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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Cory Holding

Name: Cory Holding, English Department.

Presentation Title: "Rhetorical Gesture in British Elocutionism: The Case of John Bulwer"

Date: April 29, 2010


The British Elocutionist is caricatured as a “poser.” As such, you might glimpse a few in mainstream rhetorical histories, elaborated for the peculiar obsession with accoutrement to the real business of rhetoric—with facial expression, tone of voice, even foot position in delivery—but by and large the Elocutionist is glossed, or dismissed. Bulwer occasionally makes mention for his unusual attention to the hand in particular, and for his illustrations of gestures: the open palm upended, fingers out, for example, depicts rationes profert, invitation. My project explores what the marginalized work of British Elocutionists on the rhetoric of gesture yet offers current attempts to theorize the body’s role in the production of argument. This talk presents Bulwer, a physician, as case study to show that the hand (also) far exceeds its reputation in rhetorical theory: ancillary, if “detached” mechanism for the emotional manipulation of audience.