T. Kenny Fountain
I received my Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Scientific & Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota, focusing in visual studies of science, medicine, and technology.
Research & Teaching
My work involves the intersection of visual culture, science and technology studies, and rhetorical and cultural studies with a focus on visual and material representations of the anatomical body, technological imaginings of the biomedical body, as well as the social, cultural, and embodied practices involved in seeing and becoming that body. Through ethnographic, historical, and phenomenologically-oriented research, my work seeks to expand conventional notions of how we, as embodied subjects, use images and objects to construct social phenomena and ways of being in the world.
I have published articles in Medicine Studies and the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, and I have a co-authored chapter in Solving Problems in Technical Communication (eds. Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber, The University of Chicago Press).
Since coming to CWRU, I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses in visual rhetoric, scientific and technical communication, rhetoric of science and medicine, gender and queer studies, and new media studies as well as engineering communication and science-themed composition courses.
Rhetoric in the Flesh: Trained Vision, Technical Expertise, & the Gross Anatomy Lab
Through an analysis of fieldnotes, interviews, and photographic documentation conducted during yearlong fieldwork at one American medical school, I argue that anatomy education is a rhetorical endeavor. In particular, the gross anatomy lab is composed of two types of rhetorical demonstrations: (1) multimodal displays used to exhibit anatomical knowledge and (2) institutional discourses used to inculcate the values of anatomical study and medical science. These demonstrations of evidence and values correspond, respectively, to the ancient rhetorical notions of apodeixis (or displays of proof) and epideixis (or displays of cultural values). Together the apodeictic multimodal displays and epideictic verbal discourses induce in participants a trained perspective that shapes how they view both the anatomical body of medicine and the lived body of human experience.
This trained perspective—or trained vision—is the result of the participants’ bodily encounters with these multimodal objects (the atlas images, photographs, x-rays, and cadavers) and their repeated exposure to the epideictic discourses that laud cadavers as crucial to learning and eulogize the cadaveric donors as altruistic “gift-givers.” In order to learn, teach, and even communication anatomical knowledge, participants must recognize the anatomical body in the multimodal displays of the lab. They do this by learning how to view, touch, move, and even manipulate the various “bodies” of the lab—both the nonhuman displays which represent anatomy and those living and dead bodies that present anatomical structures. The participants’ abilities to engage physically and conceptually in these embodied activities of demonstrating, observing, and dissecting are fundamentally shaped by the rhetorical discourses that influence how students and teaching assistants work with and even feel about these complex objects.
In the gross anatomy lab, the development of technical knowledge and know-how, including medical professionals’ clinical detachment, coincides with the skillful use of and suasory force of apodeictic and epideictic rhetorical displays. Thus, as my research demonstrates, these professional dispositions are, in a significant way, rhetorically trained. By explicating the embodied practices and non-scientific rhetorics that enact the trained vision of medical professionals, Rhetoric in the Flesh contributes to our knowledge of how such trained vision—in any technical field—is acquired through formal training and informal socialization. This trained vision is constructed over time through what I call the embodied rhetorical actions of that domain, actions that make possible all scientific, medical, and technical practice, knowledge, and expertise. As such, there can be no technical and professional communication (TPC) without the embodied practices necessary to read, compose, and distribute rhetorical texts, objects, and discourses.