Rhetoric and History – Measure for Measure: Investigating Histories of Metrology and Modernity
230 | CCN: 78097
Instructor: Michael Wintroub
In this class we will take the measure of measure, from vision, to motion, to affect and emotion, on to time and the heavens and into the hidden recesses of the body. Sight was disciplined by perspective; motion was plotted and gauged; representation was organized and made to scale; language was given order; and man as a moral/political being was directed to live a measured—prudent—life. Number, measure, scale, time, perspective and proportion, how and why were they delineated, and by whom? How were they then extended as standards and norms, and what battles were fought before they were accepted as accurate, authoritative and true? We will read about the standardization of lines on the page as made possible by woodblock and engraving technologies; we will examine instruments of measure, whether made for surveying, navigating or plotting the night’s sky; we will investigate attempts to map language in grammars and rhetorics; we will study the material means by which one could weigh not only goods, but the trustworthiness of adversaries and “others”; we will follow the impulse to map as cartographers tried to make sense of the New Worlds being opened up by oceanic navigation and then follow cartographic expeditions through the human body; we will then think about how bodies themselves structured the measure of measure (feet, pounds, and inches), and in turn how they became objects of measure, to be disciplined by the dissection of the day into so many reliable “clockwork” parts. Chronologically we will spend the majority of our time in the early modern period; but we will also make smash and grab raids into the modern to steal methods and tools that might aid us on our journey.