Nathan Stormer

Nathan Stormer

Bailey Professor of Speech & Theatre
University of Maine

I am currently writing a book on medical rhetoric about abortion from the nineteenth century to the 1960s in the United States, Sign of Pathology.   I am tracing how harm from abortion was developed into a metric for placing the nation in time, essentially as a site for memory and forgetfulness.  That abortion is pathognomic is key to this.  I argue that the ability to situate a community in terms of progress by virtue of how it manages abortion control is the basis by which abortion has been weaponized for cultural conflict.

key words to describe work

Abortion, materiality, history of rhetoric, philosophy of rhetoric

Work in relation to symposium keywords

Methods and theory are the words that relate most to my work.

I wanted to historicize medical rhetoric on abortion as it emerged from practice, without assuming what rhetoric was to start with.  I needed to think about how to do that methodologically.

I am interested in how rhetoric is material, which means that the history I writer is heavily contextualized by theory.

Participation Questions

  • How would you describe the relationship between medical rhetoric/health communication (however you see yourself) with other fields and sub-fields (e.g., rhetoric of science)?  For example, we struggled with what to name the symposium.  Some suggested medical rhetoric, but that doesn’t comfortably fit some from Communication nor from English Studies.  In other words, how do you align what may be a specific focus with broader disciplinary concerns and tensions?

Again, I don’t normally think about this kind of issue.  I would go so far as to say I am actively disinterested in thinking about it.  I don’t see any real necessary distinctions or ones that hold general value as it all depends on this or that orientation and historical arrangement of forces and elements.  Disciplining a set of research projects that are interdisciplinary does not work to me.  I approach research on a project basis, not a disciplinary basis.

  • What research challenges have you experienced and how did you solve them?  Choose to focus on one or two specific examples that can help the group develop strategies for overcoming these types of challenges.

1) I wanted to understand the materiality of medically induced abortion and its relevance to discourse.   To accomplish that, I had to leave behind the broad orientation of rhetoric as persuasive and think more about rhetoric ontologically.

2) I needed to come to terms with statistical discourse, which my training had taught me to treat secondarily or as a device.  I also did not want to consider stats’ persuasive value as producing conviction has not been my focus.  So I had to start to think of enumeration relative to the materiality of morbidity.

  • What are some of the most pressing questions in health and healthcare that health communication/medical rhetoric scholars can help answer?

Once more, a bit strange for me as I don’t study what healthcare sees as its problems.  I do not do research designed to improve the delivery of healthcare.  For me, the relation of well being to place and identity is critically important to the role that medicine plays in politics and the regulation of life.  Finding ways to protect ourselves is critical to politics and it is impossible to think of self-protection without some level of medicalized engagement anymore.

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