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

ROXANNE MOUNTFORD University of Arizona


Making and Unmaking the Prospects for Rhetoric

"We have rights over the words that make and unmake the world." -- Guillaume Apollinaire

If this book were to be dedicated to a god, that god would be Janus, the god of gates and passages who looks forward and back. Commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Prospect of Rhetoric's publication, the essays in this volume, originally presented at the 1996 Meeting of the Rhetoric Society of America, illustrate a discipline at odds over the future. Like the participants of the January 1970 Wingspread Conference and May 1970 National Conference on Rhetoric that produced The Prospect of Rhetoric, 1996 RSA conferees were asked to present their vision of rhetoric studies or to demonstrate what rhetoric studies could be by example. Perhaps the most surprising event of the conference was the first plenary session, in which Lloyd F. Bitzer and Edwin Black withdrew aspects of the revolution they began in 1971.

These proceedings occur at a watershed moment for rhetoric. Other fields, motivated by questions of self-representation and the status of knowledge, have discovered rhetorical criticism and begun to study rhetoric through fresh disciplinary perspectives. The new anthology on rhetoric, Rhetoric: Concepts, Definitions, Boundaries by William A. Covino and David A. Jolliffe, illustrates this trend. Included in the volume are essays written by and for scholars in other disciplines but which Covino and Jolliffe classify within rhetoric studies (e.g., bell hooks, "Culture to Culture: Ethnography and Cultural Studies as Critical Intervention"). Another anthology that shows the inroads of rhetoric into other disciplines is Bender and Wellbery's The Ends of Rhetoric: History, Theory, and Practice, based on a Stanford University Comparative Literature conference in 1987. The collection treats rhetoric as "a universal of literary production and reception" that allows comparative literature scholars to link their work, through rhetoric, to an "interdisciplinary matrix that touches on such fields as philosophy, linguistics, communication studies, psychoanalysis, cognitive science, sociology, anthropology, and political theory" (vii-viii). Rhetorical theory and criticism is now a substantive part of the work of such varied scholars as Emily Martin (medical anthropologist) and James Clifford (historian), prominent scholars in their disciplines.

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