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Special Issue 2017, 47.3, pages 229-237

Feral Rhetoric: Common Sense Animals and Metaphorical Beasts

Abstract: The humanist tradition of rhetoric has historically emphasized differences rather than similarities between humans and nonhuman animals. Attending to similarities between humans and other species is considered anthropomorphic; however, avoiding similarities is anthropocentric. Using case studies of feral children, this essay attends to the way similarities may be constituted across differences, particularly in cases where wolves domesticate human children. Domestication is the constitution of common sense. Aristotle theorizes common sense as an interspecies capacity, while Cicero contends it is innately human. The humanist tradition has favored Cicero’s rendering. This essay works through the consequences of this adoption and concludes by speculating on Aristotle’s notion of common sense as zoomorphism, a form of animal troping.