Deadly Rhetoric Gone Viral: Genomic Language and COVID-19

COVID-19 through the Prism of Rhetorical and Discourse Research

Jagadish Paudel

University of Texas at El Paso

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Owen M. Williamson

University of Texas at El Paso


Abstract: Currently the entire world is being gravely affected by the deadly coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). As rhetoric cannot be detached from material and discursive circumstances, and considering the present kairos of the COVID-19 pandemic, in this article we discuss COVID-19 as a deadly genomic rhetoric gone viral, a hostile material argument. In our study we use biosemiotician Kalevi Kull’s (2009) epistemic, that organisms can be studied rhetorically, since life processes of organisms do not only exchange messages but consist of and create knowledge. Throughout the article we take a transhuman interdisciplinary stance as rhetoricians with one foot in our disciplinary scholarship and the other in the territory of the marginalized parallel discipline of biosemiotics. From this point of analysis, we reexamine the character of genomic language as the unique, biome-wide acheiropoetic written language that is the ultimate common mother-language of every living organism on earth, the language in which viruses like SARS-CoV-2 act as material texts. In the final part of the article we discuss the virus as power.

Keywords: COVID-19, genomic rhetoric, acheiropoietic, material rhetoric.

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