Making and Unmaking the Prospects for Rhetoric: Selected Papers from the 1996 Rhetoric Society of America Conference

By Theresa Enos; Richard McNabb et al. | Go to book overview

LLOYD F. BITZER

Emeritus, University of Wisconsin


Rhetoric's Prospects: Past and Future

During the past few weeks, I reread The Prospect of Rhetoric, and then I opened a box that had been closed for twenty-five years. The files in that box contain hundreds of pages -- memos, letters, drafts of proposals, reports, notes, and minutes of meetings, all related to The National Developmental Project on Rhetoric, the project that produced The Prospect of Rhetoric. Documents in the files concern planning the Project, funding it, designing the format of its two conferences, selecting participants, planning the book and its title, and the like.

The Prospect of Rhetoric has a history that can be expressed serially, in the fashion of "This is the house that Jack built." Here is the volume. (1) But, in the beginning was a 1968 memo written by Donald C. Bryant, calling for a national interdisciplinary conference on rhetoric. (2) That memo prompted positive action by the Research Board and Administrative Committee of the Speech Communication Association. (3) That favorable action led to formation of a planning committee, of which I was a member and the chair. (4) The committee met, deliberated, and created a proposal submitted by SCA to the National Endowment for the Humanities. (5) As a result of that proposal, NEH provided major funding, supplemented by a grant from the Johnson Foundation of Racine, Wisconsin, and another from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. (6) Because of the grants, the essays that appear in the book were commissioned and two conferences were held-the Wingspread Conference, which convened the authors of the essays, and later the Pheasant Run Conference, which convened twenty-three scholars. (7) Those commissioned essays prompted hours of deliberation at both conferences and influenced the reports and recommendations fashioned at Pheasant Run. (8) Because of those papers, reports, and recommendations, the editors received materials for a volume. (9) The editors did their work. (10) Lastly, in 1971 Prentice-Hall published The Prospect of Rhetoric: Report (of the National Developmental Project.

This is a proper occasion for a brief expression of gratitude to the persons most responsible for the Project and the volume: Donald C. Bryant, University of Iowa, whose 1968 memo proposed such a project; Jack Matthews, University of Pittsburgh, who as chair of the SCA Research Board requested formation of the planning committee; members of the planning committee -- Carroll Arnold, Pennsylvania State, Gerry Miller, Michigan State, and James J. Murphy,

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