Short talk given at Saint Louis University. In celebrating our outgoing chair, faculty were ask to give short presentations on research made possible or supported by our chair.
Abstract: This article works to develop an environmental rhetoric that gives vibrant matter its due. My argument, and it is one made by others, is that much environmentalism overemphasizes human agency. Or, in other words, in giving ourselves the responsibility to save or fix the planet, we have over-invested in our own agency, enacting the self-same hubris that results in dispositions toward the environment that environmentalists themselves might very well (and rightly) condemn. I argue that this over-investment (to the exclusion of denying and/or erasing nonhuman agency) is not the proper comportment we should have with the environment. Drawing on work in speculative realism (and related theories such as new materialism) and work in the emerging area of object-oriented rhetoric, I suggest that we can neither fully understand nor determine the environment, and that we need an environmental rhetoric concerned with inventing and shaping attitudes alive to this suggestion.