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In rhetoric, an issue, problem, or situation that causes or prompts someone to write or speak.

See also:


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.
    (pp. 6-7, emphasis added)
    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."
    (James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)
Pronunciation: EX-se-jents
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