SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Gilbert Austin's "Chironomia" Revisited

Gilbert Austin's "Chironomia" Revisited

Sympathy, Science, and the Representation of Movement

Add to Cart

Sara Newman and Sigrid Streit


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
234 pages, 6 x 9, 36 illustrations

Rhetoric in the Modern Era


Additional Materials

  • Table of Contents
  • News / Publicity

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



About the Book

This first book-length study of Irish educator, clergyman, and author Gilbert Austin as an elocutionary rhetor investigates how his work informs contemporary scholarship on delivery, rhetorical history and theory, and embodied communication. Authors Sara Newman and Sigrid Streit study Austin’s theoretical system, outlined in his 1806 book Chironomia; or A Treatise on Rhetorical Delivery—an innovative study of gestures as a viable, independent language—and consider how Austin’s efforts to incorporate movement and integrate texts and images intersect with present-day interdisciplinary studies of embodiment.

Austin did not simply categorize gesture mechanically, separating delivery from rhetoric and the discipline’s overall goals, but instead he provided a theoretical framework of written descriptions and illustrations that positions delivery as central to effective rhetoric and civic interactions. Balancing the variable physical elements of human interactions as well as the demands of communication, Austin’s system fortuitously anticipated contemporary inquiries into embodied and nonverbal communication. Enlightenment rhetoricians, scientists, and physicians relied on sympathy and its attendant vivacious and lively ideas to convey feelings and facts to their varied audiences. During the seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, as these disciplines formed increasingly distinct, specialized boundaries, they repurposed existing, shared communication conventions to new ends. While the emerging standards necessarily diverged, each was grounded in the subjective, embodied bedrock of the sympathetic, magical tradition.



Sara Newman is an emeritus professor of English at Kent State University and the author of Writing Disability: A Critical History.
Sigrid Streit is an assistant professor of English and the director of writing across the curriculum at the University of Detroit Mercy. She has published research in the International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. This is her first book.


“An erudite and wide-ranging study placing Gilbert Austin’s Chironomia within its historical context, showing how it fits within the developments in the art of oratory in Britain from the seventeenth century to Austin’s own day. The book brings out clearly Austin’s innovations. It is a valuable contribution to the history of rhetoric, and it shows the relevance of Austin’s work on gesture to contemporary issues in the emerging discipline of ‘gesture studies.’”—Adam Kendon, author of Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance
“This book is part history of rhetoric, part history of science, and a complete revision of Gilbert Austin’s work, a revision that foregrounds sympathy and movement as integral to bodily communication—and to communication writ large.”—Debra Hawhee, author of Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw: Animals, Language, Sensation