Macola, Annalisa Zanola. “Rhetoric and the Body: A Lesson from Ancient Elocutionists.” Professing Rhetoric: Selected Papers from the 2000 Rhetoric Society of America Conference. Eds. Frederick J. Antczak, Cinda Coggins, & Geoffrey D. Klinger. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. 77-85.


This piece briefly explores the historical development of the Elocutionary movement in 18th and 19th century British and American contexts, paying careful attention to both the concerns undergirding the movement’s popularity and the differences between the way Elocution was taken up in these different national contexts. In her focus on Elocution, Macola focuses specifically on the necessarily embodied act of speech-making and looks to the ways that Elocutionists gave added importance to the bodily dimensions of speech (such as intonation and gesture) in their study and practice of rhetoric. Macola argues that what the Elocutionists draw attention to is that successful speech is never simply a matter of the ways in which we connect our words or build our arguments, but also the way in which it is delivered. They stressed harmony between all elements of a speech, including its bodily aspects of delivery. She describes the development of Elocution as rooted both in the study of classical rhetoric and in the stage, and that Elocution was treated as something that was both an art and a science—that is, something that relied both on the practiced performance of the speaker and on the in-depth study of the way the human voice worked. Ultimately, Macola uses this survey of the Elocutionary Movement to call for increased attention to the tradition of American Elocution, arguing that understanding this movement is a key aspect of understanding our cultural and educational heritage.

Quotable Quotes:

“It is our voice that gives form and direction to our ideas; it is our body that gives life to them.” (77)