and those who threaten, those who tolerate and those who do not, and investing in social norms and meanings, which enforce hegemonic power relations" (271).

Crowley provides another example when she specifies the logic and script composed for emotion attendant to 9/11. She argues:

The super-patriotism generated by the events of September 11, 2001, constructed America as a nation of like-minded patriots, a tightly knit "we" who identity was threatened by an enemy whose actual location in the world shifts alarmingly from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Iran to Palestine to North Korea and back again. The "enemy," the negating opposing of "us," can reside within our midst as well, in the persons of Arab Americans and war protestors [sic]. (Toward 20-21)

The narrative not only culled together the immediate emotional responses to 9/11 but continues to supply a narrative to interpret bodies marked Arab. Certainly the fear provoked by Ahmed Mohamed was sponsored by this composition—his racially marked body provided a script through which his teacher, school, administration, and the police read his body interacting with technology: it must be a bomb.

Offering another example of this relation between narrative logos and pathos in her work with refugee narratives, Harding investigates how "'emotion talk' constitutes and delimits the specific forms of personhood . . . available to human subjects as refugees or . . . as any sort of subject (268, emphasis in original). As she demonstrates, only certain "forms of personhood" are available to specific bodies, based on the emotional logics within which they are narrated. In her study, Harding shows how "good refugees" are produced or composed within a "making good narrative" which disarticulates "refugee" from the emotional resonances of "fear, hate and lack of trust" by showing them to "'make good,' through coming to terms with fear, loss and displacement and becoming productive citizens" (272-73). In her study, "refugee" and "good refugee" gather different parts and compose narratives through which to interpret the emotion attributed specific bodies.

Clearly, logos as composition does not gather its parts in a disinterested or dispassionate way: its narrative work is ideological, its effects potentially violent. As Crowley explains, the work of logos is not incidental, not merely disseminated in utterances or specific rhetorical occasions; rather, "logos appears as a permanent system: always existing, somehow shaping all events." Crowley draws this conclusion from Heraclitus, whom, she says "suggests a synecdochic economy in the apprehension and use of logos by humans." She goes on to explain that for Heraclitus, logos creates an apprehendable whole that organizes multiplicity and experience for human consumption, and humans only access "the system" by "listening to . . . language" ("Of Gorgias" 284). Insofar as logos must organize multiplicity, it necessarily shapes and limits possibilities for the emergence of specific compositions, signs, and narratives. These possibilities for emergence not only make specific systems and signs sayable but, recalling Butler and Ahmed, designate certain bodies livable. In short, and again, logos narrates pathos: It provides the script, allocates the parts, and judges the performance of social relations. It not only suggests who can play rational (or not) but what counts as good or legitimate performance.

Intrinsic Appeal Ratio and Rhetoric: Remainders

As demonstrated throughout this article, our rhetorical grammar of language and bodies is formalized and distributed through intrinsic appeals. They offer the content and form through which we make sense of whom and what can be credible, rational, and persuasive. Whether or not used explicitly, ethos, pathos, and logos ground our rhetorical imagination of what it means to be a "good man [sic] speaking well," conceptually disciplining us to accept and advance prime conceptualizations of language, bodies, and possible relations among them. While this ground is integral to the discipline itself—providing the grammar through which we communicate as a discipline—it nonetheless requires reconfiguration when it serves to ignore, reject, or abject the language and bodies it cannot contain.

Intrinsic appeal ratios offer one starting point for reconfiguration because they demand meticulous attention to perspective and relationship. Articulating the appeals as ratios reveals how they collaborate to underwrite our understanding of language and bodies. But the ratios also invite attention to how the appeals have been defined and what remains outside those definitions. Indeed, the examples in this article reveal that the systematic isolation of terms into ratios cannot long contain the complex overlaps between them. A ratio that speaks to the narrative work of logos cannot long be limited to pathos and logos—it calls for ethos to explain how particular bodies accrue credibility. Similarly, an ethos/pathos ratio that posits the sticky work of emotion to shape and constrain the significatory potential of bodies begins to demand an account of the work of logos to allocate legitimacy almost as soon as it is theorized. Returning to the mathematical parlance that inspired this work, we might say that the ratios—where one term is, in effect, divided by another—produce a remainder, or excess, that cannot be neatly narrated or categorized.

Ultimately, then, intrinsic appeal ratios not only provide a method for articulating exatnt relations but a heuristic for questioning what remains. They incite to ask, for example, what remains outside of a rhetorical grammar grounded in ethos, pathos, and logos? What remains—or sticks—in place, sticking us to our imagination of prime concepts? What remains obscured when rhetorical concepts function as primes? How do rhetorical concepts prime us to adopt particular orientations to language and bodies?

I submit that these remainders lead to a multiplication of perspective, pointing out who has mattered and how as well as what has been left out, left unexamined, and left behind. Remainders remind us that our concepts, terms, and narratives are complicit in the configurations that create conditions of mattering. They remind us that we must reconfigure rhetoric to intervene in the reproduction of rhetorics that subtend violence, oppression, and abjection. They remind us that our rhetorical inheritances matter and that we can make them matter differently.

Image Credit: "Imperfection preferred" by Phototropy

  • 1. This work is principally indebted to my mentors Angela M. Haas, Julie Jung, Amy E. Robillard, and Lynn Worsham. I’d also like to thank the reviewers and editors for their careful feedback.
  • 2. There are exceptions to this generalization. See, for example, Howard; Walters; Wisse; Yoon.
  • 3. To clarify, I do not posit ratios as substantially related to language and bodies but, rather, instrumental for articulating and manipulating perspective such that we can better imagine such relations. Ratios might also be used, then, to leverage perspective on many the diverse concepts that ground our disciplinary imagination.
  • 4. As Scott Lyon argues, “He [or she] who sets the terms set the limits” (452).
  • 5. For a nuanced treatment of the possibilities for excess in rhetoric, see Mays.
  • 6. Here I use Worsham’s definition of pedagogy, which “refers to the power to impose meanings that maintain and reinforce the reigning social, economic, and political arrangements as legitimate when in fact they are entirely arbitrary” (“Going” 221).
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