Submitted by John W. Pell on October 12, 2012 - 10:59pm
One of the challenges in teaching undergraduate courses on rhetoric is locating research articles that introduce students to the type of work done in field while remaining accessible. Therefore, when I come across pieces like Peter Moe's "Revealing Rather than Concealing Disability: The Rhetoric of Parkinson Advocate Michael J. Fox" I feel inclined to share my discovery with others teaching these courses.
The essay, which appears in the August issue of Rhetoric Review, examines Fox's 1999 address to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Human Services. Moe, argues that Fox's rhetorical performance challenges cultural notions of vitality and masculinity. Through a novel appropriation of Quintialian's and Cicero's praise of the able-bodied rhetor, Moe argues that Fox's address requires the audience to reconsider the relationship between rhetorical authority and disability.
Moe's argument is a wonderful model for upper-division undergraduate courses on rhetoric for a number of reasons. First, Moe wrestles with classical texts and ideas, the type of things often found in anthologies. In drawing upon Quintilian and Cicero, Moe's essay makes clear to readers how canonical texts remain relevant, which not only provides a model for how scholars tap into disciplinary histories but also how contemporary problems vitalize older texts.
Second, Moe's essay clearly demonstrates how rhetorical theories help provide alternative understandings of civic events. Throughout the essay, Moe makes clear how a rhetorical analysis of Fox's speech offers a novel reading of how the body contributes in the work of argumentation. While some may find the deliberate sign-posting a distraction, as a teacher, I find these moments useful for students as it provides them with a model for how successful academic essays develop a theoretical framework through which to view their case study.
As you may have guessed, my discussion of Moe's essay is also an invitation to share other articles or shorter works that can serve as models for the type of scholarship rhetoricians produce. I look forward to seeing what others find useful, and I know, at least for myself, that I can always use ideas this time of year as I put together syllabus for the spring.