Hawhee, Debra. “Bodily Pedagogies: Rhetoric, Athletics, and the Sophists’ Three Rs.” College English 65.2 (Nov 2002): 142-62.


In this piece, Hawhee explores the connection between rhetorical education in Ancient Greece and athletic training, focusing in particular on what she refers to as the Sophists’ 3 Rs: rhythm, repetition, and response. Hawhee locates this connection between rhetorical and athletic training practices in the open educational space of the gymnasium, and she argues that because of this connection, rhetoric developed as a bodily art. Drawing not only on the rhythms of the music that was likely heard in the gymnasium but also on principles taken from wrestling, rhetorical education came to include exercises in rhythm that were meant to help students internalize the basic movements associated with speaking. Building on this, rhetorical training also included repetitive and disciplined practice of techniques, so that students learned rhetorical techniques through a kind of embodied acquisition. Ultimately, the embodied knowledge students acquired from these exercise related to rhythm and repetition were made productive as students were trained to put them to use in kairotic response. That is, through repeated practice and employment of various techniques, students learned to respond with rhetorical strategies appropriate to a given situation. In this way, both the art of speaking and the process of mastering that art were always embodied–a fact that Hawhee suggests could have implications for contemporary pedagogy.

Quotable Quotes:

“All styles of repetition, because they are particular to time, sapce, and the singular cluster of forces enacting them, emerge in response to specific forces: to opponents, and to values, beliefs, and practices that shape and are shaped by the differential, emergent repetition. In short, repetition in sophistic-style rhetorical training is always bound up with responsiveness within particular contexts.” (158)

“[R]ather than focusing on material learned–the sophists didn’t have a curriculum in the modern sense of a ‘subject matter’ to be ‘covered’–sophistic pedagogy emphasized the materiality of learning, the corporeal acquisition of rhetorical movements through rhythm, repetition, and response. […] Entwined with the body in this way, rhetorical training thus exceeds the transmission of ‘ideas,’ rhetoric the boundary of ‘words.'” (160)