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Primal Scenes II: Bodily Arts



Contesting Virtuosity


Arete: Arete...was an ethical concept, and as such was associated with bodily appearance, action, and performance as much as it was conceived of as an abstracted, "guide" for such actions. (17)


Agon: The agon is...constituted by a modality of response the production of some kind of movement, be it a speeding up or a slowing down, or cell activity - in pharmacological terms - or of discursive or bodily activity, in other terms. ...agonism can be delineated as a response-producing encounter. (27)


Between Athletics and Rhetoric The Clouds foregrounds the constant exchange between the athletic, bodily training of the old school and the rhetorical training of the (new) sophists. ...it is this very struggle - the twisting and turning in-betweenness of these education practices - that forms the complicated art of the sophists. (42)


Sophistic Metis



Cunning Intelligence: Metis is...the mode of negotiating agonistic forces, the ability to cunningly and effectively maneuver a cutting instrument, a ship, a chariot, a body, on the spot, in the heat of the moment. the force of metis distinguishes action that would otherwise be predictable: charioteer against charioteer, woodcutter who usually relies on bodily strength. (47)


Bodily Deception: The goddess Metis...offers two important and closely related comments on metis as a concept. First, metis is a kind of bodily becoming, insofar as it is transmitted through a blurring of boundaries between bodies, as in the Zeus-Metis exchange. Second, Metis possesses the capacity for bodily disguise...this status as a shapeshifter manifests itself in all figures of metis. (49-50)


Allegories of Metis: The goddess Metis emobodies transformation and disguise; Odysseus an Athena show how this capacity for disguise is their identity, thus demonstrating the way metis (not unlike arete) must be performed in order to become apparent. Among animals, the fox specializes in finding ways to escape and in making the weaker stronger and vice versa, while the octopus takes a different approach - blending into the environment through shape-shifting. All these models of metis suggest a modality of response, an affinity for tricks and disguises, a twisting and turning movement, all of which - however differently - return to the body as the place where metis becomes apparent. (57)



The Sophist" "It is terms of hunting and fishing that he (Plato) defines the art of the sophist who, in in contrast to the philosopher whose wisdom is directed towards the world of ideas, embodies the scheming intelligence of the man of metis, plunged into the world of appearance and Becoming" (59; Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society, 45)


Kairotic Bodies



Kairotic Gorgias: The moment of direct address thus marks a critical - and literal - tuning point in Helen: not only does it flag a transition from one argument to the next, but it signals the transformation of Gorgias himself in that discursive movement. He becomes a wing-footed rhetor, noting openings in the arguments concerning Helen to take them (the audience and the arguments) somewhere else, namely to a place where Helen is free from blame. Gorgias does more than catalogue argument, he cultivates an ethos that morphs between logoi. (77)


Kairos: ...version of kairos require the rhetor - a discrete, rational being - to decode a "rhetorical situation" from outside (step one), and then consciously select or create "appropriate" arguments (step two), kairos provides a point of departure from the reasoned, linear steps - even from consciousness. As Eric White puts it, "...The orator who invents on the basis of 'kairos must in fact always go beyond the bounds of the rational." ...the fleeting movement of kairos necessitates a move away from a privileging of "design" or preformulated principles. At times, however, these so-called principles could be so habituated as to not require "thinking" per se. They depend largely on the rhetorical encounter itself and the kairos pressing on - subduing - the encounter. (78)



Porous Bodies: For Gorgias, bodies and souls, like bronze and silver, were porous entities that allowed effluents and other substances (words, fire) to pass through. In this Gorgias agreed with the Hippocratics, who also followed Empodocles, and who, according to Padel, originated the "western medical portraiture of the infinitely penetrable body" (1992: 58). (79)


Persuasion is a drug we call rhetoric: Gorgias' somatic version of logos further underscores a double kairotic tenor of this rhetoric in that it reintroduces the spatial origins and mobile features of kairos - the kairos that depends on openings as much as it depends on movements, a mingling of porous, effective bodies. A bidirectional kairos becomes clear as the wing-footed rhetor speeds through kairotic openings. A pharmakon-style kairos, moreover, marks a particular quality of discourse, one that doesn't necessarily pass through the mind to obtain meaning, but rather operates at the level of the body, on the level of effect or sensation - inciting pain or pleasure. (83)





Technologies of the Self: Foucault's description is written almost entirely in the reflexive middle voice, whereby men "seek to transform themselves." In other words, a major requirement for transformation is the "seeking out" motivated by a desire to cultivate strategies that will produce oneself differently. Such a seeking is, however, accompanied by a concomitant submitting: active submission is thus a necessary first step for transformation. But even more than that, values and styles cultivated by such actions work to create capacities, flexible bodies at work. Insofar as these training practices produce a capacity for transformation, arts of existence, especially in the sophistic milieu under consideration here, might be more aptly construed as "arts of becoming." (87)


Isocrates and phusis: ...Isocrates' reflections on the combination of nature and practice extend an observation attributed to Protagoras: "Teaching requires nature and practice (phuseos kai askeseos) (DK 80 B3). That phusis is malleable and therefore trainable is one of the main tenets of sophistic thought, and is best illustrated in Plato's Protagoras when the character Protagoras argues that arete can be taught. As Werner Jaeger points out...the sophists' conclusion about the flexibility of phusis "is an attempt at a synthesis of the old opposition between aristocratic paideia and rationalism: it abandons the aristocratic idea that character and morality can be inherited by blood, but not acquired" (Jaeger 1967: 306). As this study suggests, however, rationalism is not necessarily the sophists' additive component. Rather, the sophists and Isocrates gather their notion of malleable phusis from Archaic models of education, leaning heavily on poetic, musical, and athletic training as models for and necessary partners to rhetorical training, models that depend on a bodily acquisition of disposition and styles of thought. As such, the Archaic educational practices upon which the sophists draw are not merely guided by rational modes of learning but depend upon the cultivation of bodily desires, a general kind of readiness to learn, provocation, and, at times, pain and erotics. (96)


The Erotics of Pedagogy: Even as erotics had its own dimension in pedagogy, pedagogy had dimensions of erotics. In some ways, the pleasures or erotics can be seen, like pain in the teacher-student relation, as another enabler of training - indeed, the active submission necessary for Phusiopoiesis can be seen as a response to seduction. Such seduction may or may not have erotic overtones, but in ancient Athens it often did. the Greek gymnasium, with its open spaces and nuder exercisers, along with its function as both a training site and a place of leisure, was itself a space for seduction. (105)


Gymnasium I & II



The Sophists as Gym Rats: In Athens...the gymnasium combined the physical with the intellectual, and the sophists appear to have played major roles in this aspect of the gymnasiums history. ...Sophists apparently infiltrated the gymnasia in the beginning of the classical era and remained there until late antiquity. ...Apparently, all of Athens was swarming with Sophists. These mobile teachers were particularly drawn to the spaces where they were likely to be most visible to potential clientele: the agora and the gymnasia both served this function. Visibility is then followed by a retreat to a more intimate space, be it a house, a saddle shop, a corner of a private paleaestra, such as the one Socrates happens upon, or the "undressing room" of a public gymnasium. ...From this spatial intermingling of practices there emerged a specific syncretism between athletics an rhetoric, a particular crossover in pedagogical practices and learning styles, a crossover that contributed to the development of rhetoric as a bodily art: an art learned, practiced, and performed by and with the body as well as the mind. (110-111)


Embodied Learning: The strategic infiltration of sophistic activity into this regularly inhabited space thus allowed for the production of new habits and practices. That is to say, when encountering sophists and philosophers daily at regular intervals, the youths were no doubt subject - consciously or not - to their teachings. Sophistic training became a part of the regular cycle of education at athletic facilities, a characteristic feature of bodily training for rising citizens. ...This network of objects, people and practices and their attendant sounds and smells comprised a distinctive material setting for a highly textured, bodily pedagogy. The situating of rhetorical training temporally and spatially in the midst of athletic training likely produced a set of linked habits - the habits of discursive moves and wrestling moves, the habits of competing, pushing, developing, responding - linked if not in the mind, then certainly in the body. (128)


Ethics and Mimesis: Musical rhythm comes to inhabit the body through productive repetition, as we have seen, and rhythm also operates through a kind of mimesis, another element critical to sophistic pedagogy and another way of producing repeated encounters with difference. As demonstrated earlier, for Aristotle music is doubly mimetic: its rhythms imitate ethos, and when it invades the body and grips the soul, the connection formed between music and listener produces a second mimesis, as the listener imitates ethical rhythms. (148)


The Three R's: All styles of repetition, because they are particular to time, space, and the singular cluster of forces enacting them, emerge in response to specific forces: to opponents, to values, beliefs, and practices that shape and are shaped by the differential, emergent, repetition. In short, repetition in sophistic-style rhetorical training is always bound up responsiveness within particular contexts. (160)


The Visible Spoken



Those Superficial Greeks: As bodily arts, rhetoricd and athletics are differently infused with the elements of what Nietzsche characterizes as "a whole Olympus of appearances." Decipherable in Nietzsche's bold (if nostalgic) description is a spectacular logic an economy of appearances that depends on apparent bodily manifestations of the kind of training this book has thus far delineated. Noteworthy, though, is Nietzsche's description of appearance's superficiality as a belief in "forms, tones, words": that which is seen, heard, and said. The economy of appearance is most strikingly present in ancient festivals and competitions, for it is these events that, for the Greeks, most explicitly foregrounded honor and glory through the sights, sounds, and words about which Nietzsche writes. (162-163)


Fiery Eyes: If, as Vernant contends, to see is to know, then the logic of vision - and by extension, knowledge - depends on a moment of seduction, on a movement outside the self, a mingling with the flames of the other. It could well be, then, that desirous honor, time, like Euripedes' notion of eros, clung to the flames of they eyes, and was thereby transported from on to another, along the line composed by the fiery gaze/display construct. Such a view would account for the recursivity in Isocrates' account of the mutual distribution of the love of honor: "the spectators when they see the athlete exert themselves for their benefit, the athletes when they reflect that all the world is come to gaze upon them" (Panegyricus 44). The very structure of the spectacle stokes a love of honor between performers and spectators. (179)


The Body of Rhetoric: As Pindar's lines suggest, as has been demonstrated throughout Socrates' arguments about Theodote, and as Demosthenes diagram of the funeral oration points out, seeing is so inexorably bound with telling that together they constitute a double actualization - the witness, that is, actualizes the display and in momentary transformation becomes a bearer of news, a messenger newly endowed with discourse's capacity to rely, the second actualization. the witness/messenger thus makes a new display, effectively reintroducing the logic of epideixis. Speech's "invisible body," as Gorgias calls it, becomes manifest; the priority of the visible is disrupted. (186)





Somatic Histories: The painting enthymematically tells the story of what began to happen as the fourth century came to a close. ...Intellectual development thus took over as the gymnasium's foremost activity, and the gymnasium's legacy, like the legacy of the Greeks, became equated with Plato and Aristotle, with philosophy, with the development of mind. ...Swathed in brightly colored garments, all the characters in the painting stand in sharp contrast to the naked unidentified statue with which this book began. The somato-centric culture of Greece remains submerged, unnamed, not unlike the shipwrecked bronze itself. Ancient arete, that is, is remembered and reproduced not as Aristotle himself suggested, in the somatic form of kalos kagathos, but rather as the Great Mind, the possession of intellectual prowess. Forgotten is the early blending of bodily and intellectual training practices; gone are the considerations of rhythm, repetition, and response in education. (190)

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