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Disability Rhetoric

by Jay Timothy Dolmage

Publication Year: 2013

Disability Rhetoric is the first book to view rhetorical theory and history through the lens of disability studies. Traditionally, the body has been seen as, at best, a rhetorical distraction; at worst, those whose bodies do not conform to a narrow range of norms are disqualified from speaking. Yet, Dolmage argues that communication has always been obsessed with the meaning of the body and that bodily difference is always highly rhetorical. Following from this rewriting of rhetorical history, he outlines the development of a new theory, affirming the ideas that all communication is embodied, that the body plays a central role in all expression, and that greater attention to a range of bodies is therefore essential to a better understanding of rhetorical histories, theories, and possibilities.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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pp. 1-18

I will begin this book with three moments, three spaces.
First, here we are in Periclean Athens, following the Ten Years’ War. Many Athenians have been wounded and disabled. The city must be rebuilt. A huge festival is held to celebrate Hephaestus, the Greek god of metallurgy, a god with a physical disability, his feet twisted and pointed in ...

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Disability Studies of Rhetoric

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pp. 19-30

In this first chapter I want to make two initial moves to align disability studies and rhetoric. First, I want to explore the rhetorical history of the disability studies concept of normativity. Then, I want to chart some popular and persistent disability myths....

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Inter Chapter: An Archive and Anatomyof Disability Myths

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pp. 31-62

As Rosemarie Garland-Thomson writes, “Seeing disability as a representational system engages several premises of current critical theory: that representation structures reality, that the margins constitute the center, that human identity is multiple and unstable, and that all analysis...

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Rhetorical Histories of Disability

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pp. 63-92

To begin this chapter, I will offer a compressed overview of disability in antiquity. This overview is important historically and for the “narrative” of this book. But my hope is not just to start telling a story here, but instead to establish, through this quick scan of the role of the body in antiquity, a lexicon and a critical repertoire that is much more...

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Imperfect Meaning

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pp. 93-124

Rhetoric can be seen as the function of power within language, and I connect it to the body because the body is what has been traditionally defi ned and (thus) disciplined by rhetorics of disability, while at the same time our bodies speak back, insisting (prosthetically) upon the impossibility of a normative essence. Saying this, however, introduces static. Who...

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Inter Chapter: A Repertoire and Choreographyof Disability Rhetorics

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pp. 125-148

The goal of Disability Rhetoric is to instantiate an expanded sense and a more inclusive framework through which we might view the rhetorical body. In introducing terms like aphrona, anmut, apate, and pseilos, I am not trying to establish a new lexicon, but rather I am working to show that we could choose to view a history in which disability and rhetoricity were ...

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pp. 149-192

So far I have offered a brief guided tour through rhetorical history, a moving through and with the bodies of this history. I have suggested that we can read embodied rhetoric and bodied rhetorical history as powered by tension around normativity. I have also explored disability myths and disability rhetorics. My argument is that disability has myriad...

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Eating Rhetorical Bodies

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pp. 193-224

The celebration of Hephaest us, his craft, his cunning, his ability, as well as the deifi cation of his disability are means of challenging held perceptions about the mythical character, but also about all of us—defi ned as we all are by concepts of ability, by rhetorics of normalcy. An epideictic and forensic exploration of his myths does not just martial praise or blame...

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“I Did It on Purpose”

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pp. 225-287

The recent Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech, because it focuses on public speaking, on pedagogy, and on the body, is a movie about rhetoric. More specifi cally, the fi lm is about disability rhetoric. Therefore, it is an excellent space in which to try out many of the questions and ideas of this book—and to thus argue that the questions have real, contemporary...

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pp. 288-294

I began this book with three moments, three spaces: Periclean Athens, following the Ten Years’ War; in the aftermath of World War II; and here, today. I suggested that now, as in these historical spaces, bodies continue to change, as do attitudes about them, and the rhetorical entailments of these bodily transformations continue to be negotiated....


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pp. 295-326


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pp. 327-350

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9780815652335
E-ISBN-10: 081565233X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633242
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633246

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 13 black and white
Publication Year: 2013