Update: Please note that Page duBois will join the visiting faculty for this year’s institute.
Summer Institute: Political Thought and Rhetoric in the Classical World
A one-week seminar for graduate students will be offered at Northwestern University, July 14-18, 2008. The seminar, directed by Professors Keith Topper and Dilip Gaonkar, will consist of five days of presentations and discussions led by a distinguished group of visiting faculty, all of whom have made important scholarly contributions to the study of rhetoric and the history of ancient political thought. In this year’s seminar, we will pay particular attention to the interplay of rhetoric and political theory among key thinkers in the classical era: Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and others. The visiting faculty will include Joy Connolly (New York University), Page duBois (University of California, San Diego), Jill Frank (University of South Carolina), and Bernard Yack (Brandeis University). Each faculty member will deliver an afternoon lecture, lead a seminar discussion on selected readings (assigned in advance) the following morning, and attend a colleague’s presentation that afternoon. The overlapping format enables both student and faculty participants to continue informal scholarly discussion during group lunches and dinners.
This year’s theme, “Political Thought and Rhetoric in the Classical World,” will further extend the inquiries that organized our 2007 summer seminar, “Rhetoric and the Roots of Modern Political Thought: Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau.” In that seminar, we investigated historically the conjuncture between rhetoric and political theory, looking closely at the work of four political theorists—Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau—who fundamentally altered the development of modern political thought. While grounded in the historical approach that animated our 2007 inquiries, the 2008 seminar will alter the temporal focus of those inquiries. In particular, we will examine the rhetorical dimensions of political thought and the political dimensions of rhetoric in ancient Greece and Rome, where the arts of rhetoric and the figure of the rhetor first originated. Indeed, it is during this period that rhetoric became closely associated with political discourse in the Greek polis and Roman republic. Yet from the very beginning this association was not simply articulated and defended, but was also scrutinized, challenged, and recast in strikingly provocative ways. As a result, the classical period provides a unique opportunity to explore the complex relationship between rhetoric and political life as it emerged in its infancy and early development. By looking at the rhetorical structure of key texts of ancient political thought and by attending to classical views of the nature, value, and limitations of rhetoric in public deliberation we hope to shed light on a wide variety of important issues: issues about the role of passion and emotion in political discourse, the character of ethical and political judgment, the impact of rhetorical practices on the formation of civic identity, the significance of diverse understandings of “rhetoric,” “politics,” and “the classical,” and the forms of public discourse and types of communicative practices that variously enrich and impoverish political discussion in democratic and republican polities.
The summer seminar will also provide a platform for developing future work on a variety of closely related themes. These include a major conference that will be held at Northwestern University in April or May 2009 and an edited book.
The seminar is sponsored by the Center for Global Culture and Communication and the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. The Center will subsidize transportation (up to $250), provide lodging, and cover some meals for admitted students. Applicants should send a letter of nomination from their academic advisor, along with a one-page rationale for their participation, to Professor Keith Topper (firstname.lastname@example.org). The deadline for receipt of applications is May 25th. Inquiries should be directed to Sara VanderHaagen (email@example.com).
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