An inflammatory fag and a queer form: Larry Kramer, polemics, and rhetorical agency

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46 Scopus citations


Rhetorical agency is the capacity for words and actions to be intelligible and forceful, and to create effects through their formal and stylistic conventions. The polemical discourses of Larry Kramer, a controversial AIDS activist, demonstrate a concurrence of features that define the polemic as a rhetorical form and therefore enable agency: alienating expressions of emotion; non-contingent assertions of truth; presumptions of shared morality; and the constitution of enemies, audiences, and publics. The unexpected uptake of Kramer's texts by academics invites consideration of the polemic as a queer form that resists the assumption of a necessary and predictable relationship between an intending agent and an action's effects. Thus, the polemic highlights the riskiness, unpredictability, and inevitable contingency of agency, and positions queerness itself as the condition of possibility for any rhetorical act.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-319
Number of pages23
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Form
  • Larry Kramer
  • Polemics
  • Queer
  • Rhetorical Agency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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