“There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses.” (Raymond Williams, 1958)
In virtually every epoch of its history, rhetoric has understood the masses as a topoi of central concern. The “masses” has a history as fluid as “rhetoric” itself: in every age it has captured different ideas, been entangled with different politics, signaled different segments of the population, and intersected with rhetoric in historically specific ways.
The 2012 Symposium will focus on these intersections, seek to recapture the historically specific ways in which rhetoric and the masses have been articulated, and pay special attention to the political motives attending these articulations.
The Symposium seeks to understand rhetoric and its masses from as wide a perspective as possible. Appropriate topics include, but are not limited to: rhetorics both to and from the masses, anxieties about the hoi polloi and/or the dêmos, various understandings of “mass communication” and the technologies that underwrite them, propaganda studies, publicity, and the invocations of crowds, mobs, herds, classes, imagined communities, the people, publics, counter-publics, etc. Further, the Symposium welcomes attention to the anxieties that have historically attended invocations of the masses: contagions, vulgarity, disorder, devaluation, chaos, regimentation, etc.