In this ASHR interview, I speak to Dr. Cory Geraths about his interest in reception history and queer and feminist historiographical methods. Dr. Geraths is Visiting Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at Wabash College. His research areas include classical rhetoric, rhetorics of gender and sexuality, Christian rhetoric, rhetorical historiography, and rhetorical pedagogies.
JL: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Cory. While we have both been a part of ASHR for a few years, I’ve never had the chance to learn about how you became interested in your current research projects: I appreciate having that chance now! Can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric? What initially drew you to the field?
CG: While completing my graduate degrees in Rhetoric at Penn State, I had the pleasure of taking courses from some of the foremost scholars in the history of rhetoric. Courses in feminist rhetorical history and historiography with Cheryl Glenn, on classical rhetoric with Michele Kennerly, and public memory with Stephen Browne (to name just a few examples) introduced me to the diversity of texts, methods, and questions that undergird scholarship on rhetoric’s histories. While these classes began to fashion my interest in the history of rhetoric, it was not until a series of research collaborations with Michele Kennerly—my doctoral adviser—that I became truly enraptured by the feminist power of historiographic recovery and the splendor of reception histories. The second of these projects was an expansion and extension of feminist rhetorical scholars’ recovery of Aspasia, a 5th-century BCE rhetor and pedagogue. Our essay, “Painted Lady: Aspasia in Nineteenth-Century European Art” (Rhetoric Review 35.3, 2016), explored Aspasia’s reception and diverse rhetorical depictions in British and French painting and lithography. This experience studying Aspasia—and coming to see her rhetoric in a new light via the multimodal media of art—was particularly instrumental in solidifying my commitment to the history of rhetoric.
In this latest ASHR interview, I speak with PhD Student Caroline Koons (Pennsylvania State University). Caroline studies the intersections of music and politics through a rhetorical lens. Her current research focuses on the uptake, circulation, and appropriations of popular American songs as they interact with religion, war, race, gender, and labor. Her writing on the “Battle Hymn” is published in the Southern Journal of Communication. She currently teaches Effective Speech and served as Editorial Assistant for Rhetoric & Public Affairs from 2013-2015.
Jordan Loveridge: Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview, Caroline! To start, can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric? What initially drew you to the field, and how would you describe your main research areas?
Caroline Koons: I was fascinated by history for most of my life, largely because it was so easy to get lost in the stories that people tell and pass on to others. In college I had a freshman seminar in rhetoric and politics, and talking to the professor (Dr. Jean Dehart), I expressed irritation with not being able to choose between writing, history, and communication. She suggested, much to my eternal gratitude, that rhetoric might be a field where I could do all three together. I liked it so much that I decided to pursue graduate school in rhetoric where I discovered I could fold in another one of my passions: music. Initially I was a straight up public-address person but I had a hard time ignoring the sound of people’s voices as a component in their ability to persuade and the songs that often accompanied platform orations. I started out with a seminar paper tracing the change in the Battle Hymn of the Republic and ended up expanding into my thesis and first publication. Since then I’ve taken a deep dive into sonic rhetoric and its immense overlaps throughout the history of rhetoric.
In this latest ASHR interview, I speak to Dr. Lucy Xing Lu about her upcoming keynote at the ASHR Symposium on Diversity and Rhetorical traditions, as well as her past publications on Chinese rhetorical traditions. Dr. Lu received her PhD in Rhetoric and Communication from the University of Oregon. Lu’s academic interests include Chinese rhetoric, comparative rhetoric, intercultural/multicultural communication, language and culture, cultural identity, and Asian American communication.
Jordan Loveridge: Thank you for agreeing to this interview–I’m excited to get a sneak peek at your keynote before the Symposium itself. Before we get to that, though, can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric? What initially drew you to the field?
Lucy Xing Lu: I become interested in the history of rhetoric when I was completing my doctoral program at the University of Oregon. I took a number of classes on the history of rhetoric and rhetorical theories from my professors. But after my first year in the program, I realized all we had read and learned in the readings were western rhetoric. Some scholars even claimed that rhetoric is only the property of the West. With curiosity and eagerness to find out if such claims were true, I began to read classical Chinese works and look for “Chinese rhetoric” or senses of rhetoric. I chose to do my dissertation on comparing ancient Chinese rhetoric and classical Greek rhetoric and later expanded it into a book titled Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B. C. E.: A Comparison with Greek Rhetoric published in 1998 by the University of South Carolina Press.
In this interview, I speak with former ASHR president Susan Jarratt about her new book manuscript on the Second Sophistic, the importance of foregrounding historiographical questions in historical research, and the enduring appeal of Sappho. Jarratt is professor emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin.
Jordan Loveridge: First of all, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Your book Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured was among the first that introduced me to the history of rhetoric as a discipline. Can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric? What initially drew you to the field, and how would you describe your main research areas?
Susan Jarratt: I came into the field through my experiences as a high school teacher of writing. In the 70s I taught high school in San Antonio, Texas, and many of my students were struggling with academic English. During my Master’s program at the University of Texas at San Antonio, I was introduced to the then-new ideas about teaching writing as a process; they completely changed my approach to writing students. At the same time, I took a course in literary theory including works by Plato and Aristotle. I was drawn to ancient Greek culture and ideas about language. When I got into the PhD program at the University of Texas at Austin, these two experiences came together under the heading of “rhetoric.” In that program it was possible to connect composition, the history of rhetoric, and literary theory and criticism through the brilliance and generosity of an amazing faculty. Returning to the Greeks in James Kinneavy’s course in classical rhetoric I had an urge to somehow get behind Plato and Aristotle. Professor Kinneavy aimed me toward the first sophists, and they became the subject of my dissertation and first book. I love the way their very diverse writings raise questions about language and power, the consequences of unquestioned cultural stories, the ethics and techniques of teaching, and the pleasure of artistry and play.
Jordan Loveridge: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Martin. I’m familiar with your work on Augustine and also your recent work on textual interpretation, which led me to wonder how you formed connections between those topics. Can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric?
Martin Camper: My interest in the history of rhetoric is partly motivated by my interest in religious rhetoric, specifically, Christian rhetoric. In the West, the history of the rhetorical tradition intersects quite frequently with the history of Christianity, and I find those intersections fascinating. My first published article, which appeared in Advances in the History of Rhetoric in 2013 and was a version of a paper I wrote my first semester of graduate school, looks at Augustine’s discussion of the stylistic qualities of clarity and obscurity in De doctrina Christiana. Responding to previous scholarship that often claims that Augustine is largely parroting Cicero, I show how Augustine innovates ancient style theory in the context of the interpretation and preaching of the Bible. That was the beginning of my journey studying the history of rhetoric and its intersections with Christianity.