Terms of Perfection

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narrative, death and dying, rhetorical competence, biotechnology, autoethnography

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In this essay, I attempt to think with the story Michael Hyde tells in Perfection: Coming to Terms with Being Human. Viewing the drive for perfection from the perspective of narrative, I focus on the question of how the language game of perfection might lead in the direction of other ways of understanding ourselves, our writing practices, and the unity of our lives. I question the appropriateness of conventions of rhetorical scholarship that inhibit communication scholars from enacting more personal expressions of rhetorical competence, which could give greater urgency to burning issues at the heart of what it can mean to be human. Arguing that the drive for perfection is a condition that evolves from life rather than prior to it, I call attention to the pragmatic question of what we can make of ourselves in communicative acts of narrative self-creation that make us who we are. In the spirit of the kind of openness to otherness advanced by Hyde, I conclude by offering a counternarrative to medical science's conception of life as an end in itself. Medical science should serve human needs not determine them.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Review of Communication, v. 12, issue 1, p. 3-20