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.