This upcoming weekend, Saturday, February 1st, I’ll be presenting the final project from my rhetorical gestures seminar at Camp Rhetoric, a long-standing graduate-student-focused gathering/conference for those invested and interested in rhetoric from a variety of fields. The project, presented via an unconventional use of the presentation platform Prezi, asks (among other things) if it is possible to conceive of genres of gesture. And if so, so what? The image above is a portion of the “gesture map” I built for this project (full abstract below).
I’ll be offering my work through what they call “work-in-progress” presentations, where graduate students submit ongoing projects to scholar respondents (mine will be Dr. Debra Hawee, Professor of English at Penn State). At the actual conference I’ll give a brief presentation and then Dr. Hawhee will facilitate a response session and Q&A which will provide feedback and initial thoughts about the projects-in-progress. In case anyone who stumbles upon this blog is attending Camp Rhetoric, or who might be otherwise interested in the project, here’s the title and abstract, as submitted:
The Case of the Grace Face: Gestures Toward a Theory of Embodied Genre
While it is not asserting much to say that there is some inherent difference between naturalized gestures of everyday conversation and performative gestures such that the dancer, orator, or other aesthetic culture creator enacts, many studies in gesture take this difference for granted. If, however, we take Adam Kendon’s definition of gestures as bodily utterance to be salient then we must also consider the shapes these utterances take, given the cultural and social contexts of their use. As such, is it possible to conceive of genres of gesture? This project takes a closer look at a particular performative gesture as one instantiation of this possibility through an unconventional use of the Prezi platform in two interlocking parts: 1) a gesture map with over 300 screen captures of the YouTube entertainer/vlogger Grace Helbig’s so-called “Grace Face,” a gestural performance that has become an iconic identity marker for Helbig and her community of viewers who return the gesture to her via social media interaction, and 2) textual interludes that rhetorically situate the gestural exchange within the contexts of gesture, affect, and genre studies via Quintillion, Kendon, Berlant, Massumi, Devitt, and others. This project observes that bodily movement and its ritualization provide the means for mutual inclusion and participation in identity-affirming group dynamics, which retain their vitality through the reenactment of embedded genres that construct and are constructed by groups. This observation is powerful for both gesture and genre studies insofar as it is attuned to the affective impact of encounter as made possible and fostered through gestural/generic exchange.