ASHR Interview: Krista Klocke

In this interview, I speak to Krista Klocke, a PhD student in Rhetoric and Professional Communication with a teaching assistantship in the Public Speaking Program at Iowa State University. Klocke’s paper, “Sacred Kairos and Secular Chronos: Angelina Grimke’s Negotiation of the Temporal and Eternal in the ‘Pennsylvania Hall Address,'” was the recipient of the 2018 ASHR Student Paper Award

Loveridge: Thank you for taking part in this interview, Krista! We are thrilled to have the chance for ASHR members to learn more about your work and your award-winning paper. Before we get to the paper itself. can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric broadly? 

Klocke: My interest in the history of rhetoric was initially sparked by a course I took in my freshman year of college at Iowa State University.  The course was an overview of great speakers and speeches in American history and was team-taught by a group of professors in the Speech Communication program.   Seeing their passion for the topic was energizing, and understanding the rhetorical theory behind the success of a variety of speeches was eye-opening. The class made me feel as if I was gaining an understanding of why history had happened and like the world was opening up with new meaning!  As a new graduate student a few years ago, one of the first classes I took was a history of rhetoric course that focused on classical times.  I’m so thankful for the solid grounding in theory and vocabulary I gained in that course, because it has been a firm foundation for my subsequent coursework and research.  As a rhetorical scholar, three of my favorite classical rhetorical concepts are time (chronos/kairos), appropriateness (decorum), and place, and I have revisited these theories in many of my projects through their application to artifacts of public address and current issues.

L: Why do you think the history of rhetoric an important area of study for rhetorical theory, communication, rhetoric and composition, etc. more broadly? Why does the history of rhetoric matter today? 

K: I believe that the history of rhetoric is the underpinning of all communication-related fields and holds contemporary relevance and importance.  One of my favorite parts of graduate school has been teaching the basic public speaking course, Speech Communication 212, at Iowa State University.  As a graduate instructor for Speech Communication 212, I have weekly interactions with up to 48 students each semester.  As I teach, I always keep in mind that Speech Communication 212 will probably be the only class on rhetoric that most students will ever take.  In each class session, I strive to communicate my passion for rhetoric and help my students contextualize the value of rhetoric in their lives.  Through my teaching, I try to demonstrate to my students the connection between how the public speaking skills they need to succeed in class are applicable to their personal and professional lives.  I communicate to my students that some of the most basic building blocks of rhetorical theory – ethos, pathos, logos, and Aristotle’s strategies of persuasion, are still vital both in the public speaking classroom and in the function of a democratic society.  Understanding lessons from the history of rhetoric and applying them to current events, especially to political campaigns and proceedings, can give students the necessary tools they need to evaluate the persuasive messages they absorb.  One of the greatest continuing gifts from the history of rhetoric is that of how to be critical consumers of discourse and how to see what is going on under the surface.  Using classical concepts from rhetoric, I like to lead my students through discussions and activities to sharpen their faculties of observing the “available means of persuasion,” as well as the persuasive messages they are consuming every day.  

L: Perhaps we could transition to talking about your paper. Can you tell us about your award-winning project? What led you to focus on this topic and ask these questions? 

K: My Master’s thesis was centered on the only surviving speech of Angelina Grimke which was delivered in 1838 in Pennsylvania Hall (her Pennsylvania Hall Address).  Grimke was a strong abolitionist and her feminist perspective pre-dated the suffrage movement.  She spoke at the dedication of Pennsylvania Hall in 1838, which was built for abolitionist efforts, and was burned down by an angry mob on the fourth day of its dedication ceremonies (an interesting element of place).  Grimke faced censure as a woman speaking in the 19th century, rhetorically referred to as indecorum (not doing what is culturally expected or appropriate).  The first time I read this speech was in my freshman year of college, and I was enthralled by its power and the way in which Grimke negotiated such a tricky confluence of saying the right thing in the right place at the right time.  In my first semester of graduate school, I was trying to think of an appropriate artifact to examine for a seminar paper concentrating on concepts of time and decorum, and I realized that the Pennsylvania Hall Address was a perfect fit.  This initial paper later grew into my thesis project, from which this article project emerged.

In my thesis, I examined Grimke’s indecorous speech as a response to a moral crisis (slavery), arguing that although she faced social disapproval, her indecorous response was justified by the larger moral situation, and that Grimke crafted an ultimately successful speech based on how she used kairos as a sense of the right time to affect change and through her use of Biblical allusions.  My project, titled “Sacred Kairos and Secular Chronos: Angelina Grimke’s Negotiation of the Temporal and Eternal in the ‘Pennsylvania Hall Address,’” is a further development of my thesis and combines two of my rhetorical loves: the interaction of time and place, and their influence on rhetorical address.  In my research, I am continuing to expand my application of the concepts of kairos, place, and decorum, and I am planning on using them to guide my dissertation research.  I hope to focus my dissertation on the impacts of the Dakota Access Pipeline project on Iowa farmers who had their land affected by the construction process.  

L: My last and always favorite questions! Who is one of your favorite figures from the history of rhetoric, and why? 

K: Because of my love of teaching, I think I am particularly drawn to historical figures who were not only rhetorical theorists, but also teachers who made pedagogy a focus of their writings.  For this reason, Isocrates is one of my favorite classical figures because of the way in which he was deeply pragmatic about the uses of rhetoric (like a Sophist) while still concentrating on cultivating a standard of ethical behavior in the rhetorician (like a Platonist), all while thinking of himself as a philosopher.  Whenever I discuss the role of ethos in rhetoric and public speaking with my students, I always like to share one of my favorite quotes from Isocrates’s Antidosis, “…the argument which is made by a [person’s] life is of more weight than that which is furnished by words.”  I love Isocrates’s deeper lesson in this quote – each rhetorician has a responsibility to embody ethics in speaking.  This lesson is so important to share with the next generation of citizens, and I strive to model this philosophy to my students through my teaching.  

About the Author: Jordan Loveridge is Assistant Professor of Communication and English at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He earned his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Arizona State University, focusing specifically on medieval rhetoric. His work appears in venues such as Rhetoric Society QuarterlyRhetoricaPhilosophy and RhetoricCommunity Literacy Journal, and Advances in the History of Rhetoric.