Saturday, September 19, 2009

69. RSA Supersession Proposal

Rethinking Modernity and Modernism for Rhetorical Studies

Coordinator: David Beard (UM-Duluth)(
Presenters (40 minutes):
The Writing Studies Perspective (20 minutes):
• Debra Hawhee, PSU & Richard Graff, UM-TC
• Marguerite Helmers, UW-Oshkosh
The Communication Studies Perspective (20 minutes):
• William Keith, UW-Milwaukee
• James Aune, TAMU
Counter-Points (15 minutes):
• Michael Pfau, UM-Duluth (Political Theory, Rhetoric and Modernism)
• Joshua Gunn, U-TX (Critical Theory, Rhetoric and Modernism)
Respondent (10 minutes):
• Pat Gehrke, U-South Carolina
Discussants (Participants in the Modernism/Modernity & Rhetoric Colloquium, 2009)
• Elizabeth Nelson, UM-Duluth
• Tyler Buckley, UW-Milwaukee
• David Gore, UM-Duluth
• Eden Leone, BGSU
• Joe Erickson, BGSU
• Gina Ercolini, PSU
• Mark Huglen, UM-Crookston
• John Logie, UM-TC
(Discussants will not present at the SuperSession, but will be present to participate in the discussion and advance work on the relationship between rhetoric and modernism)

Goal: This panel offers a provocative selection of position papers and an innovative interactive session for the rethinking of the terms “Modernity” and “Modernism” for rhetorical studies across the disciplinary divide between composition and communication.

Rhetorical studies, as an interdisciplinary enterprise between Communication and Composition faculty, can be envisioned as a kind of three-legged stool.
• We build our work on the classical tradition.
• We respond to contemporary (postmodern) pressures common to the humanities in the university.
• We have our own histories as a modern, 20th century interdiscipline.
This panel builds on the substantial scholarship in the first two areas (reflections on the classical tradition and the postmodern response in rhetorical studies) to bring the third leg of the stool to the lathe: reflection on rhetoric’s place as a modern enterprise.

Major contact points across the disciplines that constitute rhetorical studies (the Prospect of Rhetoric volume to arise from Wingspread, the Rhetorical Hermeneutics volume by Gross and Keith, the Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition volume by Graff, Atwill and Walzer, and the ARS conference in Evanston, among others) have yielded opportunities to rethink our common intellectual projects. We have responded, collectively, to the postmodern theories (critical theory, cultural studies and post-structural thought). And we have found a common tradition of value in our classical antecedents.

Nonetheless: while we have histories of rhetorical studies in the modern era (Thomas Miller, Nan Johnson, William Keith, Robert Connors), these histories recover much of the material history of rhetorical studies in the modern period without an emphasis on a nuanced grasp of the tensions between rhetorical studies and the sociology and philosophy of modernity. A shared, common articulation of rhetorical studies under the conditions of modernity has not yet been developed across the interdisciplinary divide that separates communication and composition.

Project: This Supersession proposal continues a collaborative dialogue as an attempt to define rhetorical studies under the conditions of modernity. The dialogue begins at a colloquium in Minneapolis in October 2009, where the participants address this question in an intensive two-day event. That dialogue brings rhetorical studies into productive conversation with social theorists (Anthony Giddens, Bruno Latour), philosophers (Berman, Toulmin), art historians (Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Mark Jarzombek) and literary critics (Astradur Eysteinsson, Vassiliki Kolocotroni) who find modernity to be a useful lens for critical work while recognizing the polysemy of the term. Part of the work of the Supersession is to clarify what is meant by “modern” rhetorical theory, pedagogy and practice.

Questions about this proposal should be directed to:
David Beard (

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