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1 Prothesis History is useful insofar as it reminds us of the variousness and mutability of human behavior. —Sharon Crowley, “Let Me Get This Straight” Get the story crooked! —Hans Kellner, Language and Historical Representation I wil l begin t h is 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 opposite directions. In this “new” Athens, there will be a need for craftspeople like Hephaestus—everyone will have to get to work. There is also a shift toward new bodily values. Hephaestus becomes the figure for new forms of ingenuity and production, but he also embodies these values. He embodies these values through the rhetoric of mētis. Second, here we are after World War II, as former soldiers return to their home countries. They are injured too. Their countries also badly need them to rebuild, or to kick-start postwar industries. The creation of new prosthetic technologies allows many of these wounded veterans to work. These technologies also address, perhaps incompletely, some of the emasculating and stigmatizing effects of disability in these cultures. Again, bodily values shift. Third, here we are today, perhaps even reading this text online. Technologies such as the scanner, text messaging, voice recognition software, optical character recognition, and even e-mail, first developed for people with disabilities, are now an integral part of our discursive and communicative 2 • Disa bil it y Rh et or ic world. Body values have shifted again, to the degree that we may even fantasize that bodily difference can be eradicated by technology. Technology is supposed to make the body obsolete, right? Or at least technology will allow us to choose our bodies, heal them, perfect them? Yet so many of the technologies that suggest to us that we are perfectible, that intensify our dedication to norms, have been invented specifically because we are not perfect or normal. Bodies continue to change, as do attitudes about them, and the rhetorical entailments of these bodily transformations continue to be negotiated. These changes, shifts, and transformations are at the center of contemporary disability studies. A “futuristic” disability studies will not be about eradication of disability, but about new social structures and relations , made possible by new rhetorics. This book will offer avenues for this important critical work. This will be a rhetorical study, and this is a rhetorical text. Rhetoricians focus on the uses of language for persuasive ends. While some recognize rhetoric only in a pejorative sense—as the intentional misuse of language to mislead and obscure meaning—rhetoricians also recognize the ways that rhetoric shapes not just utterances or inscriptions, but also beliefs, values, institutions, and even bodies. One simple way to define rhetoric is to say that it is the study of all of communication. But more specifically , rhetoricians foreground the persuasive potential of all texts and artifacts, questioning the sedimentation of meanings, recognizing the constant negotiations between authors and audiences, and linking language to power. Gerard Hauser has suggested that rhetoric is “communication that attempts to coordinate social action” (1986, 2). Rhetoric can be seen as an operational, discursive means of shaping identity, community, cultural processes and institutions, and everyday being-in-the-world. Rhetoric not only impacts all of those variables in our lives that are not given and thus subject to opinion and persuasion; rhetoric also works to whittle away our sense that any part of our lives could ever truly be set and certain.1 1. George Kennedy even goes so far as to say that rhetoric “in the most general sense may perhaps be identified with the energy inherent in communication” and is biologically MētisProthesis 3 I see rhetoric as the strategic study of the circulation of power through communication . Following this definition, this book will focus on the central role of the body in rhetoric—as the engine for all communication. Aristotle famously suggested that rhetoric is “the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion” (1991b, 1). A central argument of this book is that the body has never been fully or fairly understood for its role in shaping and multiplying these available means. In each of the above snapshots or moments in history, when cultural ideas about...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780815652335
Related ISBN
9780815633242
MARC Record
OCLC
871210777
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2014-03-10
Language
English
Open Access
No
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