ASHR Interview: Susan Jarratt on Historiography and the Second Sophistic

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.

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ASHR Interview: Martin Camper on Rhetoric and Textual Interpretation

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.

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Interview: Kathleen Lamp on the History of Rhetoric

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?

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Meet the New Editor of Advances in the History of Rhetoric—Ned O’Gorman

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.

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Welcome! From the New ASHR President, Scott Stroud

Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza

I am honored to assume the role of President of the American Society for the History of Rhetoric at such an exciting time. ASHR has grown into an independent and strong organization, boasting hundreds of members, and is poised for further expansion. It has always been a place for younger scholars and established scholars to mix, and I am proud to be part of such a welcoming and rigorous group. Making the success of ASHR possible, of course, is the long line of dedicated leaders we’ve been lucky to have. Most recently, Ned O’Gorman, Dave Tell, Susan Jarratt, and Kathleen Lamp have all pushed ASHR to be an even better place to study the history of rhetoric.

Read moreWelcome! From the New ASHR President, Scott Stroud