Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Toward a Natural Rhetoric: How the Bonobos Do It

Mark Wagner.

Human language shares common possibilities and functions and forms of communication with the language of many animals. In venturing out to discover what these common forms are, we have to resist hearing in these forces a symphony of nature, or song of nature, as some animals communicate simply by a pulse or by shooting a dye or scratching a hole in the ground and sweating in to it. This is not symphonic. On the other hand some social animals exhibit high degrees of eloquence and efficiency in their communication. I believe working toward a Natural Rhetoric by studying the Bonobo Chimpanzees, we can learn a great deal about how humans communicate and or fail to communicate through language.

Along the Olentangy: So it was a late winter morning in 2004, in what was the coldest winter since 1882, I first met Susie’s troop of 15 healthy bonobos in a zoo on the banks on the Olentangy River north of Columbus, Ohio. . . .


Mark Wagner  (United States)
Visiting Assistant Professor
Nichols College, Dudley MA, USA

Mark Wagner is a poet, author, journalist, musician and instructor. His first book of poetry, A Cabin in a Field, appeared on Mellen Poetry Press in May of 2001. He lives on a small farm in Dudley Massachusetts with collage artist Monica Elefterion and their son Myles.


(30 min. Conference Paper, English)