Rhetorical Enactment Theory and a Rhetoric of Chronicity for Alzheimer’s Disease

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Amanda Friz


Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a neurodegenerative disease that progresses along a fluctuating course of changing capacities, affects approximately 5.7 million Americans, an estimate expected to skyrocket as the baby boomer generation ages. Adopting a rhetorical field methods approach I analyze the transcripts of qualitative interviews of 3 patients and 28 caregivers to understand how the chronicity of AD affects informal caregiving strategies as well as the lived experiences of persons with AD. Employing a new materialist framework along with rhetorical enactment theory, I posit chronicity as rhetorical action distributed not only among human and nonhuman agents but also across moments, requiring special attention to time and timing. I argue chronic illness is rhetorically enacted through three material-discursive practices: ontological practices that enact reality, alignment practices that facilitate or disrupt cooperation among entities, and mnemonic practices that enact and outsource memory among AD caregivers. Across all three kinds of practice, a material-discursive sense of kairos and chronos is advanced.  

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