Seminar 5: Visual Rhetoric, Moving Bodies, Affective Transmission: Ancient, Early Modern, and Contemporary Perspectives
David Marshall, Caitlin Bruce, and Ruth Webb
Rhetorical inquiry is deeply concerned with the impact of expressive practice and verbal argument on audiences, with a particular focus on public culture and civic life. This seminar brings together scholars of ancient, early modern, and contemporary rhetoric in order to think about visual rhetoric, moving bodies, and affective transmission. In recent publications, the three co-leaders of this seminar have examined the role of moving bodies in the public realm (immediate, reproduced, and virtual) as a means of transforming publics and public emotions (or inchoate affects). What does a focus on images of the moving body as a fulcrum for affective transmission (or articulation or differentiation) add to the rhetorical scholar's toolbox? What mediating and structuring roles are played by stage, museum, exhibition, archive, image-atlas, memorial, image database, landscape, cityscape, and public art project?
The body and the image, performance and affect come together to generate key inflection points. This is true when the pantomime in antiquity draws on schemata for somatic resonance. It is true when the ancient orator creates a sense of bodily proximity between listeners and the persons and events at the center of debate. It is likewise true when the image-tables of Aby Warburg function as gymnasia permitting viewers to elaborate stances that both distinguish and invent new forms of civic corporeality. It is also true when public murals provide reproduced images of moving bodies evoking kinesthetic sympathy that adds to embodied registers for apprehending difference as possibility and not obstacle. How is the moving body incorporated in ancient and early modern practice, without the use of modern media? How did the spoken word evoke visual and embodied experiences in audiences, and was the use of those experiences restricted to the creation of pathos, or did they play a role in the construction of arguments?
Readings in this seminar will range far and wide in the history of rhetoric--incorporating ancient, early modern, and contemporary resources--in order to assemble a rich theoretical repertoire. Participants in this seminar will have the opportunity to share their own work, and we will take advantage of our proximity to sites and institutions in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. to think through these questions via a set of case studies.