In rhetoric, an issue, problem, or situation that causes or prompts someone to write or speak.
Etymology:From the Latin, "demand." Popularized in rhetorical studies by Lloyd Bitzer in "The Rhetorical Situation" (Philosophy and Rhetoric, 1968).
Examples and Observations:
- "Exigence has to do with what prompts the author to write in the first place, a sense of urgency, a problem that requires attention right now, a need that must be met, a concept that must be understood before the audience can move to a next step."
(M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Appeals in Modern Rhetoric. SIU, 2005)
- "An exigence, [Lloyd] Bitzer (1968) asserted, is 'an imperfection marked by urgency; it is a defect, an obstacle, something waiting to be done, a thing which is other than it should be' (p. 6). In other words, an exigence is a pressing problem in the world, something to which people must attend. The exigence functions as the 'ongoing principle' of a situation; the situation develops around its 'controlling exigence' (p. 7). But not every problem is a rhetorical exigence, Bitzer explained,
An exigence which cannot be modified is not rhetorical; thus, whatever comes about of necessity and cannot be changed--death, winter, and some natural disasters, for instance--are exigences to be sure, but they are nonrhetorical. . . . An exigence is rhetorical when it is capable of positive modification and when positive modification requires discourse or can be assisted by discourse.Racism is an example of the first type of exigence, one where discourse is required to remove the problem. . . . As an example of the second type--an exigence that can be modified by the assistance of rhetorical discourse--Bitzer offered the case of air pollution."
(pp. 6-7, emphasis added)
(James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)