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193 Eating Rhetorical Bodies Mētis is “the illegitimate offspring of language.” —Michelle Ballif, Seduction, Sophistry, and the Woman with the Rhetorical Figure Th e c el ebr a t ion of Heph a est us, his craft, his cunning, his ability, as well as the deification of his disability are means of challenging held perceptions about the mythical character, but also about all of us—defined 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 through his body or question the truth or falsity of rhetorical history; this rhetorical work should shift body values and roles, becoming a deliberation on embodied possibilities. I have argued that rhetoric will not admit it has a body; I have then argued that rhetoric does indeed have a body, but that the shape and movement of this body have been normative; I have suggested that this narrow image limits our ability to recognize our own real bodies and their inevitable connection to our being in the world as thinking, persuading, collaborating subjects, as embodied selves. I have suggested that a tension thus always underlies the body, the tension of our anxiety about imperfection , our sublimated desires, our unsatisfied need, finally, to affirm our (incomplete) bodies and embodiments. So, celebrating Hephaestus is also a way to give rhetoric a body. And mētis, I have suggested, is an embodied knowledge, one that refuses the sexist, ableist body image of rhetoric, an image that we have chosen from our (Western, Greco-Roman) versions of history. There is work to be done here to explain just why, and how, mētis has been overlooked. So I want to spend some time with Metis, the Greek 194 • Disa bil it y Rh et or ic goddess who is named after this form of intelligence, because I believe her role in myth can be understood as an analogue for the role mētis has been relegated to in the rhetorical tradition. Most notably, the popular story of Zeus actually eating Metis will be used as an analogue and a point of entry for exploring other denunciations and usurpments of embodied rhetoric. Hephaestus’s and Metis’s appearances in myth yield an often contradictory picture—a complexity that challenges simple constructions, reductions, or dismissals of the important role of mētis in history. The confusion and the flexibility of norms, as applied to and embodied by Hephaestus , suggest to me that Greek society did not understand disability as simply as our history might suggest. The idea that Hephaestus’s physical disability could have had positive connotations seems contradictory to the modern reader. But I have argued that this is the result of an import of bias into the past—Hephaestus was robustly worshipped and celebrated in the Greek context, his bodily difference not necessarily fetishized or diminished, not just to be overcome or compensated for, but idealized. Disability, throughout history, has not always represented loss, punishment , perversion, and alienation, but has instead often been situated as an embodied reality, a physical eventuality, even a desirable human variation . The elision of Hephaestus and his mētis from our view of history is simply in keeping with a larger pattern of disavowals of Other bodies. But we could move through history differently. Metis, perhaps no more so (and no less) than any other rhetorical figure , is body. In exploring this connection and in retelling these stories, I hope to further reveal the attachment between myth and rhetoric and to show that rhetoric is indivisible from embodiment. In this chapter I also examine a broad spectrum of mythical and rhetorical iterations of mētis myths—Helene Cixous’s use of the Medusa myths, Trickster figures across a range of cultures, and finally Gloria Anzaldua’s stories of mestizaje . I will suggest that there are useful similarities across geographies and eras, all linked by mētis. I also hope to inspire others to make their own further cunning connections. Finally, I suggest that mētis is a way for us all to move. Mētis is a way to think and also a way to think about thinking. Because I understand history as shifting and fluid, and because I recognize our rhetorical Eating Rhetorical Bodies 195 interpretation of it as particularly powerful, I hope to pursue a reading inspired by mētis—mobile and polymorphic. When we reread history for evidence of different abilities—as...


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