Sunday, December 30, 2007

"The Responsibilities of Rhetoric," 13th Biennial Conference, Rhetoric Society of America, Seattle, May 23-26, 2008.

Seattle, the location of RSA 2008, by virtue of its identity and its imagery compels us to meditate together on the macroforces that are currently shaping our discipline and our democracy. Seattle means coffee and Boeing and the Port--all of them symbols of the international, globalized market economy and its attendant perils. Seattle means Microsoft and --megacorporations produced by and producing new (and sometimes vexing) communications technologies and practices. Seattle means "metronatural" life: REI (Recreation Equipment Inc.) and bicycles, eco-consciousness and the just-launched Puget Sound Partnership, urban spaces surrounded by Elliott Bay and Mt. Rainier--all of it a reminder of ecological challenges that must be negotiated through rhetoric. And Seattle means multiculturalism: the polyglot citizens who gather at Pike Place Market or Starbucks are African American and native American, Anglo and Asian, Latino and mestizo, native and immigrant. Let us come together in Seattle, therefore, to consider the Responsibilities of Rhetoric. How can the study and practice of rhetoric contribute to social progress? What does rhetoric offer as means of understanding and coping with globalization, particularly at a time when "global" is associated with "terror" and "exploitation"? What do rhetorical studies have to offer in a presidential election year when political discourses and popular fundamentalisms are polarizing, confrontational, divisive? How do new media affect civic participation and the conduct of argument half a century after The New Rhetoric, The Uses of Argument, and The Rhetoric of Motives? How can rhetorical studies contribute to scientific exchange, technology transfer, and risk management--all in the interest of public and disciplinary good, and particularly on environmental issues? In a nation suspicious of difference, concerned with security, and newly armed with snooping technologies, can rhetorical pedagogies nevertheless protect civil liberties, sustain civic cooperation, and promote understanding and identification? And how can our professional society be sure that our scholarly methodologies and assumptions are themselves highly ethical? While participants are invited to present their current research on all the topics that fall within the domain of rhetorical studies, the Program Committee will especially appreciate proposals that engage with the Responsibilities of Rhetoric. Plenary Speakers:
  • Charles Johnson One of the leading current American artists and public intellectuals, MacArthur Fellow Charles Johnson won the 1990 National Book Award for his novel Middle Passage. His most recent novel, Dreamer, and the title story of his short fiction collection Dr. King's Refrigerator both meditate on the career of Martin Luther King, Jr. Tentatively scheduled to speak at the spectacular Seattle Public Library, near the conference hotel.
  • David Zarefsky Owen L. Coon Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, past president of the National Communication Association and current president of RSA, David Zarefsky is the author of five books and the editor of many more, including President Johnson's War on Poverty and Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate. Tentatively scheduled to speak at the traditional conference luncheon.
  • Marc van der Poel A leading and prolific classicist and expert on Renaissance rhetoric who served for many years as editor of the massive Erasmus project, Professor van der Poel is currently Professor of Latin and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. His plenary presentation will be followed by a reception.

Some Additional Special Features:

Seminar led by Professor van der Poel on the meaning, development, and persistence of the "loci communes"—the so-called commonplaces of argument and rhetorical construction—in reading, speaking, and writing from classical times through the early modern period, from Aristotle to Vossius. Offered in cooperation with the International Society for the History of Rhetoric.

Plenary session and reception at the spectacular new Seattle Public Library.

Featured sessions organized by scholars such as Dexter Gordon (on the rhetoric of civil rights movements), Jeanne Fahnestock (rhetoric of science), Martin Medhurst (rhetoric of the 2008 presidential race), Michael Hogan (social movements), Susan Wells (publics theory), Steven Mailloux and Michael Leff (on inter-disciplinary collaborations among rhetoricians in English and communication studies), Barbara Warnick (rhetoric and new media), and John Lucaites and Robert Hariman (visual rhetoric).

Especially for graduate students:workshops, professional development seminars, networking opportunities, and a chance to share work in progress with these senior scholars: James Aune, Don Bialostosky, Patricia Bizzell, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Gregory Clark, Sharon Crowley, David Holmes, Michael Leff, Andrea Lunsford, Alisse Portnoy, and Edward Schiappa.

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