Erotema: A Conference on Rhetoric and Literature was held at Karlstad University, September 14–16, 2017
A conference on rhetoric and literature
Rhetoric, literature – what’s the difference? For hundreds of years, no one bothered to ask – literature was simply seen as a species of rhetoric. The two subjects were taught as one well into the nineteenth century (as witness text-books like David Williams’s 1850 Composition, Literary and Rhetorical, Simplified), but in response to shifting social demands and artistic practices, the study of literature was gradually separated from the study of rhetoric. For most of the twentieth century they have been seen as contrasting rather than complementary practices, as a rule organized as distinct departments in the academy.
Today, we find ourselves in a situation in which many of the reasons literature emerged as a distinct discipline in the first place no longer seem to apply. Like the humanities in general, literary studies at present face a series of challenges, of an external as well as of an internal nature. Books such as In Defense of a Liberal Education, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, and The Public Value of the Humanities make strikingly evident that the value of the liberal arts can no longer be taken for granted. Internal challenges meanwhile, include questions of what role literary studies can play in a global economy in which national boundaries no longer seem of principle importance, and distinctions between high and low culture long since have evaporated.
The time thus seems ripe to open the rhetorical question anew. Could rhetoric play a more central role in literary studies than it hitherto has? Do both fields stand something to gain by a closer collaboration? Might such a combination of perspectives even be a means to open up rhetoric and literary studies alike to other disciplines, such as media studies, language studies, art history and pedagogy?
Erotema: A Conference on Rhetoric and Literature proceeds on the assumption that even if questions of the above order to some of us may seem mere rhetorical questions – erotemata – they demand genuine answers. To that end, the conference will address old and new ways in which the relations between rhetoric and literature may be further explored.
Roy Eriksen (University of Agder, Norway) is Professor English Renaissance Literature and Culture. He is the author of The Building in the Text. Alberti to Shakespeare and Milton (2001) and the co-editor (with Toril Swan) of Rhetoric Across the Humanities (1999).
Xing Lu (DePaul University, USA) is the author of Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B. C. E.: A Comparison with Greek Rhetoric (1998), as well as Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Impacts on Chinese Thought, Culture, and Communication (2004). Her academic interests include Chinese rhetoric, comparative rhetoric, intercultural/multicultural communication, language and culture, cultural identity, and Asian American communication.
Richard Walsh (University of York, England) is the author of The Rhetoric of Fictionality, which develops a pragmatic rhetorical perspective to articulate a fundamental critique of some basic concepts and assumptions in narratology: the narrator, story and discourse, mimesis, voice, emotional involvement, narrative creativity and fictionality itself. His research has extended to film, graphic narrative, interactive media and music.
Andrzej Warminski (University of California, USA), is professor of English and a specialist in 'literary theory'--with the stress on the word (and the question of the) 'literary'--from Plato to the present. His two most recent books, Material Inscriptions: Rhetorical Reading in Practice and Theory and Ideology, Rhetoric, Aesthetics: For De Man (both 2013), document his interest in the question of reading, of language, and of the rhetorical dimension of language.
Laura Wilder (SUNY), is the author of Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies: Teaching and Writing in the Disciplines, which underscores the centrality of rhetoric also to the teaching of literature and other academic subjects. Throughout her research, Wilder explores the ways literary scholars, like other disciplinary specialists, tacitly share a distinct set of rhetorical strategies for effective argumentation which support the production of new knowledge, highlighting the often unacknowledged role of these argumentative conventions in the undergraduate literature classroom.
Erotema was organized by KuFo, the research group for culture studies at Karlstad University, and sponsored by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and Magnus Bergvalls Stiftelse.