Rhetoric in Tooth and ClawAnimals, Language, Sensation

Rhetoric in Tooth and ClawAnimals, Language, Sensation

Debra Hawhee

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226398174

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


For centuries, since its inception in fact, rhetoric has been conceived of as an exclusively human art. Only humans, after all, could artfully use language, the very definition of rhetoric. And yet pre- and early-modern treatises about rhetoric are crawling with animals of the nonhuman variety. This book examines the enduring presence of nonhuman animals in rhetorical theory and rhetorical education. In doing so, it brings rhetorical studies into ongoing conversations about animals in the humanities while also offering a counter-history of rhetoric and rhetorical education, one that resists the usual reason-based, cerebral approach and focuses instead on sensation and movement. The book therefore offers a new theoretical perspective on rhetoric’s history: rather than presuming, as most histories of rhetoric do, the centrality of logos as reasoned argumentation, this history stresses energy, bodies, and sensation, all crucial components of language and communication. Without these components, and without the nonhuman animals that draw them out, words are dead and lifeless, unable to perform any of the three basic aims ascribed to the art of rhetoric by the ancients: to teach, to delight, and—above all—to move.