In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Scott's Body
  • Barry Brummett (bio)

What an odd title, likely to provoke some questions and to present me with pitfalls. On the one hand, it may sadden the reader by reminding one of the recent demise of Robert L. Scott. On the other hand, it may seem to contain echoes of the persistent presence of inappropriate behavior on campuses. However, I mean to write about life, not death, and about propriety and leadership, not bad behavior. In choosing the eccentric title of this essay, I do not in the least mean to hint that there was anything inappropriate or out of order with Scott's physical being and presentation. He was the very model of decorum and propriety. I remember the morning after it was announced that a certain professor in another department had been put on paid administrative leave after several charges of sexual harassment. Scott was incensed and announced in his classes that he was willing to grope any student, male or female, as he was feeling a bit tired and could use a paid vacation. He was kidding of course, which everyone understood.

I mean to use "Scott's Body" as a sort of organizing trope for this essay. First, I want to talk about Scott's style, and how it was a way of showing that rhetoric is as much a way of being and of acting in the world as it is a pattern of argument and appeal. Second, I want to talk about Scott's leadership and how it has shaped and influenced the leadership of many of his students. Finally, I want to talk about the body or corpus of his work. [End Page 663]

Scott's Style: Rhetoric as Being and Acting in the World

A few years ago, James F. Klumpp and I attended an international conference in Europe, and each of us gave a paper. Afterward, we found it amusing that each of us had the same insight about the other: we were channeling Scott. Not in terms of the content or subject matter of the papers, but in our manner of presentation: tone, style, gestures, inflection, and so forth. The influence of the Master seemed to have extended to our very bones and sinews, to have gotten deep inside of us. What was that style? For instance, as my friend and fellow Scott student Peter Ehrenha us tells me, "a slight lowering of the head accompanied by peering out over the top of the eyeglasses frame; raising the right hand and placing it over the heart, to accompany an utterance either sincere or sarcastic (one never quite knew which mood the Master was invoking)."

Another way to describe what happened in our presentations was that Klumpp and I were performing a style that we had picked up from our mentor. By style I include the classical conception of language choice and so forth, but I also mean more broadly how we manage our aesthetic self presentations: the look, the feel, how we move and dress, tone, gestures, grooming, decoration, and so forth. I have written some and taught a lot on the subject of style and rhetoric. I have defıned style in this way:

Style is a complex system of actions, objects, and behaviors that is used to form messages that announce who we are, who we want to be, and who we want to be considered akin to. It is therefore also a system of communication with rhetorical influence on others. And as such, style is a means by which power and advantage are negotiated, distributed, and struggled over in society.1

Scott had a distinctive style, I think most of his students and colleagues would acknowledge, and pale echoes of that style are what Jim and I displayed there in Belgium. I want to invite you to think about his style as in large part what we had to learn from him.

Many commentators and scholars of style would argue that in our time, style has come to assume more reality than whatever we might call substance. We live in an age of style, where we know others through...


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