Rhetoric in the Flesh: Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, and the Gross Anatomy Lab (Paperback) book cover

Rhetoric in the Flesh

Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, and the Gross Anatomy Lab

By T. Kenny Fountain


230 pages | 23 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780415741026
pub: 2014-05-16
Hardback: 9780415741033
pub: 2014-05-22
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315815459
pub: 2014-07-11
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Rhetoric in the Flesh is the first book-length ethnographic study of the gross anatomy lab to explain how rhetorical discourses, multimodal displays, and embodied practices facilitate learning and technical expertise and how they shape participants’ perceptions of the human body. By investigating the role that discourses, displays, and human bodies play in the training and socialization of medical students, T. Kenny Fountain contributes to our theoretical and practical understanding of the social factors that make rhetoric possible and material in technical domains. Thus, the book also explains how these displays, discourses, and practices lead to the trained perspective necessary for expertise. This trained vision is constructed over time through what Fountain terms embodied rhetorical action, an intertwining of body-object-environment that undergirds all scientific, medical, and technical work.

This book will be valuable for graduate and advanced undergraduate courses in technical and professional communication (technical communication theory and practice, visual or multimodal communication, medical technical communication) and rhetorical studies, including visual rhetoric, rhetoric of science, medical rhetoric, material rhetoric and embodiment, and ethnographic approaches to rhetoric.


"Not since reading Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar’s Laboratory Life, have I encountered such a methodologically rigorous study of a laboratory, although this time it is the "cadaver lab" of gross anatomy at the University of Minnesota. Fountain’s approach is ethnographic, his observations grounded in a theoretical framework that synthesizes concepts from rhetoric of science, Gibson’s ecological theory of vision, and classical rhetoric. Fountain’s fine-grained analysis of medical students’ socialization into the embodied "ways of seeing" in the anatomy lab constitutes a major contribution to the fields of TPC as well as rhetoric of science/medicine, visual rhetoric, and medical education."

- Carol Berkenkotter, Professor of Writing Studies, University of Minnesota

"Fountain’s ethnography expertly interrogates the epistemological processes for developing medical professionals’ anatomical lenses. Fountain’s argument that "anatomy education is a social, embodied and deeply rhetorical endeavor" is well supported through his carefully triangulated analyses of field notes, interviews, images, and course materials. Using rhetorical and phenomenological lenses, he creates a generative tension between apodeixis and epideixis, a key factor for the students observing and working with cadavers. His prose is superbly wrought, too."

- Barbara Heifferon, Professor of English, Louisiana State University

"Rhetoric in the Flesh is a substantial book, reporting on an ethnographic study of two gross anatomy classes. It filters the study through a rhetorical lens that pairs apodeictic display and epideictic rhetoric in novel and interesting ways. It at once contributes to the growing body of research in the rhetoric of health and medicine and to rhetorical theory."

- Dale L. Sullivan, Professor of English, North Dakota State University

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: Developing Expertise and Learning to See

Chapter 2 One Body to Learn Another: Activities of the Anatomy Lab

Chapter 3 Looking at Pictures: Multimodal Displays and Perceived Affordances

Chapter 4 Hands-On Visuals: Embodied Observation and Rhetorical Verification

Chapter 5 Making Beautiful Bodies: Dissection as an Ordering Practice

Chapter 6 Downplaying Personhood: Anatomical Focus and the Praise of Cadavers

Chapter 7 Acknowledging Personhood: Anatomical Donation and the Gift Analogy

Chapter 8 Conclusion: Embodied Rhetorical Action

About the Author

T. Kenny Fountain is an assistant professor in the Department of English at Case Western Reserve University. He received his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Scientific and Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota in 2008. He is a former Writing Center Assistant Director at Yeshiva College and a former Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. His research interests include the rhetoric of science and medicine, visual studies of science, rhetorical theory and history, communication in the disciplines, and theories of the body and embodiment. He has published work in the journals Medicine Studies and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication as well as the edited collections Solving Problems in Technical Communication and Pluralizing Plagiarism.

About the Series

ATTW Series in Technical and Professional Communication

The ATTW Series in Technical and Professional Communication publishes interesting and useful work in a wide range of topics related to technical and professional communication (TPC), including but not limited to the following: assessment of TPC programs, content management systems, globalization of TPC, human-computer interaction, intercultural communication, health-care and medical communication, pedagogy of TPC, publication management, risk and crisis communication, service learning in TPC, technical and professional editing, translation of TPC, usability/user-experience and accessibility studies, visual communication, and web design and development.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies