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Gilbert Austin's "Chironomia" Revisited: Sympathy, Science, and the Representation of Movement
by Sara Newman and Sigrid Streit
Southern Illinois University Press, 2020
Paper: 978-0-8093-3767-5 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3768-2
Library of Congress Classification PN4165
Dewey Decimal Classification 808.5

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
This first book-length study of Irish educator, clergyman, and author Gilbert Austin as an elocutionary rhetor investigates how his work informs contemporary scholarship on delivery, rhetorical history and theory, and embodied communication. Authors Sara Newman and Sigrid Streit study Austin’s theoretical system, outlined in his 1806 book Chironomia; or A Treatise on Rhetorical Delivery—an innovative study of gestures as a viable, independent language—and consider how Austin’s efforts to incorporate movement and integrate texts and images intersect with present-day interdisciplinary studies of embodiment.

Austin did not simply categorize gesture mechanically, separating delivery from rhetoric and the discipline’s overall goals, but instead he provided a theoretical framework of written descriptions and illustrations that positions delivery as central to effective rhetoric and civic interactions. Balancing the variable physical elements of human interactions as well as the demands of communication, Austin’s system fortuitously anticipated contemporary inquiries into embodied and nonverbal communication. Enlightenment rhetoricians, scientists, and physicians relied on sympathy and its attendant vivacious and lively ideas to convey feelings and facts to their varied audiences. During the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, as these disciplines formed increasingly distinct, specialized boundaries, they repurposed existing, shared communication conventions to new ends. While the emerging standards necessarily diverged, each was grounded in the subjective, embodied bedrock of the sympathetic, magical tradition.

 

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