chapter  1
12 Pages

Language and science from a rhetorical perspective

WithLeah Ceccarelli

This chapter offers a broad sketch of the emergence of rhetoric of science (RS) as a field of study focused on the persuasive role of language choices within specialized scientific communities, between those communities (as when specialists from different disciplines engage each other), and beyond them (as when arguments about science erupt in the public sphere). Recovering and developing theories from a long tradition of rhetorical inquiry, rhetoricians of science take a humanities-oriented approach that privileges the close reading of particular cases and that centers the text while remaining attentive to the role of context and audience in persuasion. In contrast to those who minimize the agency of writers and speakers, most rhetoricians recognize that arguments in and about science are authored, while simultaneously being addressed, interpreted, and situated in larger material and cultural formations. This essay introduces the history of RS scholarship to researchers from other fields with the belief that insights drawn from rhetorical inquiry can make useful contributions to ongoing transdisciplinary conversations about language and science.