Rhetoric is, to most, an outdated field of study: one that smacks of the 19th century and other questionable historic fads, such as ethnographic display and say, manifest destiny. Rhetoric persists in the academy however, and could be best described as the artful arrangement of words so as to best convey argument or effect. It is the arranging business of rhetoric that I’d like to emphasize. This is the theatrical element of rhetoric. How words are staged vis a vis one another, vis a vis a listener, vis a vis a speaking body determines how they are received and the effect or affects they can produce. Rhetoric is merely an historic way of saying that form and content are intrinsically intertwined. Historically however, Rhetoric also referred not only to the artful arrangement of the meaning of words, but the theatrical dramaturging of their sense. To clarify, this meant that Rhetoric was invested in how the words (so artfully arranged) were delivered; rhetoric was interested in the performance of the words, and the artful arrangement of the performing body was part and parcel of the artful arrangement of speech. Though today Rhetoric seems to refer only to the limited study of texts and is frequently another way of explaining University wide writing requirements and English curriculum, this earlier understanding of Rhetoric has allowed me to think of voice as never just a biological given, but a social actor whose performance has been artfully arranged by long-standing protocols for social speech.

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