Hawhee, Debra. “Rhetorics, Bodies, and Everyday Life.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 36.2 (Spring 2006): 155-64.


Here Hawhee extends her previous work in her book Bodily Arts: Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece (as well as in preceding articles like “Bodily Pedagogies”) to consider this work’s potential application in the contemporary classroom. Hawhee argues that the difficulty of even thinking about her work’s applicability lies primarily in the fact that a deeply ingrained sense of the separation of mind and body makes it nearly impossible for us to imagine the kind of embodied pedagogy that she identifies in Ancient Greek rhetorical training. She describes this phenomenon by turning to Burke’s notion of a “trained incapacity”–that is, the idea that our current cultural models for thinking about education make us unable to imagine thinking mind and body together in our pedagogies. She also argues that another factor complicating the applicability of her work is that it asks us to rethink our notions of the proper bounds of the discipline. To address the question of her work’s applicability, Hawhee ultimately turns to two more recently articulated definitions of rhetoric, identifying the spaces these definitions open up for thinking mind and body together. In Wayne Booth’s definition of rhetoric (from The Rhetoric of Rhetoric) she identifies a discussion of words, images, and bodies as all part of the “available means” of persuasion. And in Martin Nystrand and John Duffy’s Towards a Rhetoric of Everyday Life, she sees a definition of rhetoric that emphasizes everyday uses of language, thus stretching the bounds of the discipline far beyond concern with first-year composition. Ultimately she argues that the potential present in these newer definitions was always already present in rhetoric as it was taught and understood in Ancient Greece; we’ve just been trained not to recognize it. Building on the spaces these definitions open up, Hawhee begins to talk more directly about her work’s application by talking about one of her own courses in which she continually created assignments that turned student’s attention and bodies out of the traditional classroom setting and into the everyday life of their city, emphasizing a kairotic response from the whole class (herself included) to the images, bodies, and conversations they encountered in these spaces rather than a predetermined sense of what they should find.