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128 8 Rhetoric’s Nose: What Can Rhetorical Historiography Make of It? Jane S. Sutton The title of this essay is unusual. I open this essay, therefore, by keying in the title to a contemporary scene of rhetorical historiography. This scene serves as the deep background for understanding my motive for writing about a nose. One large facet of the historiographical scene in rhetoric is the 1980s. In “Octalog: The Politics of Historiography,” James J. Murphy argued that what is at stake in rhetoric is not differences in methodology alone, “but varying perceptions of what ought to be discovered for the good of the community” (5). Varying perceptions may lead to new ideas of rhetoric , daring ideas presumably. Another facet of the scene is the 1990s. In a multiperson discussion format, Roxanne Mountford wrote emphatically, “At a time when the [community] is increasingly in need of rhetorical exploration , we must risk looking for rhetoric,” looking “for rhetoric where it has not been found” (“Octalog II” 34; emphasis added). While the scene changes with differences of opinion, of subject, and of mood, there is a similarity among them as voiced by Murphy and Mountford that is striking in its vision . Both address a need to discover, to find, to create—to invent. Specifically , they refer to this need in terms of a dare and a risk. This is where the title of my essay enters the scene; it signals my taking a dare. This essay is a venture into a radical metaphor. What it leads to is a description of how rhetoric advanced theoretically through a nebulous metaphor and how this prefigured rhetoric’s containment, as well as how it creates chances for new ideas in writing the history of rhetoric today. While reading the Rhetoric, I was caught unawares when I came across a passage in which Aristotle makes a comparison between democracy and a type of nose. Here is the passage: Thus democracy loses its vigor, and finally passes into oligarchy, not only when it is not pushed far enough, but also when it is pushed too Rhetoric’s Nose 129 far; just as the aquiline and the snub nose not only turn into normal noses by not being aquiline or snub enough, but also by being too violently aquiline or snub arrive at a condition in which they no longer look like noses at all. (1360a 25–30; cf. Politics, 1309b) The names of these noses are not often used. I pause to describe the two types of noses. The best description can be found in Fanny Fern’s lesson in Greek and rhinoscopy at a mock commencement exercise around the turn of the twentieth century. She says, “Nose + Nose = proboscis [concave nose]. Nose—nose—nose = snub [flat nose]” (qtd. in Richards et al. 48). An aquiline nose is also called a concave nose. It protrudes like a beak. A synonym for the snub nose is the flat nose. I mentioned earlier that I was caught unawares by the nose in Rhetoric. Even if readers notice it, they often dismiss it as incidental and thus not worth exploring. In fact, after querying a colleague (one too many times I admit) about this passage, he told me I could just take a black magic marker and cross out the passage to render it invisible, and I would have not affected the idea of rhetoric. Presumably the same could be said for the history of rhetoric. (That history elides the nose became an important clue as I ventured into a metaphor.) I had my black marker ready when I noticed that the nose was smack dab in the middle of the chapters (1359a–1366a) cataloguing the topics of deliberation. George A. Kennedy characterized these particular chapters as the “early core” of rhetoric (On Rhetoric 56). When I considered the location of the passage on the nose in Rhetoric, I thought it not incidental: to use a body part (a nose, for gawd’s sake, not an ear, not an eye), rather than to incorporate some property of rationality to stabilize or fix the center of rhetoric in relation to the civic realm, is not the standard view of how rational speech is invented, much less how it functions in the context of democratic deliberation (for example, see Fisher). Yet Aristotle turns to the nose to stage the form and function of rhetoric. (The exceptionality of the nose is the clue that enabled me to find a way to pursue new...


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