chapter  5
Actio: A Rhetoric of Written Delivery
Pages 14

Rhetoric, said Cicero, is one great art composed of five lesser arts: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and actio. Invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery are the subdisciplines that go into making an oral speech. We in composition studies have successfully adapted the first three of Cicero's canons to written discourse, but the status of the last two, memory and delivery, has always been problematical. Writers are under different constraints than speakers, for whom the original canons were devised. Writers do not need the traditional mnemonic "art of memory" in order to recall their discourses, and the "art of delivery," usually associated with voice control, elocutionary histrionics, and gestures, seems equally out of place among the writer's skills. Other chapters in this book cover new conceptions of memoria that make it central to the writing task, but I carry no brief for it here. In this chapter I wish to examine the concept of actio as it relates to the writer. The canon of delivery has to do simply with the manner in which the material is delivered. In written discourse, this means only one thing: the format and conventions of the final written product as it reaches the hands of the reader.