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Delivery: Rhetoric History and Theory– From the texts of Cicero, rhetorical scholars have learned the story of the Greek Demosthenes. When Demosthenes was asked his opinion of what constituted the most important element of rhetoric, he three times repeated one word: “delivery, delivery, delivery” (Duncan, 2006, p. 84). Nothing additional has survived regarding Demosthenes’ thinking on delivery, and his answer remains a mystery in terms of what may have informed his conclusion as to the critical nature of delivery. In De Oratore, Cicero meditated on Demosthenes’ assertion; Cicero noted that he had observed how“many poor speakers have often reaped the rewards of eloquence because of a dignified delivery, and many eloquent men have been considered poor speakers because of awkward delivery” (p.347). Based on Demosthenes’ observation, Cicero theorized that:“If, then, there can be no eloquence without this [delivery], and this without eloquence is so important, certainly its role in oratory is very large” (p. 347). In this work, delivery is clearly of foundational importance to rhetoric.
In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, delivery is presented as an important component of oral delivery, but one not regarded as a virtuous area of study. According to Aristotle, “No systematic treatise upon the rules of delivery has yet been composed;indeed, even the study of language made no progress till late in the day. Besides, delivery is—very properly—not regarded as an elevated subject of inquiry” (p. 120). In this respect, Aristotle both notes the critical nature of delivery, but undercuts its study when removed from other subjects. What Aristotle does do, however, is put forward commentary that stigmatizes the study of rhetorical delivery, even within the realm of orality where it has been relegated:“It is those who do bear them [the concerns of delivery] in mind who usually win prizes in the dramatic contests; and just as in drama the actors now count for more than the poets, so it is in the contests of public life, owing to the defects of our political institutions” (p. 119-120). In this sense, from Aristotle’s ethical distinction of delivery something remains true today: its consideration remains paramount in much of political life. This fact alone should elevate rhetorical delivery to a higher status,particularly when its study or analytical application — bringing in a theory of rhetorical delivery for complex rhetorical analyses— leads to social action. This delivery-toward-action is not developed in Aristotle’s Rhetoric; rather, much of the conversation focuses on the technical particulars of delivery, which,as Edward Corbett suggested, are a “concern for the management of the voice and for gestures (actio)” (p. 28). According to Aristotle,there are three things that greatly affect the success of a speech,
But hitherto the subject has been neglected. Indeed, it was long before it found a way into the arts of tragic drama and epic recitation: at first poets acted their tragedies themselves.It is plain that delivery has just as much to do with oratory as with poetry It is, essentially, a matter of the right management of the voice to express the various emotions—of speaking loudly, softly,or between the two; of high, low, or intermediate pitch; of the various rhythms that suit various subjects. These are the three things—volume of sound, modulation of pitch, and rhythm—that a speaker bears in mind. (p. 119)
It is no mystery, then, that a rhetorical treatise on delivery does not seem to exist which includes as it primary subject matter stories of carrier pigeons, messengers, scrolls, and complex narratives of oral circulation. Aristotle (and much of the Roman and Medieval rhetorical theory responding to Aristotle) does not leave very much room for this sort of rhetorical theory. And we think we would be better able to theorize complex practices of delivery today if there was this type of room.
It can no longer be assumed, even in a contemporary instance of oral delivery, that the time, place, and medium of delivery will necessarily be the same for both the speaker and the speaker’s audiences. As John Trimbur noted in “Composition and the Circulation of Writing” (2000), a“focus solely on oral rhetoric, absent of other technologies, is not sustainable as a theory of rhetoric. Public forums are diffuse,fragmented, and geographically separated. Speech is both literally and metaphorically broadcast through expanded means of communication”(p. 190). We agree with Trimbur’s analysis and also think that many of the concepts for and activities of delivery inactive use today are not currently theorized in attempts to understand rhetorical delivery. Our project in this article is to introduce one of these theories and begin to expand the rhetorical toolbox for additional concepts of delivery.