SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric

Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric

Add to Cart

Edited by Michelle Ballif


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
248 pages, 6 x 9, 1 illustrations


Additional Materials

About the Book

 During the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, historians of rhetoric, composition, and communication vociferously theorized historiographical motivations and methodologies for writing histories in their fields. After this fertile period of rich, contested, and impassioned theorization, scholars busily undertook the composition of numerous historical works, complicating master narratives and recovering silenced voices and rhetorical practices. Yet, though historians in these fields have gone about the business of writing histories, the discussion of theorization has been quiet. In this welcome volume, fifteen scholars consider, once again, the theory of historiography, asking difficult questions about the purposes and methodologies of writing histories of rhetoric, broadly defined, and questioning what it means, what it should mean, what it could mean to write histories of rhetoric, composition, and communication.

The topics addressed include the privileging of the literary and the textual over material artifacts as prime sources of evidence in the study of classical rhetoric, the use of rhetorical hermeneutics as a methodology for interpreting past practices, the investigation of feminist methodologies that do not fit into the dominant modes of feminist historiographical work and the examination of archives with a queer eye to better construct nondiscriminatory narratives. Contributors also explore the value of approaching historiography through the lenses of jazz improvisation and complexity theory, and the historiographical method of writing the future in ways that refigure our relationships to time and to ourselves.           

Consistently thoughtful and carefully argued, these essays successfully revive the discussion of historiography in rhetoric, inspiring fresh avenues of exploration in the field.                                                 


Michelle Ballif is an associate professor of English at the University of Georgia. The managing editor of the journal Composition Forum, Ballif has published several books on the history of rhetoric, including Seduction, Sophistry, and the Woman with the Rhetorical Figure.

Contributors: Michelle Ballif, Sharon Crowley, Jessica Enoch, Richard Leo Enos, G. L. Ercolini, Pat J. Gehrke, Debra Hawhee, Byron Hawk, Steven Mailloux, LuMing Mao, Charles E. Morris III, Christa J. Olson, K. J. Rawson, Jane S. Sutton, Victor J. Vitanza


“This book renews in a powerful way the theoretical exploration of history writing in rhetorical studies. . . . The interdisciplinary reach of this volume spans rhetoric, composition, and communication, along with feminist studies, queer studies, and comparative cultural studies, along with interdisciplinary practices within these interdisciplinary and disciplinary units, from archeological practices to critical, hermeneutical, and philological practices, all theorized within rhetorical historiography. Anyone interested in the history, theory, and criticism of public discourse will find a great resource in the offerings of this volume.Rhetoric & Public Affairs

Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric opens wholly original questions, such as what is the appropriate scale of a rhetorical history, and what does it mean to think of rhetorical history with the future in mind? Through its embrace of rhetorical history’s disorder, Ballif’s collection at once provides models for how to represent suppressed and marginalized archives as well as occasions for reevaluating the cultural meaning of writing histories of all kinds.”—Composition Studies


“A lively Symposium that recalls Plato’s. Ballif’s casting is masterful. Readers will have no trouble seeing which character has the hiccups, which the sniffles, and which is telling the truth under the influence of philology.”—John Poulakos, University of Pittsburgh