Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

A Shift Toward Non-Traditional Rhetorics

“Rhetoric is an art learned, practiced, and performed by and with the body as well as the mind.”- Debra Hawhee

    For many centuries, rhetoric was understood as an exclusively linguistic practice, whether in the form of spoken or written language. However, scholars and rhetoricians, such as Debra Hawhee, Karyn Hollis, and Cheryl Forbes have begun to turn their attention to non-traditional rhetorics. While these non-traditional studies include object-oriented or animal rhetorics, I am interested in the shift toward rhetoric as just as much of an embodied, as it is linguistic practice. Debra Hawhee, Professor at Pennsylvania State University and leader in the shift toward non-traditional rhetorics, attests to rhetoric as an embodied practice in “Bodily Pedagogies: Rhetoric, Athletics, and the Sophists’ Three Rs,” in which she re-imagines classical rhetoric as an embodied practice by comparing rhetorical and athletic training (141). She argues, “From this spatial intermingling of practices [she refers to the classical gymnasium in which young males were athletically trained and also made into citizen subjects through rhetorical training] there emerged a curious syncretism between athletics and rhetoric, a particular crossover in pedagogical practices and learning styles, a cross-over that contributed to the development of rhetoric as body art: an art learned, practiced, and performed by and with the body as well as the mind” (Hawhee 144).  While Hawhee uses the example of athletic training to examine the pedagogy of rhetoric as an embodied experience, I look to the way that the body both points out and subverts the social and cultural normativities that are imposed on it. I also explore these two types of bodily rhetoric, which I refer to as the “written on” and “speaking” body in the context of both physical and digital spaces. 

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