Narrative and the Rhetoric of Possibility

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Disclosing creative possibilities of thought and action is an important function of communication, especially of narrative rhetoric. This essay describes some of the problems which must be addressed in developing a rhetoric of possibility. Then it examines how rhetors disclose the human capacity for various states of mind. After showing why such possibilities are significant, it explores two ways of disclosing them. Rhetors may tell stories of deeds which reflect characters' states of mind, or they may enable or challenge people to perform such acts themselves, with striking consequences for their own life stories. Often, however, performances disclose specific states of mind only when rhetors make them revealing through commentary or the careful stipulation of narrative details. While both methods are useful, they have different rhetorical implications.