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 Rhetoricpublished in 1998 by the University of South Carolina Press.
JL: Your keynote is titled “Contestation of Rhetoric within the Chinese Traditions: An Overview of Confucian Moralistic Rhetoric, Daoist Transcendental Rhetoric, and Mohist Utilitarian Rhetoric.” Could you tell our members a little about the talk? What is the main argument?
LXL: Sure. Within the Chinese rhetorical tradition, there are different schools of thoughts during the period of 500-200 B.C.E. Confucianism, Daoism, and Mohism are three major different philosophical schools. Each school addressed the use of language and the art of rhetoric from a different perspective. Confucian rhetoric placed more emphasis on being an ethical speaker. Only a moral person can speak morally, similar to Quintilian’s definition of rhetoric as “A good man speaking well.” Daoist rhetoric, on the other hand, treats rhetoric as a tool that leads to enlightenment. The ultimate goal of using rhetoric is to forget about rhetoric, but speaking spontaneously and harmoniously without engaging in contentious arguments with others. Mohist rhetoric believed in mutual love and mutual benefits, similar to the western notion of social contract. It gives a more practical outlook of life. My main argument is that Chinese rhetorical tradition is not monolithic. There are differentvoices and types of discourse on the conceptualization and practicesof rhetoric in the same time period. These different emphases on the functions of rhetoric provide alternative possibilities of human imagination and activities in various aspects of human life.
JL: Your talk certainly seems to align with your research from your first book. Yet, you have also published on many more contemporary topics. Could you tell us a bit more about your current research projects? Do they relate to or build from your previous work or your keynote, or are they focused on more recent periods?
LXL: My third book Rhetoric of Mao Zedong: Transforming China and Its Peoplewas published last year by the University of South Carolina Press. So I have studied Chinese rhetoric in the ancient time and in the contemporary time period. I’d like to study Chinese rhetoric during China’s Middle Ages period and rhetoric during the Republic of China (1911-1949). These projects will be a huge undertaking, but such works would give the western readers (as I will write them in English) a more complete sense of the history of Chinese rhetoric and how rhetoric of each period has influenced other time periods, how it has transformed society, and impacted ways of Chinese thinking and speaking. These projects could offer insights to the history of rhetoric for humanities in general and enrich multicultural rhetoric in particular. These projects will take a long time to complete and will definitely relate to my previous works
JL: These all sound like important and fascinating projects. As a scholar focused on the European Middle Ages, I’m especially interested in the projection you mentioned on China’s Middle Ages period. Given your work in so many areas, what advice would you give to a graduate student beginning work in the history of rhetoric?
LXL: The history of rhetoric is multifaceted and can be found in many traditions and cultural practices. Do not take existing theories and claims as the ultimate truth. Have the curiosity to challenge them. Go into historical and original texts for the interpretation of meanings rather than generating further bias or stereotypes of a culture based on other people’s works and claims. It’s always beneficial to be bilingual or have a co-author who speaks and reads the language and culture you are studying. Work hard and seek mentors or people who have done similar kind of work for support.
JL: Great advice! Finally, who is one of your favorite figures from the history of rhetoric?
LXL: I would say Plato who saw both the negative and positive aspects of rhetoric and who laid the foundation for rhetorical studies in the West. I also admire Zhuangzi, a Daoist philosopher, whose rhetoric is illuminating and filled with insights and wisdom for life.
About the Interviewer: 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 rhetorics. His work appears in venues such as Philosophy and Rhetoric, Community Literacy Journal, and Advances in the History of Rhetoric.
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.
In the first of a series of interviews profiling ASHR members, I speak with Dr. Kathleen Lamp about her research, her experiences with the organization, the relationship between rhetoric and architecture, and why the Roman Emperor Augustus should be considered an important figure in the history of rhetoric. Dr. Lamp, Associate Professor of Rhetoric at Arizona State University, is the immediate past president of ASHR. She is also the author of A City of Marble: The Rhetoric of Augustan Rome.
Jordan Loveridge: First off, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. To start, could 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?
The American Society for the History of Rhetoric is excited to announce Ned O’Gorman as the editor-elect for our journal, Advances in the History of Rhetoric. Ned is a professor of communication at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has published widely on topics at the intersections of the history of rhetoric, media studies, and political thought. Ned has also served admirable as a former president of ASHR. He will surely continue the great work that Arthur Walzer and the other past editors have done.