B.42: Rhetoric in the Flesh: Embodiment Discourse

Reviewed by Kathleen Mollick, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX (kmollick@tarleton.edu)

Chair: Rachel Adams-Goertel, The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA

Speakers: Ben Sword, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX, “The New Disability Rhetoric: Chaim Perelman’s Theory of Audience and Presence Applied to Disability Studies”
Amanda Swenson, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, “The Birth of Stigma in Antiquity: Phaedrus as Disabling Text”
A. Abby Knoblauch, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, “Risking the Body; Embodied Rhetoric and the Fat Acceptance/Body-Positive Movement”
Heather Hughes, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO, “Bodies in Motion, Language in Motion”

Only two of the presenters were present in this session; Dr. Lillian Bridwell-Bowles read Amanda Swenson’s paper as she was absent due to a family emergency.

Ben Sword’s presentation used Chaim Perelman’s theory of audience as a different kind of lens through which to view audience in disability studies. Drawing on the conference theme of risk and reward, Sword noted that Perelman’s theory of the universal audience “consists of the whole of mankind, or at least, of all normal, adult persons” (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969, p. 30). Although Sword believed that using Perelman’s definition of audience may be viewed with understandable skepticism within disability studies, it did provide another kind of lexicon and system for analyzing situations and arguments. Sword asserted that Perelman’s belief that the rhetor creates an audience in his or her mind, and that by keeping an open mind, there are points of similarity and commonality that can provide a basis for the members of the audience to communicate with each other. By focusing on shared characteristics of the audience, Perelman’s definition of audience provides one way for members of the disability community to discuss their experiences with different audiences.

Dr. Lillian Birdwell Bowles read Amanda Swenson’s paper, “The Birth of Stigma in Antiquity: Phaedrus as Disabling Text.” In the paper, Swenson stated that Socrates compared himself to both the highest and lowest forms. He said that madness moves the soul to music and poetry, and Swenson made note of the scholarship that posits that Socrates may have had various kinds of seizures, which would have led to his comments in the Phaedrus about forgetting whether or not he had defined love. Swenson then went on to discuss the statement that the fourth type of madness that Socrates discusses is the ascent into heaven, and how that made the Phaedrus a text of interest in disability studies. Swenson believed that viewing Phaedrus through the lens of disability rhetoric and focusing on the possibility that Socrates may have experienced seizures, which Plato then incorporated into the text, makes the Phaedrus a text of interest in disability studies.

Heather Hughes, the co-editor of Decorum, came to the podium wearing her dancing costume, stating that she was looking at her work as a dancer and as a graduate writing assistant in the context of her presentation, noting that the two worlds (academic and non-academic) frequently don’t occupy the same space. Her area of interest was in digital communities devoted to hooping, a kind of dance that is done with hula-hoops. Hughes believes that feminist scholars are skeptical of dance as a form of rhetorical construct, but she argued that there was a place for it. One of the many interesting parts of her presentation was her reference to Gloria Anzaldúa, describing her work as stressful, “a pervasive form of modern violence” (Anzaldúa, 2002, p. 572). Hughes suggested that dance and other artistic activities help to decrease one’s stress within the profession.


Anzaldúa, Gloria E. (2002). Now let us shift . . . the path of conocimiento . . . inner work, public acts. In Gloria E. Anzladúa & AnaLouise Keating (Eds.), This bridge we call home: Radical visions for transformation (pp. 540–578). New York, NY: Routledge.

Perelman, Chaim, & Olbrechts-Tyteca, Lucie. (1969). The new rhetoric: A treatise on argumentation. (John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver, Trans.). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Created by HollyMcIntyre. Last Modification: Thursday December 31, 2015 16:21:42 GMT-0000 by ccccreviews.