Embodied Ethos and Rhetorical Accretion: Genevieve Stebbins and the Delsarte System of Expression
Abstract: This essay extends efforts to complicate traditional understandings of ethos by considering it as expressed through and by means of the body. This analysis also examines ethos in relation to Vicki Tolar Burton’s concept of rhetorical accretion or the practice of overlaying new texts on the primary core text. To reveal the significance of analyzing ethos in this manner, this study explores the work of Genevieve Stebbins, a late nineteenth-century proponent of the ideas of French acting and vocal instructor François Delsarte. The essay examines her use of textual accretion as a form of critique but also as a means of acceptance and overlay. More significantly, it reveals the ways that Stebbins’s deployment of rhetorical accretion represents a striking reversal of Burton’s concept. Instead of men overlaying a woman’s text we see the opposite practice in Stebbins’s case.