Rhetoric Studies Tweuty-Five Years Ago and the Origius of ASHR

James J. Murphy
2003 Journal for the History of Rhetoric  
A ASHR reaches its first quarter-century, It might be interesting to lookback at its origins, and the state ofrhetorical studies at that time. Jwenty five yearsago there was very hnle cooperation or even acknowledgement among students ofrhetoric. There were in fact few histories, andnotmanyhistorical studies of individuals or works. There were no associations to bring together likeminded researchers from a variety nffields. The mainline humanistic journals like PML4 , the journal ofthe Modem
more » ... guage Association, had no space for rhetoric. In fact, when I submnred an article on "Chaucer and the Rhetoricians" to PML4 in the mid-11}(j()' s, the reviewer wrote that "rhetoric is nota subject andif it were a subject it could not be studied." Rhetorical study in America was confined largely to the journal and conventions of the Speech Communication Association (now National Communication sssoc tauon), and occasional articles in other speech journals, especially regional journals like Western Speech. But speech people did not mingle with Englishcomposition people, norwith philosophers, social scientists, logicians, or literarypeople. At least one effort was made to establish a separate, independent rhetoric organization which would accommodate persons from a variety of disciplines. Eight speech people held a meeting in New York in themid 1%{}'s during anseA. convention. The group drew up plans, Carroll Arnold and Thomas Olbricht offered to contact Pennsylvania State Urnversity Press to see if it would be interested in publishing the journal of the projected new association. The organizational plans fell through, but the journal project went mead -the Penn State journal Philosophy and Roetoric is now in its thirty-fourth year. 'The journal expanded the interest area of rhetoric, but otherwise thesituation remained thesame as before, The change in this situation began over coffee. And it began in Europe. In the summer of lQ76, theInternational Association for Neo-Latin Studies held a meeting in Tours, France, Among itsmanysessions was oneon Renaissance rhetoric. I had just recently published Rbetonc in tbeMiddIR Ages: Rhetorical Theoryfrom Augustine to the Renaissance (California, 1974), andI tooktheoccasion of theTours meeting to read a paper lamenting the absence of a history of Renaissance rhetoric. In my naivete, while writing about medieval rhetoric, I thought I could just swtng over to the library after that book was published and start reading the history of the next time period. This was, ofcourse, impossible -andremains impossible to this day. My complaint at Tours found a ready response from the audience, Afte r my talk four ofus went around thecomerfor coffee: Brian Vickers ofZurich; Marc Pumaroli and Alain Mil..ilel ofParis, and myself. (This was also my introduction to hi-lingual cofee conversation'] Basically we agreed that rhetoric was important enough to merit its
doi:10.5325/jhistrhetoric.6.1.0001 fatcat:o7lzipc3pbg5hhxm6kfl5ldkfa