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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Julia Smith

Name: Julia Smith, English

Presentation Title: “Madness and Methodism: Ways of Knowing in the Early American Republic”

Date: May 3, 2012


A historical speaker’s rhetoric comes to us mediated through the interventions of other people who participate in the production, use, and distribution of technology and through the technology—papyrus, parchment, print, computer— which preserves his or her speech.
In this presentation, I will examine the historical example of Margery Kempe, a medieval mystic, whose authority as a speaker in The Book of Margery Kempe remains a site of contention because of the interventions of other participants in the production and use of her manuscript. These other participants mediate between an original rhetorical event, the audience, and the technology, which is not a static container of a speaker’s ideas, but the site of ongoing rhetorical events. This analysis uses the terminology of musical texture and chorus in order to discuss the vocal mechanics of the different voices and reveals how the occupation of other speakers’ voices affect the construction of rhetorical meaning.