An Annotated Bibliography of Global and Non-Western Rhetorics: Sources for Comparative Rhetorical Studies

Edited by
Anne Melfi, Nicole Khoury, and Tarez Samra Graban

With contributions authored by
Brian Adam, San Jose State University
Leonora Anyango, Community College of Allegheny County
Tyler Carter, Duke Kunshan University
Lance E. Cummings, University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Stephen Kwame Dadugblor, University of Texas at Austin
Rasha Diab, University of Texas at Austin
Dan Jerome Dirilo, San Jose State University
Tarez Samra Graban, Florida State University
Elif Guler, Longwood University
Nicole Khoury, University of California, Irvine
Uma S. Krishnan, Kent State University
Keith S. Lloyd, Kent State University at Stark
Abbie McGarvey, San Jose State University
Anne Melfi, Independent Scholar
Michael Pfirrmann, San Jose State University
Amanda Presswood, Florida State University
Maria Prikhodko, DePaul University
Alexis Rocha, San Jose State University
Jason Sharier, Kent State University at Stark
Amber Sylva, San Jose State University
Erin Cromer Twal, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Saveena (Chakrika) Veeramoothoo, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Ben Vevoda, San Jose State University
Xiaobo Wang, Sam Houston State University
Hui Wu, University of Texas at Tyler
Michelle Zaleski, Marymount University


We wish to acknowledge the members of the Global & Non-Western Rhetorics Standing Group of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), who, in 2016, began to crowd-source one central bibliography, from which we drew many of the sources that have been annotated here. Since that time, development and completion of this bibliography have been a community effort. We wish to thank graduate students in the History of Rhetoric graduate seminar at San Jose State University who contributed entries to developing the bibliography. In addition to the contributors listed above, who coauthored many of our over 200 entries, the editors are grateful to Iklim Goksel, Arabella Lyon, LuMing Mao, Priya Sirohi, Adnan Salhi, Shakil Rabbi, Ryan Skinnell, and Liz Angeli and Matt Cox for their enthusiastic support of this project. 


I. Re/Defining the Historical Moment

The “Annotated Bibliography of Global and Non-Western Rhetorics” bears witness to a robust literature that is not so much new as it has been emerging for several decades under one of several monikers: “comparative,” “global,” and/or “non-Western.” At the same time, this particular project emerges at the intersection of two recent conversations that reflect a need to look deliberately and categorically at how the monikers have evolved. 

The first conversation occurred at the 2013 Rhetoric Society of America biennial Institute, where participants of the “Comparative Rhetoric” seminar produced a Manifesto that offered a blueprint for comparative rhetorical work in the current historical moment, revisiting its operational definition(s), considering its (new) objects of study, articulating its critical goals, and reflecting on its variant methodologies. The 2013 Manifesto, and subsequently its 2015 publication in Rhetoric Review, made several disciplinary assertions: that comparative rhetoric could be defined as a rhetoric that “examines communicative practices across time and space by attending to historicity, specificity, self-reflexivity, processual predisposition, and imagination”; that the objects of its study “have significant ethical, epistemic, and political orientations,” including practices originating in non-canonical texts or practices that “have often been marginalized, forgotten, dismissed . . . and/or erased altogether”; that one of its principal goals is to “embrace different ‘grids of intelligibility’ or different terms of engagement for opening new rhetorical times, places, and spaces”; and that its principal methodology includes “the art of recontextualization characterized by a navigation among and beyond the meanings of the past and the questions of the present; what is important and what is merely available” (“Symposium,” 273–274).

Several years later at the 2017 RSA biennial Institute, the workshop re-convened under Mao’s and Lyon’s leadership, with the playfully constructed title “‘The Rest of the World’: Recognizing Non-Western Rhetorical Traditions,” calling into question, among other things, which vantage points would reflect “the west” versus “the rest.” Workshop participants discussed strategies for translation work, and the consequent implications of recontextualizing rhetorical cultures. They considered nuanced distinctions between cultural and comparative rhetorical methodologies, including how to operationalize space and place for each methodology. They discussed complications to the kinds of moral- and value-shifting that are inevitable for intercultural scholarship. And finally, they reflected on the growing popularity of foundational compilations of secondary scholarship on Non-Western/global rhetoric since the turn of the millennium—such as Lipson & Binkley, eds. Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics and Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks; Borrowman, Lively, & Kmetz, eds. Rhetoric in the Rest of the West; and Baca & Villanueva, eds., Rhetorics of the Americas; alongside special issues of College English, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and College Composition and Communication—and their appearance on an increasing number of graduate and undergraduate syllabi. 

The second conversation occurred with the resurgence of the Non-Western/Global Rhetorics Special Interest Group at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and its subsequent reorganization as a CCCC Standing Group,1 which helped identify a strong and immediate community of scholars whose expertise as students or instructors of global rhetorical approaches merited an outlet for collaboration. Originally offered from 2008 to 2011, this SIG began as a non-Western SIG focused on scholarship of Middle Eastern Rhetorics, but soon evolved into a space for considering the study, analysis, and codification of rhetorical practices of different nations and civilizations. After some years on hiatus, at the well-attended resurgence of the SIG in 2015, participants realized it might be time to establish a new and ongoing mission for the group. 

Two groups formed at that point: (1) one under the aegis of “non-Western” rhetorics, which would encompass work in Middle East studies, but was also concerned with other geographical areas that lie outside the boundaries of a purely Western hegemony; and (2) the Arab American Caucus, focusing on cultural identity or a specific research area addressing Arab, Muslim, and Arab American issues. Inspired by George Kennedy’s definition of “Comparative Rhetoric” as “the cross-cultural study of rhetorical traditions as they exist or have existed in different societies around the world” (Comparative, 1), as well as LuMing Mao’s later call to “renounce [Western] domination, adjudication, and assimilation, and . . . nurture tolerance, vagueness, and heteroglossia” (“Reflective,” 418), the Non-Western/Global Rhetorics SIG aimed to bring together emerging and established scholars in history, theory, and pedagogy who were interested not only in how rhetorical traditions varied in different parts of the world, but also how they have been realized, circulated, or accessed, and how they might be better understood, apart from a purely Western/non-Western binary. 

The realization that individual members of this group—now the Global & Non-Western Rhetorics (G&NWR) Standing Group—would benefit from a more horizontal distribution of their principal texts and approaches to teaching global rhetorics helped identify the Annotated Bibliography as a convenient and expedient genre for diversifying our pedagogical traditions. Specifically, from 2016 through 2019, leadership of the SIG expanded to involve scholars of African, Ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Chinese, Indian, Islamic, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Russian, and Turkish rhetorical traditions—as well as scholars working more broadly on intercultural rhetorical issues—and it was in that moment of expansion and pedagogical need that we opted to build out the crowd-sourced bibliography into its more robust annotated and published form. We had heard expressed time and again through our meetings and across our listservs a desire to promote resources that not only included and articulated, but also questioned, a range of global rhetorical theories, practices, and pedagogies. 

What we heard expressed was the need for a concise compendium of global rhetorical resources that offered new avenues for studying and teaching communication in postcolonial and decolonial contexts, and around which we could build or revitalize our curriculum. That need has fast been reinforced by the emergence of newer scholarship, including Global Rhetorical Traditions, edited by Hui Wu and Tarez Samra Graban, an anthology of critical commentaries and translated primary sources of Non-Western rhetorical traditions and practices, and most recently the work of 43 scholars in Keith Lloyd’s edited collection, The Routledge Handbook of Comparative World Rhetorics. By all respects, and in every way, conversations between and among the comparative, the global, and the non/Western are moving more quickly than they can be captured here.

Those conversations have been buoyed by countless others. Since its first Congress in 1977, the International Society for the History of Rhetoric has not only gathered together the voices of international and multilingual scholars, it has also posed challenges to dominant scholastic perspectives, and done so more actively since its inclusion of African, East Asian, and South Asian scholars and panels. Beginning in 1997, the Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference, co-hosted by the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, has welcomed global perspectives and “alternative” rhetorical histories and traditions. And since its first conference in 2007, the African Association for Rhetoric has made an intellectual home for both pan-African scholars and teachers of rhetoric across the disciplines and for scholars with an exclusive interest in pan-African rhetorical perspectives and methodologies. These reflect only a few of what we recognize as an increasing number of global pathways to collaboration on comparative rhetorical work. In addition, members of the G&NWR Standing Group already report an increase in curricula and course material that engage with global and non-Western rhetorical studies both within the U.S. and abroad. Other organizational initiatives, such as “Wikipedia Project: Writing,”2 encourage contributions by a range of scholars and students alike, offering a testament to the shared responsibility of reading historical contributions to rhetoric that have been largely ignored and of challenging knowledge that shapes our perceptions of the legitimacy of these very contributions. 

II. Acknowledging Traditions and Establishing Trends

Categorizing such a vast field of work is a vexed activity, at best. We began by acknowledging the keystone conversations and debates out of which comparative rhetorical approaches have emerged, and these are reflected in our sections on “Introductory Overviews” and “Methodologies.” From there, we offered loosely descriptive categories that reflect language, culture, and—to some degree—the principal historical positioning of various global rhetorical practices, including African, Arabic, Chinese, Egyptian, Celtic (non-Anglo Irish), Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Near Eastern, Pre-Columbian American, and South Asian. Readers will note that these categories are broader than single language groups, yet narrower than geographical regions, and that these categories are sure to evolve.

While we do not consider the 14 categories and 207 entries that constitute this bibliography to be absolutely comprehensive of all work in the field of global rhetorical studies, we hope readers will recognize the Standing Group’s principal goals in our selections: to increase rhetorical knowledge globally; to create new kinds of collaborations; and to promote the circulation of key sources of knowledge about rhetorical practices that occur in other cultures. This includes both broadening and narrowing field definitions of “rhetoric” and “non/Western” so as to include a wide range of communicative practices beyond the Aristotelian frame without making either term overly expansive. Most importantly, however, the Standing Group and this bibliography aim to move the field’s rhetorical terminology toward demonstrating an understanding that concepts from these and other traditions are already germinal and foundational rather than “new.”

We also trust that readers understand why we cannot promise complete coverage of the “world” or absolute inclusivity of all known rhetorical traditions. In the spirit of exploration, the earliest iteration of the 2016 bibliography was organized without categorical divisions to encourage discussion among collaborators about how best to shape it (i.e., by geospace, by subtopic, by methodology, by region, by orientation, by pedagogical emphasis, etc.). At the time, contributors wanted to trouble rather than define. Ultimately, we opted to organize the bibliography according to identified rhetorical regions and to publish the strongest annotations that showed sufficient range in breadth and depth and variation of comparative approaches to each tradition. We also provided contributors with the following foci to offer our bibliography shape and scope, helping to fill what we understood to be a critical gap:

We welcomed sources that demonstrate a convergence of where rhetoric and writing studies can meet non-Western and global rhetorics—including ancient rhetorical cultures which are not necessarily based in Greco-Roman paradigms, but are founded on different premises and cultural priorities, and contemporary expressions of the above.

We welcomed sources that demonstrate the breadth and depth and variation of “comparative” rhetorical traditions—in particular, those we see occurring at the “cross-cultural” intersection, such as work that investigates histories, theories, or pedagogies growing from attempts to cross various lines or borders or traditions).

We welcomed sources that provide a more complex understanding of “comparative” rhetoric as a theory and a practice, beyond simply using western axioms to compare non-Western traditions, and even beyond simple rejections of so-called “Western” traditions.

We welcomed sources that demonstrate an active crossing-over of cultures or methodologies related to oral and written communication; in a few instances, this includes feminist rhetorical work that examines how specific cultures shape or are shaped by transnational discourses, though employing primarily comparative methodologies for the study of rhetorical cultures or demonstrating pedagogy for or within rhetorical cultures.

Finally, we welcomed sources that illustrate the ways in which rhetorical topics function across international borders, within distinct cultural contexts, and/or as sites for post- and decoloniality, especially for reviving pedagogical work.

Unfortunately, attempting to address such a critical gap through this Annotated Bibliography also involves some necessary exclusions.

We excluded sources devoted primarily to ESL, ELL, L2 or composition pedagogy, including World Englishes or the impact of English language on other cultures.

We excluded sources devoted primarily to Western fusion rhetorics (African-American, Arab-American, Chinese-American), unless such studies worked with and through comparative methods.

We excluded sources derived from comparative literary studies that do not clearly shed light on a rhetorical culture.

And we excluded sources derived from intercultural communication studies more generally, that do not shed light on the nature of particular rhetorical cultures.

Thus, across the 207 entries that constitute this first version of our Annotated Bibliography, readers may find some work that is inclusive of L2/ESL teaching and scholarship, as well as the important work of transnational composing, yet those are not our principal areas of emphasis. In future iterations of this Annotated Bibliography, we hope to include the entries that could not fit here and complicate regional orientations even further than we do. As well, ancillary to this Annotated Bibliography, the G&NWR Standing Group plans to update and circulate its crowd-sourced bibliography without annotations—one which continues to grow, and from which we will continue to draw. While the annotations are no substitute for the sources themselves (they are merely signposts, indicating the authors’ greater breadth and depth), we hope readers will use them to discern the rich contributions that each source makes to the global and non-western rhetorical conversation. 

Even still, we recognize that coverage will be uneven, and this is in part due to the dual function of the Bibliography. That is, it serves both as a crash course or introduction to scholars just now delving into the field, and as a gathering of insights for those already looking to problematize, question, rethink, or pursue the field’s prior assumptions. For example, a proliferation of foundational and persistent scholarship in the past two decades on Chinese rhetorics means that a good number of our contributors, even if they are not principally Chinese rhetoric scholars, could contribute to that category.3 Furthermore, among the three editors of this version, our collective strengths lie in comparative methodologies as well as African, Arabic, and South Asian rhetorical traditions, which may explain why those traditions have received more attention. In expanding our South Asian category, in particular, we hope to provide access to more scholars who wish to explore that field. Sue Hum and Arabella Lyon have observed that the prior dearth of publication on the rhetorics of South Asian cultures has made it difficult for one to find a starting point (“Recent” 161). We can and do extend this observation to a number of traditions in this Bibliography, and thus encourage our readers to consider each tradition as merely a “starting point.” 

III. Two Critical Interventions

Given the dual function of this Annotated Bibliography—to serve as both introduction and interrogation—its organization is not only practical, it also signals a commentary on two critical interventions we hope to make in our field. First, in naming rhetorical regions, we propose a hybridized organizational model for global rhetorical studies that both offers a regional and geographic organization (African, the Americas, Chinese, Japanese, Korean), and features linguistic (Arabic, Celtic), cultural (Egyptian, South Asian), and religious (Jewish) sections to show the complexity and hybridity of this field. That is, in differentiating the myriad cultural differences within what have historically been understood as large language groups, we hope to challenge long-held assumptions about language and tradition in non-Western rhetoric and global rhetorical studies by employing a set of categories (or rhetorical regions) that are not wholly uniform. Second, in using tags to foreground various themes that cut across rhetorical regions, rather than to delimit the dominant conversations about each region, we hope to trouble static conceptions of how language, rhetoric, and communication function within each region.

Naming Rhetorical Regions 

For the editors and contributors of this Annotated Bibliography, naming is less an act of epistemic declaration than it is a courting of particular traditions and an attempt to make those traditions more available for teaching and study. We first noted the need for a hybridized naming schema while planning the un-annotated version of this bibliography. When contributors suggested entries for annotation, they did so according to the organizational schemas that had served them as inroads to understanding comparative rhetorics. A set of geographical categories emerged as a natural starting place because we could name as many geographical areas as we needed in order to signify cultural, ethnic, and even linguistic groupings reflected in their suggestions. However, we wanted the categories to reflect the breadth and depth of explicitly global and cross-cultural rhetorical studies; thus, once contributors finished their work, we condensed over 25 categories into 14, inviting more contributions in areas where coverage was thin, or inviting further clarification from new students and seasoned scholars alike on how to optimally recognize the various ways in which a single tradition might be categorized, knowing ultimately that we could rely on the tagging feature of PresentTense to cross-list as much as was necessary. In doing so, we hoped to lay the groundwork for an inclusive naming practice.

Ideally, our named regions would function as linguistic and cultural hybrids, and we recognize that this marks a simultaneous reliance on, and departure from, some of the field’s core organizational logics. In some respects, we follow the same logic guiding Lipson and Binkley’s Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks and Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, in which they include geographic areas while pointing out the importance and contribution of each area to its scholarship. Specifically, they  identify six civilizations occurring between 5000 and 1200 BCE—Middle East; Egypt; the Indus Valley; China; Mesoamerica; and the two Andean civilizations—but acknowledge that the book deals with only three (Rhetoric, 4). Moreover, they make distinctions among Near Eastern cultures, organizing them further according to time and place, such as with Mesopotamian and Egyptian, and they draw attention to religion as a viable category when there is a distinct body of work, such as with Biblical Rhetorics (17). They also distinguish alternative Greek rhetorics, such as Rhodian, and end with “Suggestions for Teaching Ancient Rhetorics.” We do some of the same things in our Annotated Bibliography, entertaining both ancient and modern, intra-cultural and intercultural, and theoretical and practical.   

However, where we differ from Lipson and Binkley’s approach is in adopting a categorical framework that invites a critical questioning of regionalism and regional identifications. In other words, we utilize—even capitalize on—the problem of delineating traditions. In retaining several geographic sections, as well as featuring non-regional sections, and using the tagging feature to mark complexities, we are able to offer a representation of the flexibility and complexity of the work that is featured in global and Non-Western rhetorical studies by making visible the discrepancies in naming. For example, we included an Arabic Rhetoric category to distinguish the research on Arabic rhetorical tradition which was not tied to one geographic location, but rather associated with religion and emerging from within different cultural historical contexts, such as the Greco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad (see more discussion of how we organized tags to identify specialized categories).4 This movement is largely made up of non-European commentators on Aristotle’s works, and could serve as part of the Western tradition; however, as a result of our deeply held assumptions about the dominance of Aristotelian logical thought that forms the foundation for Western rhetorical tradition, we have incorporated these contributions under “Arabic Rhetoric” to better reflect how the contributions of some Arabic rhetorical theorists are still understudied, if not ignored (Borrowman 98).  

Arabic Rhetorics aren’t the only complicating category.5 The problem of delineating traditions can be further illustrated in the case of Egypt because it marks a set of traditions rhetorically and culturally different from other Arabic languages and groups and because of the formation of the tradition we know as Ancient Egyptian rhetoric. Recent work on Egyptian rhetoric demonstrates Egyptian rhetorical tradition has different assumptions about language, communication, and the individual from Arabic rhetorical tradition, as evidenced in the principles of maat that served as principles of governance in Africa (Blake) and organized Ancient Egyptian life (Lipson). Distinguishing between Egyptian and Arabic rhetorics urges us to think differently about how we categorize and organize linguistic and cultural markers on global, cultural, and rhetorical traditions. For example, while Edward Said’s “Living in Arabic” describes the particular use of standard Arabic and dramatic delivery in political speeches of Palestinian and Egyptian leaders, we locate this annotation in “Arabic Rhetoric” and not “Egyptian Rhetoric” for two reasons: first, because Said narrates his own personal experience living in Arabic-speaking countries and learning classical and colloquial Arabic; and second, because the “Egypt” categorization in this Bibliography includes entries that primarily address the rhetorical traditions of Ancient Egypt.

Tagging as Troubling 

We further use tagging in both practical and critical ways. Practically speaking, the tags that follow each annotation identify themes that are present, as well as themes which can cut across the broad categories, mostly geographical, into which we have organized the literature; such categories as Chinese, South Asian, or African can hardly represent the great diversity of themes that come into play in the discourse on global and Non-Western rhetorics. However, the tags also serve to identify not only the themes that cross cultures, but those that emerge as importantly present within a culture, a methodological approach, or a theory, some of which have not been a significant part of the conversation in rhetorical studies. Thus, tagging is an integral part of this project, as it serves to foreground various threads and themes of scholarship currently lively in the discourse of this nascent field, and to aid scholars who are seeking unresolved avenues of inquiry.  

Following Arabella Lyon in her aptly named “Tricky Words,” we felt this tagging should reflect our shared “attempt to understand new cultures” and not merely serve as “an extension of what we already know” (Lyon 243)—i.e., forcing “square pegs into round holes” (Mao 213)—or an attempt to prescribe the themes best suited to covering diverse rhetorics still coming to light in our emerging field. Thus, we employ tagging as an “attempt to engage concepts, beyond [our] discipline” (Mao 244), and to recognize what  LuMing Mao calls the “importantly present” (216). Walking a narrow line between latent categories and emergent ones, we have privileged tags that have emerged from the critical (often unfamiliar) vocabulary of the material itself, so as to best represent the topics and themes offered there.6 Like our named regions, this list, too, defies a parallel structure, yielding terms such as harmony, indirection, moksha, nommo, and ritual—tags which have not been a significant part of the conversation in Western rhetorical studies—alongside more familiar terms such as rhetorical silence, persuasion, deliberative rhetoric, invention, and logic. 

In sum, knowing that both “Western” and “Non-Western” are “politically motivated construct[s],” knowing that we cannot approach the cultural and heterogeneous linguistic practices of all cultures by foregrounding Western assumptions, and knowing that we must work against efforts to “distort and colonize an alternative understanding revolutionary to Western rhetoric” (Hum and Lyon 157), we settled for naming categories and archival tags that do not all operate uniformly but rather make visible some categorical tensions. We tried to think historiographically about how, in this moment, the named traditions could be valued as distinct while also employing tags to demonstrate their categorical mobility.7

IV. Future Directions

Given the coevality of the many aspects underlying global rhetorical traditions (including, but not limited to antiquity, geography, language, and duration), we and the 26 contributors to this Annotated Bibliography take seriously the need to “frequent places where rhetoric is unrecognized, or is evidenced only by barely acknowledged traces or gaps” (Mao and Wang, “Symposium” 241). In its ideal form, this Annotated Bibliography would offer as many representations of non-Western rhetorical traditions as possible. Yet, recognizing potential criticism of reductionism, scopism, or “rhetorical accommodationism” on our work (O’Mally, “Not”), we offer this Bibliography simply as a reflection of selected key critical developments in what is not strictly Euro-American rhetorical study, tapping into several traditions that we know are being noticed, identified, and opened up as having richer alternative sources for their own historical study. Moreover, we offer this Bibliography as a representation of what is now made possible through comparative rhetorical epistemologies, which need not function only within binary associations, and our contributors help us to witness the types and kinds of traditions that challenge such binaries toward noticing an expanded range of critical possibilities.

We initially wanted this first publication of the Annotated Bibliography to offer starting points for scholars interested in global rhetorical studies, not necessarily comparative. However, as contributors submitted entries for consideration, it continued to grow in several directions. As a result, several entries that do not appear in this version of the bibliography have already been slated for the second edition. For example, in spite of the fact that two of our editors’ scholarship lies within the area of transnational feminist rhetorics, the adequate development of such a category would call into question national and international policies, politics, narratives, and local cultural definitions—all questions that we felt needed more attention than the first edition of this project could reasonably offer. As a result, we chose to exclude Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderland, Shireen Hassim’s “Nationalism, Feminism and Autonomy: The ANC in Exile and the Question of Women,” Saba Fatima’s “Muslim-American Scripts,” and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s “How Do We Write, Now?” 

In other cases, we chose to retain the entries in the Bibliography, but to disperse them among various categories, knowing they would be better served not in a section on transnational feminism, but in one or more separate categories where they could be framed in terms of the global rhetorical tradition from which they emerged or to which they contributed, for example pre-Columbian American, Palestinian, Muslim, and/or Chinese. Moreover, they were also tagged as “feminist rhetorics” for easy identification. Readers can expect that, as this Annotated Bibliography project evolves, some categories will move into and out of clear delineation according to the religious, geographic, and cultural issues that they evoke.

V. Conclusion 

We have acknowledged that the call for rhetorical studies to globalize their focus is not a new one, although we do still anticipate a radical recentering of college and university curricula so that global becomes a driving force rather than an additive or an inclusion, and so that Western reveals both indigenous and exogenous claims. As we remain aware of how our recentering continues to shape power imbalances both in our scholarship and in our classrooms, we need to foreground our curricula by further asking our students to examine their own work, help them acknowledge and examine their own assumptions and beliefs, and “incorporate self-reflexive practices to open up new spaces for writing and creating knowledge” (Khoury 172). These new areas of inquiry ask us to reach beyond our borders and edges, and this work poses “particularly high hurdles” for scholars trained in Rhetoric and Composition due to a lack of specialization in languages and civilizations of non-Western ancient cultures within their academic programs (Lipson 4), which takes time to fully achieve.

In the meantime, we suggest that readers approach this Annotated Bibliography with a feminist lens, raising questions about how such projects contribute to the re/formation of intellectual landscapes, and reflecting critically on how they read, interpret, understand, evaluate, and value alterity. The feminist rhetorical work of “rescue, recovery, and (re)inscription” has given our field a deeper and richer understanding of underreprented rhetors throughout history (Royster and Kirsch 31). However, as we move past the emergence of rhetorics grounded in just these three approaches, we see that the “edges” that inform this intellectual landscape become more deeply etched (Royster and Kirsch 43). Like most work in non-Western and global scholarship, the real strength of feminist scholarship lies not in the promotion of a particular landscaping practice, but in the implicit interrogation of its foundational assumptions. If this Annotated Bibliography can be of use to contemporary rhetorical scholars, rhetorical historians, cultural rhetoricians, and/or comparatists, let it be for facilitating the closer examination of texts within their historical, cultural, and linguistic frameworks, and for promoting descriptive analysis of these texts, rather than for drawing revisionist conclusions about them. 


Introductory Overviews
African Rhetorics
The Americas (pre-Columbian American)
Ancient Egyptian Rhetorics
Arabic Rhetorics
Celtic (non-Anglo Irish) Rhetorics
Chinese Rhetorics
Japanese Rhetorics
Jewish Rhetorics
Korean Rhetorics
Near Eastern Rhetorics
Pedagogy for Global/Non-Greek Rhetorics
South Asian Rhetorics


Afrocentric Rhetorics
American Writing Pedagogy
Ancient Rhetorics
Asiacentric Rhetorics
Biblical Rhetorics
Celtic Rhetorics
Chancery Writers
Chinese Rhetorics
Chinese Women Writers
Classical Chinese Rhetorics
Colonial Rhetorics
Communication Theory
Comparative Rhetoric
Contact Zone
Contrastive Rhetoric
Cosmology of Speech
Cross-Cultural Rhetorics
Cultural Rhetorics
Deliberative Rhetorics
Democratic Rhetorics
Diasporic Rhetorics
Didactic Rhetorics
Discourse Analysis
Divinity of Speech
Egyptian Rhetorics
English Language
Epistolary Rhetorics
Essay Genre
Feminist Rhetorics
Gendered Rhetorics
Greek Rhetorics
Han Feizi
Hindu Rhetorics
Human Rights
Indian Communication Theory
Indian Rhetorics
Indigenous Rhetorics
Intercultural Communication
Islamic Rhetorics
Japanese Rhetorics
Jewish Rhetorics
Kenneth Burke
Latin American Rhetorics
Levels of Speech Theory
the Media
Mesopotamian Rhetorics
Modern Japanese Rhetorics
Modern Standardized Japanese
Multimodal Rhetorics
Native American Rhetorics
Near Eastern Rhetorics
Nelson Mandela
the Other
Oral Literacies
Pedagogy of World Rhetorics
Pluralistic Rhetorics
Political Rhetorics
Popular Culture
Post-apartheid Rhetorics
Post-colonial Rhetorics
Post-Mao Rhetorics
Religious Rhetorics
Rhetorical Education
Rhetorical Figures
Rhetorical Histories
Rhetorical Silence
Rhetorical Theory
Rhetorical Traditions
Sanskrit Rhetorics
Sanskrit Stylistics
Second Language
South African Rhetorics
Spiritual Rhetorics
Subaltern Literacies
Subject Positions
Thick Description
Transnational Rhetorics
Vedic Rhetorics
Vernacular Rhetorics
Visual Rhetorics
West African Rhetorics
Women’s Rhetorics
Writing Studies


  1. Standing Groups of the Conference on College Composition and Communication are membership-driven groups focused around a common interest. They differ from Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in that they have an ongoing organizational status, adhere to a set of bylaws, conduct elections, and report annual updates and accomplishments to the CCCC leadership. return
  2. WikiProject Writing is an initiative sponsored by the CCCC Task Force on Wikipedia. It aims to improve and increase Wikipedia’s content coverage of “writing research and pedagogy as they encompass broad and evolving definitions of literacy, communication, rhetoric, and writing (including multimodal discourse, digital communication, and diverse language practices),” with a special emphasis on drawing from the scholarship and activism of marginalized teacher-scholars (“Wikipedia:WikiProject Writing”). return
  3. Robert T. Oliver’s book (now dated) is one example of foundational and persistent scholarship. While scholarship on Chinese and Indian rhetorics is available, some specialties within these traditions are still not widely studied. Newcomers to those specialties will need more substantive information than they might find in the passing references of recent scholarship. return
  4. Rhetorics that emerge in cultural, linguistic, and political contexts in the Middle East more broadly offer us an opportunity to study the intellectual life that lead to the development of Arabic rhetorical tradition, but also offer us an opportunity to examine how the tradition has been defined and subsequently left out of the West’s scholarly tradition (Borrowman 98). return
  5. A similar thought process informed our delineation of “Near Eastern” to include Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East, conflating past and present classifications, and frustrating a clear separation of linguistic value from political identification. return
  6. Anything less would foreground the merely incidental, causing us to revert to familiar signs of persuasion or argumentation, a warning first sounded by Robert T. Oliver in 1971 (261), and oft cited in recent years as the exploration of rhetorics beyond the West has grown. Incidentally, The process of compiling tags was no less collaborative than the process of annotating the bibliography. We invited contributors to supply their own tags and then we curated the final list. return
  7. We acknowledge that both lists—our navigational categories and our tags—should be received as fluid and malleable reflections of the field, and we welcome the possibility of making alterations on future iterations of this Annotated Bibliography. return

Works Cited

Baca, Damián, and Victor Villanueva, eds. Rhetorics of the Americas. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

Blake, Cecil. The African Origins of Rhetoric. Routledge, 2009. 

Borrowman, Shane. “Recovering the Arabic Aristotle: Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd on the Logic of Civic and Poetic Discourse.” Rhetoric in the Rest of the West, edited by Shane Borrowman, Robert L. Lively, and Marcia Kmetz, Cambridge Scholars, 2010, pp. 97-118. 

Borrowman, Shane, Roberta L. Lively, and Marcia Kmetz, eds. Rhetoric in the Rest of the West, Cambridge Scholars, 2010.

Hum, Sue, and Arabella Lyon. “Recent Advances in Comparative Rhetoric.” The Sage Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, edited by Andrea A. Lunsford, Kurt H. Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly, Sage, 2009, pp. 153–165.

Kennedy, George. Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction. Oxford UP, 1998.

Khoury, Nicole. “Self-Reflexive Pedagogy: Reading Against the Western Tradition to Teach Global Feminist Rhetorics,” in Lisa Mastrangelo, David Gold, Nicole Khoury, Michael Faris, Rebecca Dingo, Rachel Riedner, Jennifer Wingard, Gesa Kirsch, and Jacqueline Jones Royster. “Changing the Landscape: Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition and Literacy Studies, Five Years Later.” Peitho, vol. 20, no. 2, 2018, pp. 160-97.

Lipson, Carol S. “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric: It All Comes Down to Maat.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 79–98. 

Lipson, Carol S. “Introduction.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor, 2009.

Lipson, Carol S., and Roberta Binkley, eds. Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics. Parlor, 2009.

—. Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, State U of NY P, 2004.

Lyon, Arabella. “Tricky Words: Rhetoric and Comparative.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 243-46.

Mao, LuMing. “Beyond Bias, Binary, and Border: Mapping Out the Future of Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 209-25.

Mao, LuMing. ‘‘Reflective Encounters: Illustrating Comparative Rhetoric.’’ Style, vol. 37, no. 4, 2003, pp. 401–425. 

Mao, LuMing, et al, “Symposium: Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric,” Rhetoric Review 34, no. 3 (2015): 239–74.

Mao, LuMing, and Bo Wang. Introduction: Bring the Game On. “Symposium: Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric,” Rhetoric Review 34, no. 3 (2015): 239-43.

Oliver, Robert T. Communication and Culture in Ancient India and China. Syracuse UP, 1971. 

O’Malley, John W. “‘Not For Ourselves Alone’: Rhetorical Education in the Jesuit Mode with Five Bullet Points for Today.” Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education 43, no. 4 (2013): 1–5.

“Wikipedia:WikiProject Writing.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 8 Mar. 2021, Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.    

COVER IMAGE CREDIT: Stupa (Storage Place for Holy Relics) by Matt Cox. 

LEAD IMAGE CREDIT: Photo 1 (left): Ancient Ethiopian blocks. “Ancient Blocks With Sabaean Inscriptions, Yeha, Ethiopia” by A.Davey is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo 2 (middle): Palestino-Aramaic Mosaic. “ancient language…” by Abouid is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo 3 (right): Prayer Wheels with Sanskrit by Matt Cox. 

Introductory Overviews  

Kennedy, George A. Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction. Oxford UP, 1998.

In this foundational text, George Kennedy does for comparative rhetoric what Joseph Campbell did for comparative mythology: turned an area of research into a viable field of study. The endeavor and goal of his book is ambitious, in that Kennedy details four objectives that constitute comparative research: (1) discovering what is universal/exotic about a culture’s rhetorical tradition, (2) theorizing about the “deep rhetoric” that informs all instantiations of rhetorical expression, (3) developing a cross-cultural lexicon for categorizing rhetorical phenomena, and (4) expanding our understanding of how to apply comparative findings to our contemporary understanding of cross-cultural communication. Kennedy seeks to reimagine rhetoric as an energy transmitted through speech and text. In developing a cross-cultural lexicon for the study of rhetoric, he primarily applies Western rhetorical terms to non-Western cultures. Though this aids Western audiences in their understanding of the unfamiliar, many have critiqued this traditional approach as being problematic. 

The book begins in an unusual way, with an introduction to the rhetoric of animals, before moving to pre-rhetoric and the development of human language. Kennedy’s premise is that, as culture and civilization develop, the relationship between rhetoric, myth-making and magic becomes more complex, with examples from Australian Aboriginal culture. Next, Kennedy addresses the rise of formal speech in non-literate cultures, such as those found in isolated pockets of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the many island cultures situated in regions of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Investigating the rhetoric of the native Americas, he provides a look into Native American and Aztec rhetorical traditions. In the second half of the book, Kennedy describes rhetoric in literate societies, giving overviews of the rhetorical traditions of the Ancient Near East (i.e., Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Israel), Ancient China, Ancient India, and Ancient Greece and Rome. 

Kennedy’s compendium demonstrates an important point about rhetoric itself: cultural practices like myth-making, magic, philosophy, and religion, poetry and literature all occur at the intersection of rhetorical studies. While this book is more widely known as a survey of ancient rhetorics, it is also a comprehensive rhetorical handbook, covering many of the basics of rhetorical thought and terminology for the instructor and student of rhetorical studies.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Historiography, Indian Rhetorics, Magic, Mesopotamian Rhetorics, Methodology, Native American Rhetorics, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Philosophy, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Theory

Lipson, Carol S., and Roberta A. Binkley, editors. Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics. Parlor P, 2009.

The essays in this collection explore a rich and varied array of ancient rhetorical cultures of the Middle East, the Far East, South Asia, and the land that became Ireland. The editors did not attempt to represent all cultures, but rather to develop the field of study of rhetorical traditions beyond the Greco-Roman-based paradigm which dominates Western rhetorical scholarship. The authors of each chapter consider how particular texts are rhetorical, how they function rhetorically within the cultures that produced them, and/or how those texts shed light on the rhetorical cultures the chapters explore. The discussions prompt reflection on how rhetoric manifested differently around the world in ways that have been unaccounted for in our mainstream histories.

The volume exposes gaps in the knowledge of world rhetorics, raises probing questions, and invites comparative rhetoricians to look for rhetoric beyond the discursive. Evident in these chapters are such concerns as the attainment of moksha, magic, ritual, tombs, and prophecy, in addition to argumentation. The collection points toward the unknown and the unfamiliar and marks a distinct turn in our discipline toward more inclusive and diverse histories. This turn calls for the cultivation of new theories of rhetoric and methodologies for its study, particularly for comparative rhetoric, Lipson writes in her introduction. She problematizes the moniker “comparative” rhetoric as a name for this field of study and instead favors “cultural rhetorics” and talks in terms of “rhetorical cultures,” since comparative methodology can be counterproductive in studies where an emic approach would prove more accurate and fruitful (3-5). This is an important text for scholars embarking upon “comparative rhetoric” research, ancient or contemporary.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Celtic Rhetorics, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Cultural Rhetorics, Dao/Tao, Egyptian Rhetorics, Historiography, Indian Rhetorics, Japanese Rhetorics, Jewish Rhetorics, Magic, Mesopotamian Rhetorics, Methodology, Moksha/Mokṣa, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Prophecy, Ramayana/Rāmāyaṇa, Ritual, Shankara/Śaṅkara

Lipson, Carol S., and Roberta A. Binkley, editors. Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. SUNY P, 2004.  

This collection of essays, compiled by editors Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, follows in the tradition of George A. Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetoric, making a case for revising the history of rhetoric to include other diverse cultural traditions. The book continues to foreground comparative rhetoric as a significant sub-field in rhetorical studies. One caveat is that a lot of the focus continues to be on emphasizing the “before” more than the “beyond.” It includes rhetorical traditions from Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and the Near East, not only making a case for the study and inclusion of other cultures but also for alternative traditions existing within the same culture, issues of gender representation, the dynamics of mainstream versus peripheral, and challenging the association of rhetoric solely with democratic ideologies. 

The editors and authors also emphasize the need for collaboration across other fields outside of rhetorical studies to engage and develop cross-cultural studies such as these, and many of the authors in this volume belong to different disciplines. They acknowledge that issues of conjecture are still needed, such as developing comparative methodologies, using universal/particular terminology, and text translation. The premise of much of the work addresses the need to expand our understanding of rhetoric as a culturally situated practice, meaning that it has its own unique manifestations in each and every culture.

The collection starts with Hallo, who takes the reader to the birthplace of rhetoric in Mesopotamia, exploring the rhetorical genres and conventions of wisdom literature and the epic. Next, Binkley recovers the Mesopotamian poet Enheduanna, preserving the voice of the ancient female rhetor through the genre of the hymn. And Hoskisson and Boswell research the Assyrian annals, making a case for the annal as its own particular kind of rhetorical genre situated between historical fact and narrative, usually relying on an unstated conclusion.

Moving to Egyptian rhetoric, Lipson looks at the genre of the letter and the concept of Maat or “rightness.” In addition, Sweeney seeks to present more of the everyday rhetorical practices of Egypt by examining legal texts.

Transitioning to Chinese rhetoric, Xu focuses on the Confucian perspective by examining the concepts of li (rites), ren (virtues), and yi (righteousness) and the gradations of speech, from silence to superior speech to clever talk. Lyon continues with the Confucian tradition, examining the themes of silence and jian (remonstration), that is, to make objections in respect and trust, enabling the audience to decide for themselves. Moreover, Liu argues that Chinese rhetoric is not a by-product of the philosophical tradition; the philosophical tradition and its figures are Chinese rhetorical criticism.

Turning to the Biblical tradition, Metzger surveys the scribal schools who composed the Pentateuch, covering both the “documentary hypothesis” and the priestly tradition as ways of rereading the socio-political motives behind the construction of the text, featuring the Aaronidic voice as the rhetorical influence that shaped the arc of the Pentateuchal narrative.

Moving to Greece, Enos proposes an alternative rhetorical perspective in contrast to the Athenian one, exploring the rhetoric of Rhodes, differentiating it by its trade culture, diverse socio-political orientation, and its emphasis on cross-cultural communication.

Watts, in a more general sense, surveys ancient Near Eastern texts across Eurasia and Africa, focusing on the cross-cultural story-list-sanction formula, advocating that this universal, rhetorical pattern recounts the narrative past, provides directions for the present, and admonishes blessings/curses for the future. Likewise, applying an emic-etic approach, Swearingen recovers the genre of lamentations authored by female figures in the ancient Near East, examining the woman’s role in ceremonial rhetoric.

What sets this collection apart is its emphasis on making the study of comparative rhetoric accessible for the classroom. The book closes with a “Suggestions for Teaching Ancient Rhetorics,” where each contributor returns to the impetus of their work to give an addendum in the form of suggestions for course design, assignments, and further reading. This focus directs attention to the question: “How can we incorporate comparative rhetoric into our curriculums?” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks details the broader picture of the historiography of rhetoric for study and scholarship.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Biblical Rhetorics, Chinese Rhetorics, Confucius, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Egyptian Rhetorics, Epics, Feminist Rhetorics, Genres, Historiography, Jewish Rhetorics,  Mesopotamian Rhetorics, Methodology, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Persuasion, Political Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Traditions

Oliver, Robert T. Communication and Culture in Ancient India and China. Syracuse UP, 1971.

With this book Oliver pioneers the study of Eastern rhetorical culture and urges scholars to study them on the cultures’ own terms (261). For Oliver, rhetoric is inseparable from the culture it inhabits, so scholars must examine rhetoric in relation to the philosophy and social customs of the culture (x). He argues that if we look for Western concepts of rhetoric in Asian cultures, then we will not find them; because they are expressions of Western culture, they make sense only in the context of that cultural milieu. Moreover, such a lens tends to render invisible what counts as rhetoric from the perspective of the Eastern culture so that a scholar exploring it might “conclude there is no rhetoric at all” (261). The Western brand of rhetoric is not a universal, Oliver argues. He asserts that the feature of rhetoric common to all civilizations is our ability to “symbolize and to communicate” in ways that allow us to live together (2). So that is where Oliver must start his endeavor.

He posits that the dominant Western culture has separated rhetoric from other ways of thinking and made it a distinct discipline due to a penchant for analysis and division, while by contrast, Eastern cultures do not explicitly distinguish and theorize rhetoric as a discipline because they tend towards a holistic worldview (10). Thus, for Oliver, “The problem is not to find the rhetoric of the East but to find ways of identifying and depicting it in a fashion that will make it meaningful to Western minds without thereby denying its essentially holistic character” (11). To do this, Oliver examines some of the important texts in the cultures he considers along with cultural and historical contextual information and considers how these sources shed light on the rhetorical practices embedded in Eastern worldviews and ways of living.

Oliver concludes that Asian approaches to discourse and communication focused not on the benefit of the individual but on the promotion of harmony; they valued patterns of behavior, ceremonial discourse, silence, and proofs based on authority and analogy (261–264). His effort serves as an important introduction to comparative rhetoric because he articulates the problems of a Western stance toward Asian rhetorics and proposes some heuristics for further explorations. His work holds an important place in the development of comparative rhetorical studies and is justly cited as a groundbreaking work, and a necessary part of any literature review for such studies.

Notably, Oliver admits to the shortcomings of his efforts and invites further inquiry into the rhetorics of the East in hopes that “the very shortcomings of this study will have the effect of encouraging others to follow through and do better what has here been commenced” (xii). Oliver thus not only inspires the young field of comparative rhetoric, but also invites critique. Comparatist scholars have taken up the challenge.

LuMing Mao, for example, has criticized Oliver’s use of secondary (Western) sources, such as accounts by Jesuit missionaries, and questionable translations (see “Reflective Encounters: Illustrating Comparative Rhetoric” in this annotated bibliography [hyperlink]). Oliver used the resources he had at hand to open a new and difficult conversation and challenge Western universals about rhetoric. Those better equipped with the necessary foreign language skills, insider cultural experience, and access to primary sources can respond to and move beyond this book to correct Western misconceptions and build knowledge about particular Eastern rhetorical cultures.

Tags: Analogy, Chinese Rhetorics, Communication Theory, Comparative Rhetoric, Consensus, Indian Rhetorics, Methodology, Worldview


Alcoff, Linda. “The Problem of Speaking for Others.” Cultural Critique, vol. 20, Winter 1991-1992, pp. 5-32. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/1354221

Linda Alcoff begins this article by asking if the practice of speaking for others, especially those less privileged, can ever be valid. She centers her interrogation of this question around the location of speaking. While location impacts meaning, it cannot determine it. Location, she writes, is not a fixed essence and thus meaning cannot easily be evaluated in terms of a speaker’s location, their connection to structures of power, or the resulting politics that surround speech. This reality is further highlighted as Alcoff explains why retreat is an inadequate response to the problem of speaking for others. Retreat assumes that one can only speak for the self, idealizing error-free speech and ignoring effects. She encourages dialogue, or Gayatri Spivak’s “speaking to” instead. And, ultimately, she suggests that the dangers of speaking for others can be curtailed by critical awareness. 

To encourage such critical awareness, she makes four concluding suggestions for those who might speak for others: (1) recognize the desire to speak as an attempt at mastery, first, and to resist this impulse, (2)  interrogate your own location with the help of others in order to understand its impact on our speech, (3) remain open to criticism and occupy a position of accountability, and (4) attend to the effects of your speech and its impact on content. Effect matters most for Alcoff in the end. Location, she argues, matters only inasmuch as it determines effect. Rather than focusing on who is speaking for the oppressed, then, she suggests that we must understand how an act of speaking empowers or disempowers oppressed people.

Tags: Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Dialogue, Meaning, Methodology, Power, The Other, Representation

Baca, Damián. “Rethinking Composition, 500 Years Later.” Journal of Advanced Composition, vol. 29, no. 1/2, 2009, pp. 229-242. JSTOR,

Baca argues that now, five hundred years after Europe’s colonization of the Americas and its campaign of “reinventing the cultural Other” in European terms (230), the time is ripe to recognize and restore the dignity and the sophistication of ancient Mesoamerican multi-modal composition practices. He argues that the pictographic literacies by which they “ordered their world” were not “insufficient” or inferior to alphabetic composition imposed by the conquerors in order to civilize and improve them, but instead were “complex and equally suitable tools of literacy” (230), tools which have once again become current in the internet age (234). He posits that this re-ascendance of multi-modal composition is due to the need for “the introduction of ‘new’ mechanisms of handling information. . . . A main feature of globalized software is the ability of adjustment to different media—ideograms, logograms, iconography, pictograms, and competing alphabets” (234). This new development, Baca asserts, should inspire new appreciation for actually very old composition systems and cultures.

Placing the dawn of globalization at 1492, Baca argues for a “new” understanding of composition to account “for both alphabetic and non-alphabetic properties of Mexican activity,” a view of composition which also responds to other “peripheral, non-Western inscription systems around the globe” (237). In Mesoamerica, for example, in contrast to the Roman alphabet, “writing is virtually synonymous with the sacred . . . a result of divine providence” (237). Thus one cannot assume that Western technologies of globalization need necessarily constitute Westernization, because local form, content, and culture use the “technologies that potentially resume historical trajectories” of their own (237).

Baca asserts that new ways of writing history invite not only revisionist histories but also the rethinking of composition from Mexican legacies in ways that reverse “the enduring Aristotelian syndrome of marginalizing and subalternizing those forced into an occupied periphery by a vanguard global center” (239). Finally, Baca proposes that looking at composition from a Mexican perspective can serve as an intervention into the current politics of writing instruction and give a greater understanding of “parallel writing systems and rationalities” in America (239).

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Divinity of Speech, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Multimodal Rhetorics, Native American Rhetorics, The Other, Poetics, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Traditions, Visual Rhetorics 

Bizzell, Patricia, and Susan Jarratt. “Rhetorical Traditions, Pluralized Canons, Relevant History, and Other Disputed Terms: A Report from the History of Rhetoric Discussion Groups at the ARS Conference.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 3, Summer 2004, pp. 19-25. JSTOR,

Patricia Bizzell and Susan Jarratt report on a conversation at the Alliance of Rhetoric Societies meeting, debating the viability of a singular “rhetorical tradition.” Conducted within two smaller working groups, the ARS debate drew attention to both rhetoric and tradition as disputed terms, which all participants agreed were in need of some level of pluralization, and they offered some metaphors as substitutes for tradition, including inventory, constellation, and frame. 

However, the primary inquiry of the deliberation at the ARS meeting revolved around how to research and teach rhetoric as rhetorics, looking at the following models: (1) multicultural, (2) dominance/resistance, (3) comparative, (4) bracketing, (5) transnational, and (6) refiguring. Bizzell and Jarratt report that, during conversation, there was hesitation and difference among deliberators as to whether it was necessary to provide an indigenous term or to borrow “rhetoric” as the defining term for classifying a particular cultural practice. 

Another question central to this debate was “Why teach the history of rhetoric in the first place?” Participants responded by emphasizing the importance of recognizing diversity and integrating marginalized rhetoricians, rhetors, and texts. They also argued for the need to address issues of citizenship, democratic values, and the writing of history itself as integral to answering the question.

Tags: Citizenship, Democratic Rhetorics, Historiography, Methodology, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Traditions 

Cummings, Lance. “Comparison as a Mode of Inquiry: Rearticulating the Contexts of Intercultural Communication.” Rhetoric, Professional Communication, and Globalization, vol. 5, no. 1, Feb. 2014, pp. 126–46.

In response to the global turn in English studies, Cummings rearticulates the act of comparison as a mode of inquiry, rather than a way to categorize or collate difference. After giving a brief overview of different comparative methodologies in English studies, Cummings shows how comparison has created sedimentations, or calcified ways of thinking, that often reify or reinforce old ways of seeing and the power structures they support (128). These sedimentations are often invisible when we approach comparison or build cross-cultural texts, which he illustrates through the analysis of Web 2.0 learning spaces and qualitative research with international students. In the end, Cummings argues for an approach to comparison that seeks to un-sediment habits of thought by deeply reflecting on the context of comparison and adapting our methodologies to reveal and rearticulate how we see rhetoric and writing across cultures.

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Intercultural Communication, Methodology

Dingo, Rebecca. “Linking Transnational Logics: Feminist Rhetorical Analysis of Public Policy Networks.” College English, vol. 70, no. 5, 2008, pp. 490–505. JSTOR,

In this article, Rebecca Dingo analyzes the networking of United States welfare policies and World Bank development policies to understand the neoliberal market’s effect on women across the globe. Her feminist rhetorical analysis demonstrates how domestic and international policies are linked in ways that paternalistically and incongruously maintain gender norms. For instance, while US welfare policies encourage single mothers to marry, World Bank policies emancipate women from the home by bringing them into the marketplace as financially independent entrepreneurs. 

Despite their contradictory emphases on family and independence, these policies follow a logic determined by capitalism that places the responsibility of the family’s success on women. Dingo reveals, in particular, how this policy of “mainstreaming women” emerges from the perception that women will generally place the well-being of family above their own. This policy, for Dingo, shows how the World Bank fits into a narrative of economic development determined by wealthy nations like the US. 

These economic reforms seek to transform culture but disregard cultural context in favor of the market, Dingo posits. Conundrums like childcare, however, reveal this faulty logic and its disregard for class and the material outcomes of such policies. Therefore, Dingo argues, it is essential that the field of feminist rhetorical studies juxtapose transnational texts to understand the complex connections between national and international policies. 

Tags: Feminist Rhetorics, Political Rhetorics, Transnational Rhetorics

Enos, Richard Leo. “On the Trail of Ancient Rhetoric: Fieldwork of a Wandering Rhetorician.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 6, no. 1, 2012, pp. 43-51. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/15362426.2001.10500535.

Commenting on rhetorical studies’ strong reliance on verbal (or discursive) texts as its subjects of analysis, Richard Enos launches a critique against the field’s exclusive emphasis on traditional forms of historical evidence—books and other literary sources—in our rhetorical theories and histories (43). In order to better contemplate the future of rhetoric, Enos advocates for the inclusion of non-discursive historical sources to “exponentially increase our repository of evidence” to enrich our rhetorical perspectives (44). In response to this charge, Enos extols the value of fieldwork in rhetorical studies. This essay offers a four-step procedure for fieldwork: “1) isolating research sites, 2) securing permission prior to investigation, 3) collecting on-site data, and 4) research objectives after returning from fieldwork” (46). Enos’ methodological approach to fieldwork holds important implications for scholars in comparative rhetoric who aim to study rhetoric in places and cultures where discursive or literary evidence has not been recovered.

Tags: Archaeology, Fieldwork, Historiography, Methodology

Enos, Richard Leo. “Rhetorical Archaeology: Established Resources, Methodological Tools, and Basic Research Methods.” The SAGE Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, edited by Andrea A. Lunsford, Kirt H. Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly, Sage Publications Inc., 2009, pp. 35-52. 

Richard Enos notes that a rhetorician’s job is not only to teach but also to discover and create new knowledge for teaching. In defense of rhetorical research, he aims to establish a relationship among resources, research, and methods. Concerned with the scope of the rhetorical tradition and using archeology as an analogy, Enos advocates for a “rhetorical archeology,” arguing that “both our secondary research and the retrieval of new, primary resources is incomplete” and that in order to “fully appreciate and be sensitive to rhetoric, one must understand context—in this case historical context” (40). He provides readers with guidance on how to engage in primary research in the field of rhetoric by reviewing several well-established historiographies, while acknowledging that such works are interpretations motivated by particular historians’ objectives. 

Enos also examines speciality and thematic studies, such as Walter Ong’s work on the relationship between orality and literacy or Eric Havelock’s work on the relationship between oral and written expression, which Enos claims, for example, shows the importance of “sensitivity” to understanding “how mentalities operate differently in non-literate and literate cultures” when researching rhetoric’s history (36). In addition, Enos cites contemporary women rhetoricians (e.g., Andrea Lunsford, Cheryl Glenn) whose works are valuable resources for gender-related and other rhetorical historiographies. He then discusses the procedures for archeological fieldwork in rhetoric (e.g., how to secure archival permission). 

Overall, for more comprehensive accounts of a rhetorical tradition, Enos overviews two important phases of rhetorical research. The first phase is fieldwork using archeological research methods. The second is to “reconstruct an artifact by employing the heuristics of rhetorical layering,” which consists of four interactive strata of analysis: “discovering the social, political, and cultural conditions; reconstructing the rhetorical situation or kairos that induces discourse; analyzing the actual discourse; and finally, displaying of this work in a manner that reconstructs the dynamic interaction of these layers” (57). The rhetorician can then choose the most sensitive heuristics to analyze discourse or theory and “explicate the event for public display” (57). 

Tags: Feminist Rhetorics, Fieldwork, Historiography, Methodology, Oral Literacies, Rhetorical Theory 

Enos, Richard Leo. “Theory, Validity, and the Historiography of Classical Rhetoric: A Discussion of Archaeological Rhetoric.” Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric, edited by Michelle Ballif, Southern Illinois UP, 2013, pp. 8–24.

In this chapter, Richard Enos launches a critique against the discipline’s inattention to matters of historical context, archaeological evidence, and nonliterary forms of evidence in our histories of rhetoric (9). Such orientations to traditional historical research can be reconfigured, Enos suggests, should we accept the invitation to seek out new historical methods and atypical forms of historical evidence. 

Enos recognizes the tremendous potential of borrowing methods from Archaeology and adapting those methods for rhetorical studies. Fieldwork, he suggests, can allow rhetoricians to study material and nondiscursive forms of evidence that may illuminate new contours of rhetoric not exemplified by discursive or literary evidence alone. According to Enos, archaeological rhetoric can “reveal the mentalities driving ancient rhetoric” (13). Put simply, the adaptation of archaeological methods to rhetorical studies can enable comparative rhetoricians to develop more robust understandings of the social, cultural, and historical contexts that influenced how rhetoric emerged in antiquity. Archaeological evidence is especially critical for those comparative rhetoricians who want to learn about global rhetorics in places where traditional forms of literary evidence have not been found.

Tags: Archaeology, Fieldwork, Historiography, Methodology, Rhetorical Histories

Fatima, Saba. “Muslim-American Scripts.” Hypatia, vol. 28., no. 2, Spring 2013, pp. 341–59. JSTOR,

This article offers a theoretical assist to scholars of Muslim Americans’ diasporic texts. Fatima’s uptake of “script” helps identify and then critique the implicit expectations that diasporic communities—namely, Muslims residing in the United States—must demonstrate a kind of patriotism in order to be rhetorically and epistemically understood as belonging. This is in part due to an expectation that all immigrants are expected to align with US foreign policy; however, it is also partly due to the “idea of Muslims being one entity, one nation, an ummah, which is a normatively prescribed notion within the Islamic faith” (346).

In the same way that not all Muslim-Americans have diasporic ties to extremist groups or even to the same notion of “Islamic nation” (346), their testimonies may be subject to the same type of distortions—“unreflectively and nondoxastically”—that Fatima says occurs through the lens of Muslim Americans’ “perceived loyalties and values” (347). In pushing for a more empathetic Muslim epistemology, Fatima asks Muslim Americans to “confront our affinities, our loyalties, and our values as resources of knowledge to better inform our participation in American politics” (352). Only then, she argues, will such an identification such as “Muslim American” lead to an appropriate epistemology. 

While her study principally considers discourse in the United States, the essay’s central claim—“that our complex affective response can inform our social and political discourse in a more morally adequate and responsive way” (343)—makes the concept malleable for rhetorical study of localized diasporic communities in other parts of the world. It does so by offering scholars a way to think about scripts not only as semantic containers, but also as collections of concepts or ideas related to a particular discursive event. It also does so by helping scholars to understand what makes their projects political even if they don’t explicitly involve politics.

Ultimately, Fatima argues that, if we know how to look for them, “scripts” are capable of expressing incongruities between whole theories of language. Thus, scholars can use scripts to identify and complicate the terms that they typically associate with global rhetorical work (i.e., diaspora and standpoint) so as to do more than just essentialize or reverse-essentialize one cultural group or another. 

Tags: Diasporic Rhetorics, Islamic Rhetorics, Methodology, Political Rhetorics 

Garrett, Mary M. “Tied to a Tree: Culture and Self-Reflexivity.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 243–55. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2013.792693.

In her contribution to a special issue on “the Future of Comparative Rhetoric,” Mary Garrett laments that disciplines which require textual interpretation often offer little systematic instruction on how to improve self-reflexivity as a research methodology (243), raising self-awareness of the researcher’s own cultural biases. Yet comparative rhetoric depends heavily on scholars’ self-reflexivity to fairly interpret texts from rhetorical traditions other than their own. She proposes an approach for ameliorating cultural bias by synthesizing methodologies from cultural anthropology, qualitative research, and critical theory. She also consults ethnology, sociology, and feminist theory to derive three practices for enhancing the ‘how’ of comparative rhetoric: “monitoring one’s responses, asking the ‘natives,’ and putting oneself in the position of the other” (245; 252-254). Toward the first objective, Garrett kept a journal to heighten her awareness of her own responses to the Chinese text she discusses in this essay, aware of the “high stakes” of studying “an emerging area that is still characterized by unequal power relations as well as issues of status and cultural pride” (245).

At the beginning of her essay, Garrett shares the story of how she struggled with a particular Chinese text, the section of the Shishuo xinyu [sic] dealing with “Virtuous Conduct,” and how she strove to overcome her shock at the moral decision which the text presents by attempting to read it from the position of the other (244). Her attempt to place herself in the other’s shoes and thus understand Chinese values and the power dynamic between children and their parents illustrates the problem: Western rhetoric scholars cannot afford to impose their own cultural experience—its privileges, values, and social status—on the texts which often present contrasting socio-historical experience, power relations, and values.  

Eurocentricity, Garrett argues, creates an unbalanced power dynamic between the West and China, which hinders Western understanding of Chinese texts. Garrett also calls attention to the complex political relations between the US and China, and China and Taiwan, explaining how the impact of the Cultural Revolution is still in full swing. She gives examples of the imbalance of power dynamics in comparative rhetoric studies, which tend to be conducted through a Western lens. She outlines the debates on self-reflexivity and posits that Western comparatists fail to consider the consequences of unreflective practices. More specifically, in her realization of the many conditions she did not share with the Chinese women whose writings she studied, Garrett located a way of systematically uncovering levels of influence on reading the ‘other’ (249). Ultimately, she posits that the exercise of empathy is an ethical way to conduct comparative rhetoric scholarship by helping scholars attain a better sense of the differences unique to each text (245-250).

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Ethics, Methodology, The Other, Representation

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures. Basic Books, 1973. 

Clifford Geertz divides his germinal book into five parts to develop his discussion of Gilbert Ryle’s “thick description.” Geertz argues that ethnography in many ways provides “stratified hierarchy of meaningful structures” (6) in research, and he demonstrates why it is an integral part of anthropology. He explains that ethnography allows readers to understand how and why authors arrive at certain conclusions based on their field notes, on observation of a culture.

Geertz explains how, instead of providing thick description and viewing communities from “within,” ethnographers may become biased in their rush to theorize irregularities or generalize cases based on previous assumptions. He suggests that one purpose of anthropology “is the enlargement of the universe of human discourse” (14). He further analyzes the word “culture” to show that it takes on a persona of its own, if it is viewed on the basis of religion, rituals, social, and public dimensions. Drawing on his own observation of many Asian and other world communities, he demonstrates how culture, social attitudes, religious structures, decolonization, and nationalism are different systems intertwined to create complex human societies.

Tags: Ethnography, Methodology, Thick Description 

Hum, Sue, and Arabella Lyon. “Recent Advances in Comparative Rhetoric.” The SAGE Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, edited by Andrea A. Lunsford, Kirt H. Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly, Sage, 2009, pp. 153–65. 

Sue Hum and Arabella Lyon briefly but thoroughly examine the core questions that arise when taking on projects in comparative rhetoric. Scholars must: (1) define rhetoric; (2) identify the appropriate methodology; (3) acknowledge their own standing points; and (4) consider how subjects of comparison are being represented (154). The authors break their article into these sections, examining both the history and core approaches that built the discipline of comparative rhetoric, providing a brief overview for students and scholars new to the field.

Tags: African Rhetorics, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Indian Rhetorics, Methodology

Jarratt, Susan C. “Beside Ourselves: Rhetoric and Representation in Postcolonial Feminist Writing.” Crossing Borderlands: Composition and Postcolonial Studies, edited by Andrea A. Lunsford and Lahoucine Ouzgane, U of Pittsburgh P, 2004, pp. 110–28. 

In this chapter, Susan Jarratt uses the rhetorical figures of metaphor and metonymy to map the methods of representation found in the postcolonial feminist writing of Gayatri Spivak, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Rigoberta Menchú. She aligns her analysis, first, with Spivak’s distinction between representation and re-presentation, that is, the difference between political and symbolic processes of representation. A metaphoric style of representation occurs when a spokesperson speaks on behalf of a group whereas a metonymic style of representation occurs through associations. 

For Jarratt, Spivak and Minh-ha’s writing emerges from the US academy and draws attention to this privileged position by foregrounding their difference. Both reject clear and easy subject positions, with Spivak returning to consider her identity throughout her writing and Minh-ha adopting an ironic tone and multiplicity of voices in her writing. Each draws attention to the tension between metaphoric and metonymic representation, which Jarrett uses to rewrite classical definitions of ethos and audience and its assumptions of shared knowledge. She closes with the testimonio of Menchú. 

Jarrett uses the difference in goals between Menchú and Minh-ha and Spivak to show how at times, a more metaphorical practice of representation might be necessary in situations where identification is the goal and description is necessary. Menchú’s work suggests that in such situations the group is not always replaced by the speaker but the speaker is seen as an extension of the group; the subject is collective rather than singular. The subject can not simply be a presence or absence. Instead, Jarrett suggests that it is our responsibility as teachers to locate texts within their different geopolitical contexts by asking questions like, “What is it we recognize? What parts of the whole do we ‘read?’” (128). In doing so, we can productively use the relationship between metaphor and metonymy in place of the restrictive dichotomy between speech and silence.

Tags: Feminist Rhetorics, Metaphor, Methodology, Postcolonial Rhetorics, Representation, Subject Positions

Jarratt, Susan C. “Recontextualizing Ancient Rhetoric,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 250–52. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105

Inspired by a Manifesto composed during the Comparative Rhetoric Seminar at the 2013 Rhetoric Society of America Institute, Susan Jarratt encourages readers to recontextualize canonical and “classical” texts within the Western rhetorical tradition, drawing from recent scholarship on Latin American (Romano; Olsen), Chinese (Lyon; Lu; Mao; Wang) and emergent South African (Salazar; Doxtader, Mack) rhetorics. Looking across these emergent traditions, Jarratt observes the hazardous tendency to fall into the trap of homogenizing Western rhetorical traditions by merely rejecting them for others, rather than diversifying approaches to reading cultural rhetorics. In response, Jarratt explores Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (c. 400 BCE) and Cicero’s De Oratore through a refreshed cultural lens, appealing to a more rigorous examination of the links between rhetoric and democracy, especially learning how heterogeneous these past rhetorics can be, regardless of their locations.

Tags: Cultural Rhetorics, Democratic Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories

Lu, Xing. “Comparative Rhetoric: Contemplating on Tasks and Methodologies in the Twenty-First Century,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 266–69. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105.   

Due to the scarcity of research on non-Western rhetorical traditions over the last thirty years noted by Garrett, Jensen, Kennedy, and Oliver, Xing Lu offers a four-step plan for diversifying prospective conceptual and methodological directions to: (1) establish an easily accessible database of symbolic practices suitable for corresponding social and political needs, although it is challenging as it requires researchers to be constantly self-aware of their cultural roots and also because it moves across cultures and traditions; (2) expand contact zones and rhetorical repertoire to respond to emerging rhetorical concepts like Keith Lloyds’ Nyaya, an India’s approach to debate; (3) travel beyond established binaries such as “the Greek and the rest” in order to avoid ultimate arbitrators of evaluating non-Western vs. Western traditions; and (4) address real issues contextualized in the global community “to remain accountable to the communities” beyond academe (208). 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Contact Zone, Methodology

Lyon, Arabella. “Tricky Words: Rhetoric and Comparative,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 243–46. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105

The article opens up a special Rhetoric Review symposium on “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric” by discussing non-binary ways of exploring the comparative rhetoric field in the globalization era. Specifically, Arabella Lyon problematizes the terms “rhetoric” and “comparative” not as extensions of the existing Western rhetorical tradition; instead of appropriating what other cultural traditions understand by these terms, Lyon calls on us to challenge the prevailing patterns of power imbalance and knowledge production by diversifying histories and ontologies, which a diversity of cultures create. 

Tag: Rhetorical Theory, Methodology

Mailloux, Steven. “Jesuit Comparative Theorhetoric,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 263–66. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105.  

In this article, Steven Mailloux claims that the rhetorical-hermeneutic strategy of the Jesuits, consisting of “the ministries of the Word as theorized and practiced by the Society of Jesus” (263), is an unpredictable process of transforming others. More specifically, Mailloux explains that Jesuits historically performed in churches, classrooms, and cross-cultural missions in order to transform audiences’ interests and abilities in the tradition of rhetorical accommodationism, which became “a kind of virtue ethics and a comparative theorhetoric of cross-cultural accommodationism” (264). To examine this “virtue ethics,” Mailloux traces the rhetorical-hermeneutic strategy of the Jesuits from 1600 across China and Europe, showcasing theorhetorics as rhetorical practices, not only of preaching but also of dressing and languaging. Finally, Mailloux recommends learning from this Jesuit rhetorical tradition, as it reflects a form of strong hermeneutic ethnocentrism that was “reinforced through . . . collective, individualized technologies of the self, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercise,” and he frames comparative rhetoric as an “angelic instrument” (266). 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, Religious Rhetorics

Mao, LuMing. “Beyond Bias, Binary, and Border: Mapping out the Future of Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 209–225. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2013.792690

In his introductory essay to a special issue on “Comparative Rhetoric,” Mao frames the discussion by questioning Hanban’s (the Office of Chinese Language Council International) liberal association of Chinese language centers worldwide with the name “Confucius,” or Confucius Institutes, calling this association rhetorical (209) but also incongruous (210). Mao argues that the inherent incongruities in naming indigenous language institutes after an imperialized name (i.e., “Confucius” is a Latinization of the Chinese “Kongfuzi”) not only reflect what Kenneth Burke calls a ‘‘representative anecdote’’ (210), they also help reveal “new spaces of meaning-making” for the comparative rhetorical enterprise, which is defined by seemingly incongruous aims (210-211). Pursuing comparative rhetorical studies in the present time is to openly engage with similar incongruities as our very ‘‘locus of enunciation. . . . Directly addressing these incongruities will help us see through our own blind spots and overcome biases, binaries, and borders that have clouded our visions of the other and ourselves’’(211). 

Given its emphasis on using analysis to “diverse rhetorical experiences of Chinese people in different historical moments,” Chinese rhetoric potentially offers  advances that can radically transform traditional narratives of rhetoric (212), even beyond the anthropological turns that have informed field scholarship. To chart new paths for comparative rhetorical studies, comparative scholars must develop more and robust responses to address the methodological challenges attending the study of non-euroamerican rhetorical practices and to bring to light ‘‘the partialities, erasures, and disappearances that have been inscribed over time into such materials’ seemingly positivistic existences’’ (212).

Mao proposes three responses for tackling the kind of incongruities brought about by our own limitations or by a wide variety of rhetorical crossings. The first response entails moving beyond the etic/emic approach (213), becoming explicit about the limits and limitations that the use of the etic and the emic may engender (214). The second response entails rejecting‘‘facts of essence’’ in favor of ‘‘facts of usage’’ and “facts of non-usage” (215), so as to “enact a form of meta-disciplinarity, cultivating conditions that will mobilize an openness not only to ‘new objects and new forms of inquiry’ but to how other traditions and cultures use and experience language and other symbolic means to debate, to persuade, and to communicate” (217). The third response entails practicing recontextualization, or studying how “political, economic, and sociocultural exigencies help determine local contexts” (217), to “resist formulating structures of sameness” (217), to “foreground how individuals seek out” (218), insist on developing “term of interdependence and interconnectivity” (219), and be a “disclaimer” for others (221). 

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Essentialism, Kenneth Burke, Methodology, The Other, Recontextualization

Mao, LuMing. “Doing Comparative Rhetoric Responsibly.” Rhetoric and Society Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 64–69. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2010.533149.

LuMing Mao’s essay critiques the methodological stance which Scott Stroud advances in his earlier Rhetoric Society Quarterly (RSQ) essay “Pragmatism and the Methodology of Comparative Rhetoric” (vol. 39, no. 4). He finds Stroud’s characterization of prevailing comparative rhetoric methodology as “a purely and exclusively descriptive endeavor” to be “misguided” (64), and illustrates this argument by explaining the complexity of the comparative rhetoric endeavor. More specifically, by pointing to the challenging epistemic questions that comparative methodology must address, Mao highlights a central objective which Stroud overlooks: the need to redress the assumption that Western rhetorical paradigms must be universally applicable, an assumption which results in mistaken views of the rhetorical practices and purposes of other paradigms and places. To redress the issue, Mao asserts, the responsible approach is to “treat non-Western rhetorics on their own terms” (65).

Responsible, accurate representation, Mao argues, calls for a greater need “to seek out primary texts” (65); “assemble and analyze necessary and sufficient data to test our arguments and claims”; “pay close attention to both historical and contemporary contexts”; “interrogate the location of those who are doing the speaking for/about”; being aware that any description still “embodies a point of view” (66); and one must be “conscious of the consequences of one’s own claims” (68). In sum, he asserts that to say that comparative rhetoric is merely descriptive is to paradoxically affirm the need to responsibly “pursue comparative rhetoric now more than ever” (65). Moreover, he argues that Stroud constructs a false binary between historical and reconstructive approaches. Instead, Mao counters that they are necessarily complementary (66-67) and suggests that, “one therefore has to wonder if Stroud’s account of Descartes and Śankara is just as descriptive as is reconstructive in actuality” [sic] (67).

This essay and the debate to which it contributes are especially interesting in the context of the disciplinary development of comparative rhetoric. Stroud’s rebuttal, “Useful Irresponsibility? A Reply to Mao on the Purpose(s) of Comparative Rhetoric,” was published alongside Mao’s critique in RSQ’s “Comment and Response” section. Suggesting one outcome of this debate, Mao guest edited the journal’s special issue on Comparative Rhetoric (vol. 43, no. 2, 2013), which was later republished as an edited volume, Comparative Rhetoric: The Art of Traversing Rhetorical Times, Places, and Spaces (Routledge, 2014).

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, Pragmatism, Thick Description 

Mao, LuMing. “Reflective Encounters: Illustrating Comparative Rhetoric.” Style, vol. 37, no.4, 2003, pp. 401-425. 

LuMing Mao identifies two typical problems with comparison—the over reliance on “deficiency models” and the use of “rhetorical universals” (401).  To show how these function in our rhetorical histories, Mao constructs a narrative of the field starting with Robert Kaplan, Robert Oliver, and George Kennedy. Mao notes an important shift in the 80s and 90s from the use of Western terms to describe other rhetorics to the use of “native terms or systems” (411).  

Mao offers a methodology for moving past Western points of reference by creating reflective  encounters based on “critical interrogation and informed contextualization” (412).  As a result, we can better understand the “Western rhetorical tradition” by learning about non-Western systems (413).  Rather than seeing these as discrete units, Mao sees these relationships as constantly becoming, where “every etic/emic process begets a new one, and each process raises the level of understanding and enriches the modes of reflection” (419).  This is what he calls a “creative understanding” that is always cycling through new encounters and new rhetorics. 

Tags: Asiacentric Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Historiography, Methodology

Mao, LuMing. “The Rhetoric of Responsibility: Practicing the Art of Recontextualization.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 30, no. 2, 2011, pp. 119-120; pp. 131–32. JSTOR,  

This brief discussion of comparative methodologies appears in “Octalog III: The Politics of Historiography in 2010.” LuMing Mao begins by raising a number of questions about recent interest in non-Western and indigenous rhetorical traditions, including what practices researchers should focus on, why, and the impact of these choices on the field. Moreover, he raises questions about how to study non-Western and indigenous rhetorics, minimize bias, come to consensus, and finally, understand the politics, experiences, and relationships that the researchers themselves bring to this work. 

In answer to these questions, Mao suggests a practice in the “art of recontextualization” (119), which involves critically reevaluating self and other in light of the political, cultural, and socioeconomic exigences that shape the contexts of rhetorical performance. Mao argues that the art of recontextualization is a rhetoric of responsibility in that it asks the researcher to commit to perpetual negotiation between localized narratives and the larger significance of a given tradition in order to shine light on the overlooked and unseen.  

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Consensus, Historiography, Methodology, Recontextualization

Mao, LuMing. “Searching for the Way: Between the Whats and the Wheres of Chinese Rhetoric.” College English, vol. 72, no. 4, 2010, pp. 329–49. JSTOR,  

In this article, LuMing Mao claims that answering the critical what’s and where’s of Chinese rhetoric can not only help scholars to understand the differences that undergird Western and Chinese rhetoric, but also offer us valuable opportunities to open up new spaces for studying Chinese rhetorics and advancing cross-cultural communication in contemporary contact zones (329). In the global contact zones, according to Mao, the what and the where of Chinese rhetoric are inextricably linked to one other (339). This kind of ideological and rhetorical research enables us not only to reflect on their respective differences and even contradictions, but also to interrogate and transform those conditions that have given rise to different rhetorical practices and their interrelatedness within and across the borders of the nation state.

In answering the what question of Chinese rhetoric, scholars of rhetoric are reexamining and reconceptualizing rhetoric’s purposes and functions beyond the paradigm of Western rhetoric. As part of the non-Western rhetorical traditions, Chinese rhetoric, owing to its rich history, has become an important part of the emerging narrative that interrogates the Western rhetorical tradition and its canonical ways of representation, ways to approach rhetoric, and rhetorical situations. Mao argues that by answering the what question of Chinese rhetoric, scholars of rhetoric respond to and compare Chinese rhetoric with the whats of the Western rhetorical tradition (331). The where question has to be answered using the recontextualization approach, which is already present in recent work on Chinese rhetoric (334), according to Mao. The recontextualization approach helps us to better attend to the ideologies and their corresponding methods that determine the study of Chinese rhetoric (335).

Mao concludes that we should focus on the textual spaces where related concepts and categories cluster and where subject positions take shape. However, he lined out three points when doing Chinese and comparative rhetoric: first, we might want to abandon the binary characterizations of any kind of rhetoric, including Chinese rhetoric; second, the blurring boundary between the what and the where meant requires us to interrogate our ingrained ways of thinking as we study other forms of rhetoric and tradition; third, the ongoing interest in studying Chinese and other rhetorics is fueled by our growing need to move beyond the paradigm of Western rhetoric and to open up space for other ways of knowing and other modes of reasoning.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Contact Zone, Methodology, Recontextualization, Subject Positions

Mao, LuMing. “Thinking Beyond Aristotle: The Turn to How in Comparative Rhetoric.” PMLA, vol. 129, no. 3, 2014, pp. 448–55. JSTOR,  

Recognizing the steady rise in scholarly research on Chinese rhetoric, Mao situates his essay within the context of comparative rhetoric and offers a methodological approach to the study of non-Western rhetorics. In this regard, he advocates a thinking beyond Aristotelian paradigms with a focus on facts of usage and facts of non-usage, such that rather than ask “What is . . . ?” questions that seek the essence of rhetoric in other cultures, comparative rhetorical scholars are better served when they ask “How is . . . ?” questions that emphasize “thick description, dialogism and consciousness of our own claims” (450) while seeking the ends and purposes to which rhetorical production is put. Exemplifying the approach by means of a passage from Zhuangzi, an ancient Chinese philosopher and rhetorician, Mao believes this turn from the ontological to the purposive would enable scholars to move beyond some of the perils of binary thinking in comparative rhetorical scholarship. 

Tags: Aristotle, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Essentialism, Methodology, Thick Description 

Mao, LuMing, Bo Wang, Arabella Lyon, Susan C. Jarratt, C. Jan Swearingen, Susan Romano, Peter Simonson, Steven Mailloux, and Xing Lu. “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 239–74. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105

This article comprises the proceedings of the comparative rhetoric seminar, which was part of the 2013 Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute. Over the weeklong seminar, participants drafted a “Manifesto: The What and How of Comparative Rhetoric,” which is included in this article as Appendix A (273-74). The creation of this Manifesto is the first time that this young discipline has been defined through a collective effort “both to articulate goals, objectives, and methodologies for comparative and to map out an inspiring and inclusive future” (Mao and Wang, “Introduction,” 239). The nine essays that follow, including an introduction, “continues and expands upon this collective effort” (239).  

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, Rhetorical Theory

Mao, LuMing, and Bo Wang. “Introduction: Bring the Game On,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 239–43. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105. 

This introductory essay summarizes the accomplishments of the 2013 comparative rhetoric seminar and makes note of the advancements made in this young field of concern and the challenges which remain. LuMing Mao and Bo Wang discuss how the papers that follow complicate the issues, particularly of methodology, and raise important questions, paving the way for a more inclusive future in the field of rhetorical studies.

Mao and Wang write, “Recognizing the ethical, epistemic, and political implications” in comparative studies, scholars of rhetoric are called upon to study the rhetorical texts that “have been under-represented, under-recognized, or dismissed” (240). They assert that globalization of comparative rhetoric entails not only a “rethinking of the comparative enterprise,” but also of the “construction of the ‘Other’” (240). A mode of rethinking requires us to “move away from divides and binaries and promote nuanced analysis and discursive open-endedness” (240) and foster the “habits of living in a pluralistic and globalizing world,” the process that Royster and Kirsch defined as “a multidimensional sense of diversity” (241).

By taking up the challenge of the methodological paradox, the limits of language, and disparity between worldviews of different cultures, the essays that follow are exemplary of how comparative rhetoric has not only challenged traditional Euro-American conceptions, but also have provided new methods of analysis for diverse rhetorical experiences of people across times and spaces (241-43). Mao and Wang invite “readers and colleagues within and across the disciplines to join this conversation about comparative rhetoric” (242). The concerns they entertain suggest the interdisciplinary scope of the field. 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, The Other, Pluralistic Rhetorics

Miike, Yoshitaka. “Asian Communication Studies at the Crossroads: A View to the Future from an Asiacentric Framework.” Journal of Content, Community & Communication, vol. 3, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 1–6.  

In this article, Yoshitaka Miike argues for the need to “re-center Asian cultural traditions in theory and research, learn from Asiacentric communication pioneers and their pioneering work, and move beyond comparative Eurocentrism and engage in global dialogue”(1). Miike suggests that Asian communications studies are at a crossroads and that in order to approach communication from an Asiacentric paradigmatic framework we must engage in a “non-ethnocentric and non-essentialist” analysis. We should also treat diverse Asian cultural traditions and epistemological groundings as essential intellectual resources for “developing concepts, comparisons, postulates, and principles [that capture] Asian communicators as subjects and actors of their own realities rather than spectators” (1).

There are four content dimensions of the Asiacentric paradigm that Miike argues are central to an Asiacentric way of knowing: (1) the linguistic dimension, (2) the religious and philosophical dimensions, (3) the historical dimension, and (4) the aesthetic dimension. If rhetorical criticism is to move away from Eurocentric ideals then it should strive for global, multilingual, and multicultural paradigms, not merely paradigms that promote East-West or North-South conversations (3).  The “non-Western world and its intellectual universe have been fragmented by comparative Eurocentrism in a number of respects” (3). 

Tags: Aesthetics, Asiacentric Rhetorics, Communication Theory, Contrastive Rhetoric, Epistemology, Intercultural Communication, Recontextualization, Rhetorical Traditions

Nisbett, Richard. The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why. Free Press, 2003.

In Geography of Thought, Richard Nisbett explores the differences in perception, cognition, and thought processes between people of Eastern culture versus Western culture. This analysis allows him to illustrate the respective differences between Easterners and Westerners in their way of approaching logic, perceptions of the everyday world, and their views on relationships. He suggests that while Westerners are generally logic prone and keen to perceiving individual objects in the world, and most individualistic, Easterners are more reasonable than logical, more holistic when viewing their environment, and much more socially oriented than their Western neighbors. Nisbett continuously attributes these thought nuances to the history and geographical influences that have defined both cultures. 

Tags: Cultural Rhetorics, Logic, Methodology, Place, Worldview

Rickert, Thomas J.  “Rhetorical Prehistory and the Paleolithic.” Review of Communication, vol. 16, no. 4, 2016, pp. 352–73. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/15358593.2016.1207358

Although it is not explicitly comparative nor global in scope, Thomas Rickert’s essay uses materialist historiographic methods to discuss two prehistoric rhetorical forms in ways that are useful for offering a fresh perspective on comparative methodologies. First, Rickert argues that the performance of rhetoric through Paleolithic plaques, beads, and spatial arrangements shows that a prehistory of rhetoric need not be one continuous narrative, but that rhetoric has emerged over a long period of time in fits and starts well before the ancient Greeks sought to define it. Thus, to understand classical rhetoric it is necessary for us to understand the forms of rhetoric they were responding to and building upon. 

Secondly, and with this idea in mind, Rickert argues that cave rituals, including cave paintings and the ambient spaces of the caves themselves, are a form of rhetoric inclusive of magic and religion. These forms of rhetoric expand its bounds beyond a focus on the discursive and the persuasive by introducing “bio-material technics” such as sound, atmospherics, and non-representational imagery towards the ends of shamanistic self-transformation. In the end, Rickert calls for more investigation not only into how religion, magic, and transcendence are integral to rhetoric’s history, but also into how rhetoricity can be understood through these same phenomena.  

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Archeology, Greek Rhetorics, Historiography, Magic, Methodology, Religious Rhetorics, Spatial Rhetoric, Visual Rhetorics

Romano, Susan. “Ethics in Motion: Composing Responses to Euro-Latin-American Encounter,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 256–59. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105.  

Susan Romano rigorously explores how the trope of comparison moves through the historical literary piece, Relación de las antigüedades de los indios (An Account of the Antiquities of the Indians) by Catalonian Friar Ramón Pané to Pietro Martire d’Anghiera (in English, Peter Martyr), an Italian humanist, and later to interpretations of Serge Gruzinski, an eminent Latin-Americanist. In the piece, Pané, in company with language coaches, observes how the Taíno, using “the zemis—small objects made of natural materials whose physical properties . . . were . . . wide-ranging” (257), embodied the Christian message on the island. 

Later, two European humanists, Peter Martyr and, later, Serge Gruzinski distortedly recontextualized America’s indigenous, including the cultural values of the Zemis, “Martyr moves objects across cultures, and Gruzinski transports the otherness of the past into a field of modern academic ethics” (258). Finally, Susan Romano calls on the field to ethically challenge production of “truthful” texts by careful representation of otherness of the rhetorical past.

Tags: Ethics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Latin American Rhetorics, Representation, Rhetorical Histories, Truth

Saville-Troike, Muriel, and Donna M. Johnson. “Comparative Rhetoric: An Integration of Perspectives.” Pragmatics and Language Learning, vol. 5, 1994, pp. 231–46. 

Arguing that comparative rhetoric is inevitably an interdisciplinary enterprise, this early article from Muriel Saville-Troike and Donna M. Johnson provides an overview of methodologies in comparative rhetoric from three disciplines: second language acquisition, rhetoric, and linguistics. Here, readers get an overview of important definitions, as well as different limitations inherent in each approach. The authors argue for an “ethnography of communication” that integrates these three perspectives by considering text as a “socially situated communicative event” (231). Both contrastive rhetoric and rhetorical analysis can work together to capture a more complex understanding of writing in specific cultural and social contexts that can be compared across discourse communities.

Tags: Communication Theory, Comparative Rhetoric, Contrastive Rhetoric, Ethnography, Linguistics, Methodology, Rhetorical Analysis, Second Language, Writing Studies 

Shuter, Robert. “Robert T. Oliver: Trailblazer in Intercultural Communication.” China Media Research, vol. 7, no. 2, 2011, pp. 121–26.  

Robert Shuter offers a brief overview of the contributions that Robert T. Oliver made to the fields of communication and rhetoric. The article outlines four of Oliver’s primary contributions: (1) critiques of the Eurocentric bias in rhetorical studies; (2) initial studies of Asiacentric rhetorics including Confucianism, Taosim, Buddhism, and Hinduism; (3) the development of “intercultural” perspectives and rhetorics predicated on the assumption that culture and communication are intractably interlinked; and (4) contributions to international diplomacy, communication, and cooperation through his work as a diplomat and advisor to South Korea. Shuter argues that Oliver’s work was an important precursor to the work of influential contemporary scholars in global rhetorics and intercultural communication, including Lucy Xing Lu, Mary Garrett, and Edward Hall. 

Tags: Asiacentric Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Cultural Rhetorics, Intercultural Communication, Methodology

Simonson, Peter. “Comparative Rhetoric as Pedagogical and Cultural Topic,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 260–62. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105.  

Peter Simonson laments that pedagogies of comparative rhetoric are underdeveloped due to a knowledge gap in non-Western rhetorical studies and a lack of “habits of culturally attentive comparative thinking across all assigned texts” (260). Mostly, the noncanonical studies have called attention to recovery or discovery of underrepresented cultures and their discursive practices, underscoring how teaching of such rhetorical traditions is crucial (Hum and Lyon; Lipson and Binkley). Finally, echoed by Mao’s concept of “culturally mediated rhetorical practice” (“A Manifesto”), Simonson shares how his pedagogical innovations for Latin American historical studies in the contact zones between Europe and the first nations of the Americas provide new ways to reflect on cultural specificities and theoretical constellations in the field.

Tags: Cultural Rhetorics, Latin American Rhetorics, Pedagogy of Word Rhetorics 

Slingerland, Edward. “Conceptual Metaphor Theory as Methodology for Comparative Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, vol. 72, no. 1, Spring 2004, pp. 1–31. JSTOR,

In this article, Edward Slingerland advocates for incorporating Conceptual Metaphor Theory into the methodology of comparative studies because it resolves some of comparativists’ popular conundrums. One conundrum is the assumption that, just because an equivalent term does not exist in another culture, it is devoid of that concept. He labels this the “word-fetishism” approach. The second conundrum is the assumption that we can make comparisons at the theoretical level by juxtaposing a philosophy from one culture with a similar one from another. He terms this the “theory-based” approach, which, in the end, may lead to over-generalization. In response, however, Slingerland, argues for an “embodied-realist” approach: Instead of looking at translating individual words or searching for commensurable theories, the comparativist should be looking at the conceptual metaphors that inform the linguistic choices by which each culture represents a concept. 

Conceptual Metaphor Theory argues from the position that there are, in fact, cognitive structures common to all human beings regardless of culture, and it is on these grounds that we can compare cross-cultural concepts more responsibly. To demonstrate this, Slingerland generally compares the concept of morality in the West with the concept of morality in the East. He uses the Analects as a point of cultural representation, but admits that if we really want to know how contemporary Chinese culture conceptualizes morality, then we would need to be analyzing the metaphors of present-day Chinese people. For example, in the West, he proposes, “MORALITY AS ACCOUNTING” [sic] is a predominant metaphor for discussing morality. In the East, he proposes, the metaphor of “MORALITY AS BOUNDED SPACE” [sic] is more predominant (19). Comparing conceptual metaphors aids us in the reciprocal comparison of considering how each cultural position may benefit from the entailments of the other.

Tags: Analects, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Ethics, Metaphor, Methodology, The Other, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Theory 

Stroud, Scott R. “Pragmatism and the Methodology of Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 4, 2009, pp. 353–79. JSTOR,  

In this essay, Scott Stroud argues for an alternative approach to comparative rhetoric, a reconstructive one. He bases his methodological orientation of reconstructive appropriation on his interpretation of John Dewey’s pragmatism. Stroud appropriates Dewey’s pragmatism in the service of his argument that comparative rhetoric should include a plurality of purposes—beyond the accurate representation of a rhetorical tradition—and meet a plurality of other exigencies.

Among possible alternative exigencies, he suggests that, “one could interpret a text for professional goals or self-creation, . . . self-edification . . . —what could this text be arguing or saying to me [italics original], . . . even criticize or interpret events for humorous value, not worrying about any notion of literal truth value” (356-57). Stroud then performs a constructive analysis of two texts from different cultures to demonstrate yet another exigency—problem solving by appropriating a persuasive strategy used in an argument written in one culture and adapting it to solve a problem he finds in that of another culture. He compares Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy with Śaṅkara’s Upadeśāhasrī, both of which are intent upon establishing immutable truth. Stroud points out how Descartes’ argument, if taken as a persuasive appeal, is weak, so he finds in Śaṅkara’s argument an effective strategy which, if applied to Descartes’ argument, would render it more persuasive.

Stroud points out that his proposed methodological approach frees scholarly cross-cultural rhetorical studies from the need for historiological interpretations, extensive knowledge of the culture and its language, and  rigorous textual evidence to support claims of authenticity, generally used to satisfy the prevailing preoccupation of comparative rhetoric with faithful representation of a rhetorical culture. He argues that “correctness of interpretation has too many problematic assumptions” (368). Using a Deweyan pragmatism-inspired orientation, “relativizing to purpose means that questions of ‘getting something right’ become moot” (356). Stroud references postmodernist theory to caution that to limit comparative rhetoric to the quest for representational veracity “exclusive of other approaches” tends toward foundationalism and could result in spurious claims of truth (358). He moreover claims that such a position is “arbitrary and limiting in terms of the results one seeks” (360). 

This essay inspired critique from comparatist LuMing Mao, launching a pivotal debate on methodological best practices in comparative rhetoric. (See Mao’s, “Doing Comparative Rhetoric Responsibly,” and Stroud’s rebuttal, “Useful Irresponsibility? A Reply to Mao on the Purpose(s) of Comparative Rhetoric,” listed herein.) 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, Pragmatism, Shankara/Śaṅkara

Stroud, Scott R. “Useful Irresponsibility? A Reply to Mao on the Purpose(s) of Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 1, 2011, pp. 69–74. JSTOR, 

In this essay, Scott Stroud defends his reconstructive appropriation approach to rhetorical texts from other cultures. In his response to LuMing Mao’s criticism of his essay, “Pragmatism and the Methodology of Comparative Rhetoric” (Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 4, 2009), Stroud first notes Mao’s claim that Stroud inaccurately characterizes the prevailing practice of comparative rhetoric as limited to the pursuit of descriptive accuracy, even while, Stroud points out, Mao argues that the careful pursuit of accuracy in the study of a non-Western rhetoric is the responsible approach (70). Stroud then argues that comparative rhetoric should be more inclusive and allow for at least two general purposes to guide inquiry: a descriptive one (championed by Mao) and reconstructive appropriation (preferred by Stroud), in which there is no need for accuracy above and beyond the pragmatic criterion of usefulness relative to some contingent purpose (70). 

Stroud asserts that Mao’s characterization of comparative rhetoric does not cohere to a particular practice of inquiry and claims that Mao’s notion of responsibility is, moreover, unclear. Finally, he asserts that the kind of comparative rhetoric which Mao champions “often follows habits of argument that exclude approaches and purposes that do not adhere to a currently preferred way of ‘accounting’ for the reality in question” (71). Stroud concludes that the pragmatic pluralism he proposes is flexible and non-exclusionary and asserts that it will allow for more ways that comparative endeavors can be useful (74). 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, Pragmatism

Swearingen, C. Jan. “Revisiting Rhetoric’s Earliest Borders: Hetairae, Metics, and Other Strangers,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 252–56. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105.  

Jan Swearingen refocuses attention away from “Othering” as a generative trope across earliest Greek and Chinese rhetorics and argues that thinking about the speech of pre-Socratic and Chinese rhetoric must reemphasize linguistic self-awareness and interiority—“the very awareness of the Other” (256). To do so, the author traces some similarity in strategies of encountering the Other in Greek and Chinese rhetorical traditions by focusing on teacherly strategies and rules for verbal exchanges (257). To point differences, instead of dichotomizing ethos, pathos, and logos to counterparts in Guiguzi and Greek texts, the author emphasizes how the implicit character is pertinent to Guiguzi together with general interlocutory patterns, like rectification of names and propriety (“Way-making (dao) that can be put into words is not really way-making and naming (ming) that can assign fixed reference to things is not really naming” (Ames and Hall, ch. 1, lines 1–2, 77). Finally, the author calls for a closer attention to linguistic meta-awareness that may be “the very awareness of the Other” (256).

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Dao/Tao, Guiguzi, The Other, Othering

Swearingen, C. Jan. “Tao Trek: One and Other in Comparative Rhetoric, A Response.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 300–309. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2013.792701

In “Tao Trek,” C. Jan Swearingen seeks to solve the problem addressed by critics of comparative studies in literature and in rhetoric about the danger of creating so-called “new binaries by comparing all rhetorics to euro-american models, and about inevitable exclusions when the search for the One that is the same and unites us ignores the Others that differ from us” (300). More specifically, Swearingen argues that the binaries in rhetorical history and theory could be resolved by learning from the earliest encounters of Eastern and Western philosophies of rhetoric, whereby both -emic and -etic perspectives were more reciprocally linked. She traces recent debates regarding comparative and contrastive approaches to rhetorical studies back to their arguments about which traditions are “originary,” and proposes that revisiting some of the earliest encounters of Eastern and Western philosophies of rhetoric may help resolve these debates by relocating “false universals” in more hybrid and mobile genres. This reading both ways is called “a double vision” approach (301).

Swearingen traces the Tao (or, “the Way”) in ancient Chinese, Indian, Persian, and Greek cultures in the popularity of several traditions, including the following: the Chinese and Japanese literary forms and themes among European writers during the early twentieth century; the construction of innovative “hybrid vernacular” genres by early twentieth-century Chinese women writers; the uchi-soto dynamic in Japanese identity formation; and the Hindu Nyaya style of polymorphic argumentation. Arguing for these as deferential to tradition, Swearingen concludes that the act of having dialogues with the stranger or the “Other” continues to be an issue of identity and politics, and of law and ethics, that can be informed by transnational, historical, and cultural studies. This realization of hybrid rhetorical tradition becomes increasingly important in the current climate of resurgent nationalisms and related polarized identities (308).

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Chinese Women Writers, Comparative Rhetoric, Contrastive Rhetoric, Essentialism, Genres, Historiography, Hybridity, Methodology, Nyaya/Nyāya, The Other, Rhetorical Histories, Uchi-soto, Vernacular Rhetorics

Swearingen, C. Jan, LuMing Mao, Xiaoye You, Yichun Liu, Bo Wang, Weiguo Chu, Hui Wu, and Liu Lu. “CCC Special Symposium on Comparative Rhetorical Studies in the New Contact Zone: Chinese Rhetoric Reimagined.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 60, no. 4, June 2009, W32–W106.

The essays assembled in this special symposium are collectively concerned with new ways of thinking about Chinese rhetorics by challenging long-held understandings and “exploring structures that are dialectical and literary as well as rhetorical” (W32). One refreshed approach to conceiving of Chinese rhetoric is proposed by LuMing Mao, who advocates for moving away from the conceptual lenses that emphasize the binaries and comparisons between Chinese and Western rhetorics (e.g. “direct and indirect”) and moving toward a paradigm of interdependence-in-difference. Another essay by Xiaoye You and Yichun Liu draws attention to policy essays in Chinese rhetoric in order to correct reductive understandings of Chinese rhetoric as only arising from the “eight-legged essay.”

Bo Wang reclaims for Chinese rhetorical studies the work of 20th-century writer Bing Xin, whose use of the vernacular served not only as a nod toward democracy but also as a feminist tactic for communication. Weiguo Qu asserts that rhetoric’s historic role in China ought to be understood not for its capacity “to argue with logic but to affect with qi” (W76), resulting in the predominance of tropes and figures in Chinese rhetoric. And while Hui Wu calls for further studies of “China’s transnational reproduction of Western rhetoric” (W87), Liu Lu seeks to examine the nature of dialectical logic in contemporary Chinese rhetoric and composition. Finally, C. Jan Swearingen’s essay focuses on the bagu wen, or “eight-legged essay,” and explores the dialectical relationships between this form of Chinese writing and Western rhetorics. Taken together, the contributors of this symposium hope their proposed approaches will help spark new directions in the study of Chinese rhetorics.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Contact Zone, Logic, Methodology, Rhetorical Figures, Vernacular Rhetorics 

Swearingen, C. Jan, and Edward Schiappa. “Historical and Comparative Rhetorical Studies: Revisionist Methods and New Directions.” The SAGE Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, edited by Andrea A. Lunsford, Kirt H. Wilson, and Rosa A. Eberly, Sage P Inc., 2009, pp. 1–11.

C. Jan Swearingen and Edward Schiappa, in their state-of-the-field address, situate the emergence of comparative work in rhetorical history. They claim the comparative turn was forwarded by trends toward the inclusion of different interpretive communities, emphasizing the need to re/define rhetoric. Comparative methodology as a recent movement continues to be associated with issues of inclusion/exclusion and recovery, the recovery of feminist voices or religious discourses for example. They attribute the promulgation of rhetorical studies, in general, to what they call Big Rhetoric—the study of “the rhetoric of (fill-in-the-blank).” 

Furthermore, they identify two predominant rationales that have shaped rhetorical theory—the symbolic and the epistemological. The first rationale, attributed to Richard Weaver and Kenneth Burke, broadly states that wherever there is meaning, there is rhetoric. The second rationale, inspired by Chaïm Perelman, Stephen Toulmin, Robert L. Scott, and Thomas Kuhn, argues that all knowledge based in rhetorical activity is socially constructed. 

The authors recognize the limitations of current scholarship by critiquing recent work as mostly being conducted by non-indigenous scholars, scholars who are not themselves from the cultures or conversant in the discourses they research. New directions in comparative work would benefit from integrating and practicing collaboration in this regard.

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Historiography, Methodology, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Theory

Walsh, Lynda. “Accountability: Towards a Definition of Hybridity for Scholars of Transnational Rhetorics.” Rhetorica, vol. 30, no. 4, 2012, pp. 392–431. JSTOR,

In this article, Lynda Walsh suggests that there is one significant obstacle to importing postcolonial hybridity into rhetoric: while most scholars agrees that the “why” of studying hybridity has to do with the construction of subaltern agency, there is no agreement about where this agency is located, what it looks like, or if it is even possible for scholars to prove that hybrid texts are linked to social action” (399). She draws from “relevant work in genre studies, sociolinguistics, and social constructivism to propose a new version of hybridity that can take account of hybrid rhetorical forms, account for their agency with audiences, and be accountable to stakeholders in transnational settings where rhetoricians work” (392). More specifically, Walsh proposes methodological suggestions for achieving a functional definition of hybridity based on her work in a neocolonial context: West African Protestant rhetoric in late-90s Minyankaland, Mali (393). 

Walsh spotlights a few examples (inspired by Andrea Lunsford and Lahoucine Ouzgane) of how rhetorical researchers explore postcolonial texts without adhering to their authentic rhetorical forms, only seeking to adopt them for dominant discourses. Drawing on the markedness theory (Carol M. Scotton) in sociolinguistics, genre hybrids of American political eulogies (Kathleen Hall Jamieson; Karlyn Kohrs Campell), and Bruno Latour’s conception of hybridity, where social networks produce hybrids (science/technology, government/politics, and language/semiotics), Walsh proposes a framework for an accountable approach to hybridity in transnational rhetoric.

Her main application is a sermon preached in Mali, noting “both the successes and challenges of engaging an accountable notion of hybridity” (392), and she enumerates three key points. First, Walsh raises hybridity as a topos that is currently central to the study of non-Western communities, as an alternative to the still-dominant postcolonial paradigm (qua Said, Homi Bhabha, and Mary Louise Pratt). She writes, “[H]ybridity is still crucial to the study of transnational rhetorics since all cultural productions today are hybrid and many are politically volatile” (393). Second, Walsh argues that, “[I]f rhetoricians want to examine the discourse of transnational communities (which many do and should), we will need a functional definition of hybridity to assist us” (393). Third, Walsh notes that “despite some excellent forays into such studies, we do not yet have such a definition” (393) available to us in rhetorical studies—especially a definition that would yield a “traceable account of the rhetorical and political agency of specific textual mixtures of discourse traditions” (393). In response, Walsh proposes accountability in the triple sense: “taking account of all the hybrid forms in a transnational rhetorical event” (Walsh 393) and being accountable to “stakeholders” in the event (Walsh 393). Walsh argues: “articulating hybridity in transnational context should be more demanding than it has been” (Walsh 411).

Tags: Ethics, Genres, Hybridity, Linguistics, Postcolonial Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics, Transnational Rhetorics, West African Rhetorics

Wang, Bo. “Comparative Rhetoric, Postcolonial Studies, and Transnational Feminisms: A Geopolitical Approach.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 226–42. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2013.792692.

In this essay, Bo Wang draws on postcolonial studies and transnational feminisms to rearticulate how comparative rhetoric approaches transnational spaces and identities, arguing that comparative rhetoric must move beyond methodologies that operationalize the nation and universality. Instead of focusing on what we are reading as rhetoricians, Wang says, we should pay close attention to how we are reading.  

The very act of comparing generates discourse, defines spaces, and establishes identities and subjectivities. After detailing important methodological moves in comparative rhetoric, Wang argues for a “geopolitical approach” that acknowledges the relationality between culture and larger geopolitical forces (233). Comparatists themselves create difference and reify colonial power relationships. To illustrate, Wang discusses her archival work on early Chinese feminisms and how reading their work against conventional histories and canonical rhetorical figures recontextualizes these feminine voices.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Feminist Rhetorics, Methodology, Political Rhetorics, Postcolonial Rhetorics, Rhetorical Figures, Rhetorical Histories

Wang, Bo. “Transrhetorical Practice,” in “Manifesting a Future for Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 34, no. 3, 2015, pp. 246–49. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/07350198.2015.1040105.

Bo Wang proposes the term “transrhetorical practice” to enact translating and reframing, two interconnected discursive activities, for learning from other rhetorical traditions. Since this practice is process-oriented, the discursive crossing signifies constant shifting between traditions in highly asymmetrical power relations. Wang also defines this practice as metonymic and spatial-temporal due to its fluidity in the context and, thus, translation. Finally, the article to consider such practices to go beyond dichotomy East-American for capturing conceptual nuances in the field of comparative rhetoric.

Tags: Methodology, Rhetorical Theory  

Wu, Hui. “Post-Mao Chinese Literary Women’s Rhetoric Revisited: A Case for an Enlightened Feminist Rhetorical Theory.” College English, vol. 72, no. 4, 2010, pp. 367–84. JSTOR,

In this essay, Hui Wu claims a connection between transnational literary encounters in the work of Toni Morrison and Wang Anyi. Since the late 1980s, Western critics’ interest in Chinese women’s life, history, and writing has expanded, causing Wu to argue that most Chinese works can be considered feminist “in the sense that they showcase Chinese women’s issues and daily material lives” (407). However, Chinese Post-Mao women writers tend to “deny that they are feminists” and believe instead that the “feminist standpoint is mostly imported from the West” (407). Even so, these women writers did develop feminist thinking that differs from that of their white, middle-class counterparts. In response, Wu proposes “an enlightened feminist rhetorical theory that can both clarify and unravel cultural and political complexities . . . and can strengthen transnational connectivity of feminist ideas” (408). 

A Post-Mao feminist rhetorical theory “aims to move marginalized feminist theories and rhetorics to the center, and applies enlightened thoughts to transform the centrally positioned mainstream interpretive framework” (408). Post-Mao feminism is culturally and politically different from Western mainstream feminism, for example, employing such concepts as self, individual, and Other in order to characterize their writing. Because Post-Mao women endured a “double jeopardy of political oppression and gender discrimination” (409), they gained liberation from Mao’s movement and strong confidence in their intellect, professional development, academic performance, and leadership (410). 

Wu also examines homosexuality (414) and semi-autobiographical fiction (415), both concepts that are unique to Chinese Post-Mao feminism, yet both concepts that are disassociated from western feminism, causing some misreadings, unless critics realize how much their discussion in mainstream Western literary criticism has been constrained by established theories. The Enlightenment methodology that Wu recognized in their work is characterized by several elements, including responsible research for accurate literary criticism, unreserved respect for the Other’s feminist insights that enrich research, and critical reflection on the dominant conceptual framework for theoretical transformation (418). Applying responsibility and respect, Wu claims that the critic can now read a literary text as a rhetorical act (420), and that marginalized non-Western feminist theory is useful in transforming established ideas about feminist discourse (421).

Tags: Chinese Women Writers, Feminist Rhetorics, Methodology, The Other, Post-Mao Rhetorics, Transnational Rhetorics

Wu, Hui. “Trend and Dilemma in Translation: How the Mainstream Rejects Alternative Rhetorics.” Asian-Pacific Interdisciplinary Studies of Translation, vol. 4. 2017, pp. 19–31. 

Hui Wu analyzes her dilemma as a translator selecting and assessing essays by established Chinese literary women for a critically translated anthology. This led to her correlated alternative reading of Aristotelian rhetoric, in which she examines Aristotle’s impact on the Western conceptualization of the thesis statement, which shapes academic criteria for logic, writing development, and discourse formation. This essay cautions that traditional (Western) presumptions and assumptions about rhetoric and writing conventions may put critically acclaimed writers from other cultures at a disadvantage, when publishers, assessing them according to that standard, undervalue their writings, which are well worth translating.

Tags: American Writing Pedagogy, Aristotle, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Essay Genre, Feminist Rhetorics, Logic, Writing Studies 

You, Xiaoye. “Ideology, Textbooks, and the Rhetoric of Production in China.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 56, no. 4, June 2005, pp. 632–53. JSTOR,

In this essay, Xiaoye You explores the rhetoric of production in contemporary China in order to argue that political ideologies shape the contents of English writing textbooks as well as their production, consumption, and dissemination. Specifically, he compares the 1984 first edition and 1994 second editions of Yingyu Xiezuo Shouce (A College Handbook of Composition), the most popular college writing textbook in China. To connect these texts to their production and dissemination, he outlines the wider political and economic situation of two periods in contemporary China, describing the dominant ideology in 1984 China as “socialist ideology,” and the dominant ideology in 1994 as a more market-oriented “socialist ideology with Chinese characteristics” (637). 

The first edition uses a variety of sample writings that overtly promote socialist ideology over a skeleton of current-traditional writing pedagogy. The second edition focuses more on exposition, taking its examples from student papers, which You theorizes has to do with the market-orientation of 1994 China. In the end, You argues that textbooks in China are similar to those in the United States in that they are designed to “produce workers to serve and maintain current economic relations”(650). 

Tags: American Writing Pedagogy, Chinese Rhetorics, English Language, Ideology, Political Rhetorics, Second Language, Textbooks

Young, Morris. Minor Re/Visions: Asian-American Literacy Narratives as a Rhetoric of Citizenship. Southern Illinois UP, 2004.

In this monograph, Morris Young performs an autoethnographic study of his own literacy experiences by blending cultural analysis with personal narrative and pedagogical critique. While Young demonstrates a method for historically recovering the complicated relationship among literacy, race, and citizenship that exists in American culture (6), he also narrates his own experiences with literacy, minority, and racialized subject positions growing up as a Chinese-American in Hawaii. He argues for school as a site for maintaining culturally scripted roles (119). 

More significantly, Young promotes an idea of citizenship literacy or “cultural citizenship” (7), a term suggested by Renato Rosaldo, which attends “not only to dominant exclusions and marginalizations, but also to subordinate aspirations for and definitions of enfranchisement” (7). It is important to note that this enfranchisement extends to all those who write from racialized subject positions or get read as “‘foreigners’ in their own land” (35), regardless of where they reside. Young’s key concepts include “becoming minor,” a position described by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari “that deterritorializes dominant discourse, connects the individual to political immediacy, and provides a collective, even revolutionary enunciation” (8). He also includes the concept of “re/vision,” the idea that in constructing literacy identities we work with both existing material and arguments and re-envision what these ideas and arguments can create. 

Ultimately, he argues that one isn’t born minor, one becomes minor. By the same logic, one can become a citizen if we know which narratives to most fervently rewrite or re/vision. Finally, in showing a reciprocal relationship between literacy and citizenship (i.e., a school report card evaluating a student’s ability to distinguish between Hawaiian Dialect and Standard English), Young argues for teaching literacy narratives as a way of helping students use language to deterritorialize and compose memories that move beyond the literacy myths that have structured their lives.

Tags: Citizenship, English Language, Ethnography, Identity, Racism, Subaltern Literacies, Writing Studies 

African Rhetorics

Adegoju, Adeyemi. “Rhetorical Strategies in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s First Inaugural Address.” African Journal of Rhetoric, vol. 4, 2012, pp. 67–91. Sabinet,  

In his analysis of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s presidential oratorical strategies, Adeyemi Adegoju presents a critical backdrop for observing the “asymmetrical relations” between rhetor and audience, noting how “language could be deployed to mediate what the audience . . . know[s], believe[s] and perhaps think[s] in political processes” (66). In Adegoju’s analysis, Sirleaf encodes her message with the language of power (68), and her rhetorical leadership is largely exerted through her control of discourse (69). 

In addition to demonstrating her complex performance as Africa’s first elected female leader, this analysis also encourages readers to become more sensitive and empathetic historians of Johnson Sirleaf’s discourse, and to consider what that empathy and sensitivity might entail. Adegoju writes: “Our analysis and discussion have revealed that although the discourse produced by Johnson-Sirleaf [sic] to inspire the people in the task of national reconstruction appears to be geared towards achieving group cause, trappings of domination in the discourse cannot be mistaken” (88). Thus, what is at stake in Johnson Sirleaf’s discourse becomes not only what our analytical methods can reveal about her complex performance in an unprecedented discursive space, but also whether her discourse—and feminist historical accounts of it – can be remembered as restoring or renewing a sense of Ubuntu (humanity, or human-ness towards others).

Tags: Feminist Rhetorics, Performance, Speeches, West African Rhetorics, Women’s Rhetorics 

Ahluwalia, Pal. “The Struggle for African Identity: Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance.” African and Asian Studies, vol. 1, no. 4, 2002, pp. 265–78. doi:10.1163/156921002X00024

Pal Ahluwalia’s article offers a critical analysis of the idea of an “African Renaissance” when it is delivered largely through Western rhetoric surrounding South Africa and black South Africans’ struggles to define themselves against misrepresentation. By aligning his argument with Edward Said’s Orientalism, Ahluwalia accomplishes two things. First, he extends Said’s Orientalist stance as  an “academic discipline, a style of thought, and a corporate institution for dealing with the Orient” (266), in turn illuminating Africa’s “orientalism” within Western scholarship. Second, he aligns the West’s construction of the South African  “Other” with Said’s textuality, reminding us how often  the “Other” is constructed through language. As this analytic process and discourse knowledge of “them” becomes more acquired by “us,” it negates South African authenticity and leads to a disciplinarily skewed view of “them.”  Therefore, Africanism in Ahluwalia’s estimation is a construction that can just as easily portray both Africa and the African as marginalized as it can emancipate their legacy.

While Ahluwalia offers a long history of Africanism in much the same way as Said has done of Orientalism, he focuses this analysis primarily on Thabo Mbeki’s May 8, 1996 speech for the newly reorganized African National Congress, in which Mbeki argued metaphorically for his own and his countrymen’s Africanism and called for an African Renaissance. If not taken as a cautionary tale and studied as discourse, Ahluwalia argues, this event may serve in the long term to reduce “Africa” to a conciliatory example rather than a nuanced set of geopolitical tensions (275), and therefore to become an empty signifier: a nullity removed from diaspora (272). 

Significantly, Ahluwalia also offers a history and critique of negritude, centered around the idea of a mutual globalized Black experience practiced by the“colonized” as they sought to turn negative imagery into positive. The concept has historically offered writers one way to romanticize the African continent and exalt the Black experience, leadingAhluwalia to join ranks with Wole Soyinka, Ezekiel Mphahlele and Frantz Fanon, who find negritude problematic for the ways in which it participates in “racial essentialism” (271). Ahluwalia argues that this concept is too simplistic and does not encourage revolution because it invites the re/construction of colonized subjects. Ahluwalia returns to Said, who terms this “nativism” in its emphasis on reassessing the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer (272).

Because Pan-Africanism is concerned with the relationship between the African and the displaced Africans within the Diaspora, Ahluwalia sees that there are three potential lenses for viewing Mbeki’s call for an African Renaissance. One can be pessimistic and serves as a form of Pan-Africanism to reject Western liberalism and consolidate power. The second viewpoint puts Africa on the map as a global competitor in the move towards globalization. The final lens is one that reconstructs African identity, taking off from failed pan-African movements. Yet, Ahluwalia is cautious due to essentialist notions found in the height of the push for negritude. Further, the concept of “renaissance” is steeped in Eurocentrism and must be grappled with if it is to fulfill its purpose within an African context (274-75). 

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Identity, Othering, Postcolonial Rhetorics, Representation, South African Rhetorics

Asante, Molefi Kete. “Afrocentricity: Toward a New Understanding of African Thought in the World.” The Global Intercultural Communication Reader, Second Edition, edited by Molefi Kete Asante, Yoshitaka Miike, and Jing Yin. Routledge, 2014, pp. 101-110. 

Molefi Kete Asante characterizes Afrocentricity as “the construction of knowledge from the standpoint of Africans as agents in the world, actors, not simply the spectators to Europe” (104). The Afrocentric idea is distinguished by five characteristics: (1) An intense interest in psychological location as determined by symbols, motifs, rituals, and signs (105); (2) A commitment to finding the subject-place of Africans in any social, political, economic, or religious phenomenon with implications for questions of sex, gender, and class (106); (3) A defense of African cultural elements as historically valid in the context of art, music, and literature (106); (4) A celebration of “centeredness” and agency and a commitment to lexical refinement that eliminates pejoratives about Africans or other people (107); and (5) A powerful imperative from historical sources to revise the collective text of African people (107).

Since Afrocentricity constitutes both “a new way of examining data, [and] a novel orientation to data” (104), it provides a movement for teaching Africans “to view themselves as centered agents in the world, not marginal to Europe” (104). Its related term, Afrocentrism, describes a philosophy that views the communication person as at the center of all systems receiving information from all equally and stimulating all with the power of his or her personality. In this chapter, Asante operates from the assumption that Western theories of rhetoric are hampered in their ability to speak to the problems of communication because they are grounded in a narrow and limited Eurocentrism—the modernist assumption that Western European beliefs and values (especially those that emphasize the autonomous rational individual) have universal applicability. 

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Audience, Methodology, Othering, Rhetorical Theory 

Blake, Cecil. The African Origins of Rhetoric. Routledge, 2009.  

Cecil Blake’s book is largely concerned with the ethical and moral principles found in African rhetorical traditions, with a particular focus on The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep, an understudied ancient African (Egyptian) text. Blake emphasizes the interplay between discourses of African development and governance, on the one hand, and rhetorical traditions, on the other. The book works against dominant narratives of African underachievement by harkening to The Instruction to propose the restoration of the principles of Maat.

Maat, for Blake, is the ethico-moral grounding for Ptah-Hotep’s rhetoric, and Maatian principles “prioritize character and integrity, through commitment to truth, justice, rightness, fairness, harmony, and order” (7). Blake argues that Maat could serve as a solid bedrock for governance in Africa. To exemplify his argument regarding the Maatian principles in rhetoric and African development, Blake offers an analysis of speeches by African heads of state, and advocates for an integration of Maatian principles in African rhetorical and governance discourses.

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Egyptian Rhetorics, Ethics, Governance, Harmony, Justice, Maat, Truth

Campbell, Kermit E. “Rhetoric from the Ruins of African Antiquity.” Rhetorica, vol. 24, no. 3, Aug. 2006, pp. 255–74. JSTOR,

Kermit Campbell explores lesser known ancient civilizations in Africa, particularly those of the Nubian, Ethiopian, and Mali civilizations, which developed complex literacy traditions with their own rhetorical approaches. After reviewing some of the ways scholars have approached rhetorics of Africa as mostly non-literate, Campbell provides important historical context for these three overlooked ancient African civilizations, showing how rhetorical approaches influence the ways rhetors appealed to the divine ethos of various rulers and kings, especially through metaphor, rhetorical questions, and proverbs. The verbal practices recorded in this ancient literature show rhetorical cultures in Africa that are distinct from what previous scholars have often seen in the more traditional and oral cultures of other times (273). 

In asking scholars to revisit their assumptions about “nonliterate” cultures (Campbell 256), Campbell argues that George Kennedy’s landmark Comparative Rhetoric looked at some of the cultures on the African continent based on what anthropologists considered important at the time, and made similar assertions about African verbal practices (Campbell 257). While this kind of comparative study can be useful, Campbell claims it is still too much situated in Westernized, dichotomous assumptions about literacy (i.e., differentiating between cultures with writing versus cultures without). Nubia, Mali, Axum are only a few of many exceptions to such a dichotomy, and from a cross-cultural rhetorical perspective, African might still be in the making (i.e., describing nations within nations, languages within languages, etc.). 

Thus, working through both ancient and contemporary philosophical positions that are attributed to Africa—and different conceptions of Africa—may help scholars to articulate an indigenous theory of Orientalizing where Africa is concerned, and to become more sensitive to it. The aim of comparative rhetoric shouldn’t be to codify African rhetoric as such but to see it informed by a collusion of discursive practices, spaces, locations (e.g., Egypt, Southeast Asia, other indigenous cultures) (258). Ultimately, Campbell argues that because the roots of African rhetorical tradition are deep and defy simple categorization, scholars should understand their own sense of rhetorical history. There is an idea that African rhetoric is not merely multicultural but also diverse in its plays, griot performances, and folkloric narratives. Like other African scholars, Campbell argues for orienting our comparative rhetorical study towards praxis that takes such diversity for granted epistemically. 

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Metaphor, Oral Literacies, Philosophy, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories

Ige, Segun. “African Rhetoric—Possible Directions.” African Journal of Rhetoric, vol. 1, no. 1, 2009, pp. 15–27. Sabinet,  

Segun Ige’s essay in this inaugural issue of the African Journal of Rhetoric establishes a trajectory for the study of African rhetorical traditions. Recognizing the comparative turn in rhetoric, Ige notes that it is perhaps time for African rhetoric to take its place within the larger discipline of rhetoric. To this end, he examines the prospects of the study of rhetoric as a discipline on the continent, raising crucial questions including (1) the kind of ethics that should underpin rhetorical practice within African contexts, (2) the role of rhetoric in democratic governance in Africa, and (3) the impact of adopting rhetorical practices for African contexts.

Ige’s goal is to create a nexus between the theoretical study of African rhetoric and democratization in African societies. In providing a roadmap for making rhetoric a relevant discipline on the continent, Ige proposes, among others, that scholars theorize the nature of rhetoric on the continent, develop professional associations that enhance research on the discipline, and advocate for field-defining measures like journals, curriculum development, and research collaborations.

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Democratic Rhetorics, Ethics, Governance 

Jackson, Ronald L. II, and Elaine B. Richardson, Eds. Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations. Routledge, 2003.  

The essays collected in this volume are united by a common commitment to African American rhetorical traditions and their multiple manifestations. Divided into six sections of eighteen chapters, Ronald Jackson’s and Elaine Richardson’s collection begins by examining the ancient Egyptian origins of African American rhetoric, noting the spirituality at the root of African and by extension African American rhetoric.

In the first section of the book, orality is emphasized and cultural linguistics is offered as a lens for understanding the socio-cultural underpinnings of African American rhetoric. Following these initial forays into origins and manifestations, the contributions direct our attention toward the politics of definition. Here, readers are introduced to the African concept of nommo, the capacity of the spoken word to shape social reality. Also emphasized is Afrocentricity, a major philosophy that has enabled African American rhetoric to assert its place within communication studies.

The fourth section, “African American Rhetorical Analyses of Struggle and Resistance,” examines African Americans’ fight for self-determination in the 19th century, with a specific focus on black males’ struggle to assert their manhood and courage and to liberate their communities. Also analyzed are the messages of leadership, pan-Africanism, and struggle contained in rap music of the times.

The fifth section, “Trends and Innovations in Analyzing Contemporary African American Rhetoric” discusses the ways that African American thought leaders use their positions to advance the cause of black people. Major themes here include the use of hip-hop by lyricists such as Lauryn Hill for cultural education and the promotion of African American values and myths; the ways that African American women negotiate the politics of their hair in public; rhetorical features of African American discourse seen in Johnnie Cochran’s closing arguments in the O.J. Simpson trial; and Afrocentric communicative practices discernible in the case of the preacher and politician Emmanuel Cleaver.

The sixth and final section lays out visions for research in African American rhetoric by calling, first, for scholarly emphasis on narratives of correction, reconciliation, and a dismantling of structures of white oppression, and then for a broadening of the analytical paradigms with which African American women’s spiritual and religious discourses are studied.

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Diasporic Rhetorics, Discourse Analysis, Egyptian Rhetorics, Linguistics, Religious Rhetorics, Nommo, Oral Literacies, Popular Culture, Racism, Resistance, Rhetorical Histories, Spiritual Rhetorics, Women’s Rhetorics

Knowles-Borishade, Adetokunbo F. “Paradigm for Classical African Orature: Instrument for a Scientific Revolution?” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, 1991, pp. 488–500. SAGE, doi:10.1177/002193479102100408. 

In this article, Adetokunbo F. Knowles-Borishade aims to codify the elements and articulate the dynamics inherent in African orature, a term used to broadly connote common forms of sermon and protest rhetoric “typically found within indigenous rhetorical traditions on the African continent and in the diaspora” (488). Knowles-Borishade begins by stating that “African American sermon and protest rhetoric conforms with continental African standards for oratory because much of the cultural integrity from Africa has been retained in spite of some 400 years of Euro-American cultural imposition” (488). Form, content, and dynamics of American American oratory can be analyzed within the parameters of African cultural ideals, and can be characterized as “classical”—and hence, as having its own indigenous origins—according to  four factors: its historical dating to Egyptian antiquity; its conforming to African cultural tradition; its ability as an art form to be analyzed by traditional standards; and its status as a codified tradition in accordance with actual phenomena (488).

Drawing on Molefi Asante’s (1984) Afrocentricity, and E. P. Thompson’s (1974) discussion of morality, Knowles-Borishade argues that African orature is highly idiosyncratic and does not conform to Western styles of speech; as a result, it has been wrongly analyzed against European rhetorical values, a process that devalues many aspects of African orature and assumes the tradition centers around a tripartite relationship between speech, speaker, and audience. Instead, it is better analyzed according to its five principal elements: caller-plus-chorus; spiritual entities; nommo (the Word); responders; and spiritual harmony (490). 

After describing in detail all five elements, as well as the humanistic approach that undergirds how they are arranged within an enveloping atmosphere of harmony and unity (492), Knowles-Borishade illuminates the distinctive role of Spiritual Harmony, which—in contrast to the Western rhetorical situation—“is viewed as the supraordinate objective of African speech events,” and its resulting solutions are considered “superordinate, . . . imperatives that must be acted upon in order to restore order and/or to render justice” (499). Knowles-Borishade further addresses the way African-Americans rely on these aspects of African orature in sermons and protest speech by diagramming contrastively the paradigms of Classical Western Rhetoric against Classical African Orature. Significant to understanding orature is the realization that the “Caller” is not an individual operating distinctly from a community, but rather an initiator of the speech ritual and a “conduit who speaks on behalf of the group” (490). The sum total of this analysis is what Knowles-Borishade calls a sufficient enough “research instrument” for engaging with African orature.

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Diasporic Rhetorics, Discourse Analysis, Harmony, Justice, Nommo, Oratory, Spiritual Rhetorics

Mack, Katherine. “Hearing Women’s Silence in Transitional South Africa: Achmat Dangor’s Bitter Fruit.” Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts, edited by Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe, Southern Illinois UP, 2011, pp. 195–216.  

In this chapter, Katherine Mack applies a feminist critical lens to “the assumptions that exist about silence in a specific historical moment—transitional South Africa—and the gendered effects of those assumptions” (195) by analyzing womens’ testimonies during  the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) special hearings from 1996-1997, which investigated gross human rights violations committed during apartheid. Mack acknowledges that effective speech holds power, and that nothing occurs without speech (196), and argues for the gendered pattern of testimony she sees in their transcripts as a kind of rhetorical silence in two ways: (1) first, by noting that, instead of  speaking out regarding their offenses, a plethora of women decided to “[remain] silent, opting not to participate in [the TRC’s] process” (196); and (2) second, by citing the Commission’s expressed concern that “while more women were testifying than men, they were doing so as so-called secondary witnesses” rather than as principal victims (200). After deconstructing the Commission’s theoretical assumptions about voice and agency—namely that women could better recover from these violations if they moved from silence to speech and participated in a public unburdening of grief (203) and that “voice” is a liberating tool (210)—Mack invokes Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition to limn how the TRC’s logic positioned the women’s testimonies and the TRC hearings as a form of rhetorical citizenship, a way to help South Africans cultivate their identity as citizens (203). 

Mack then turns her attention to Achmat Dangor’s novel Bitter Fruit for its direct parallels with a South African Coloured family trying to overcome unresolved conflicts within the country’s new identity, where public confession cannot undo past crimes (206). In this novel, Dangor constructs a “literary response to these female victims’ silence and to the women’s hearings that their silences generated” (196) by showing the characters’ complex motives for not speaking at particular junctures, in turn allowing Mack to argue that both speech and public and private silence can be practiced as complementary art forms in women’s journeys to selfhood (210). Furthermore, Mack argues that “silence, . . . is [as] culturally inflected and embedded” as speech (211), thus placing emphasis on the importance for rhetorical historiographers to allow for an account of silence  within a specified cultural context and a particular time and place. 

Tags: Citizenship, Feminist Rhetorics, Historiography, Human Rights, Identity, Post-apartheid Rhetorics, Rhetorical Silence, South African Rhetorics, Truth

Makamani, Rewai. “A Corpus-Based Critical Discourse Analysis of Selected Speeches of Nelson Mandela.” African Journal of Rhetoric, vol. 7, 2015, pp. 50–78. Sabinet, 

Based on a study of selected speeches, Rewai Makamani argues that certain lexical items in Nelson Mandela’s speeches evince ubuntu, a philosophy of collectivism that privileges the group rather than the individual. Makamani states that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2000 is reflected in Mandela’s speeches, and that words such as “African, people, we, ANC, struggle, violence, Government, Umkhonto, apartheid, poverty, and freedom” (59) point to Mandela’s wide-ranging and major concerns in the fight against apartheid. Makamani concludes that the corpus analysis demonstrating Mandela’s philosophy of ubuntu could serve as a model for African leadership and governance.

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Discourse Analysis, Governance, Nelson Mandela, Political Rhetorics, Post-apartheid Rhetorics, South African Rhetorics, Speeches

Marback, Richard C. Managing Vulnerability: South Africa’s Struggle for a Democratic Rhetoric. U of South Carolina P, 2012. 

Richard Marback’s book argues that rhetoric is a useful heuristic for understanding the ways South African citizens negotiated their collective struggles during Apartheid. Rhetoric functioned to manage the vulnerabilities that came with South Africans negotiating their material conditions and desire to participate democratically in their own affairs. The twin ideas of vulnerability and sovereignty run through the book, and at the heart of South African (anti-)apartheid arguments, both vulnerability and sovereignty influenced the arguments of the time between supporters and opponents of the system. In this regard, civic and democratic participation were enabled and constrained by the material conditions under which people lived.

Marback’s main argument is buttressed by a number of case studies spanning a variety of genres, including public sites like Robben Island, a site of vulnerability revealed in the rhetoric surrounding this crucial marker of horror and freedom in apartheid and post-apartheid deliberations. Marback also relies on the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) to discuss the vulnerabilities that attended the common ground and reconciliation South Africans sought.

Yet another case that Marback discusses involves the vulnerabilities in the wake of public memorializing of the Freedom Monument (led by Nelson Mandela) and South Africans’ conflicting visions surrounding the decision to publicly remember Mandela in this manner. Finally, Marback’s case is further supported by his analysis of the vulnerabilities of South Africans as instantiated in film and novel adaptations through interactions between characters. Ultimately, Marback suggests that rhetoricians could better understand contemporary South African democracy if they focused on shared vulnerabilities that still shape the country’s politics. 

Tags: Democratic Rhetorics, Nelson Mandela, Post-apartheid Rhetorics, South African Rhetorics

Mbembé, J-A., and Sarah Nuttall. “Writing the World from an African Metropolis.” Public Culture, vol. 16, no. 3, 2004, pp. 347–72. doi:10.1215/08992363-16-3-347.  

Using the city of Johannesburg as a lens, Joseph-Achille Mbembé and Sarah Nuttall argue that in order to deprovincialize scholarship on Africa, researchers ought to account for ways that the continent is globally connected in terms of people, capital, and technology. The metropolis of Johannesburg has historically had roots extending all the way to India, East Africa, and Brazil along the lines of global trade, circulation, and exchange of capital, peoples, and ideas. The authors suggest that de-provincializing scholarship about Africa puts it more adequately in conversation with scholarship of elsewhere, as ideas cross borders and become deterritorialized.

For the authors, not only is this idea of connection across places crucial, but in approaching research on the continent in this manner, it is essential for helping researchers become less reliant on difference and more focused on “the frontiers of commonality and the potential of sameness-as-worldliness” (351). The authors advance a focus on Johannesburg that moves the study of the city—and indeed of Africa—beyond South African studies, and toward the convergences, divergences, multiplicities, and networks that the city itself provides.

Tags: Methodology, Place, South African Rhetorics, Transnational Rhetorics

Mbenzi, Petrus, and Jairos Kangira. “An Analysis of Bishop Dumeni’s Four Funeral Speeches in the Pre-Independence Era in Namibia.” African Journal of Rhetoric, vol. 7, 2015, pp. 129–57. Sabinet, 

In their analysis of Bishop Kleopas Dumeni’s funeral speeches delivered in three regions of north-central Namibia in 1987 and 1988, Petrus Mbenzi and Jairos Kangira have argued an important fact of postcolonial African rhetorical practices: In newly emerging democracies such as Namibia, even religious speech occasions could be used, and have been used, as occasions to “expose the crimes of the colonial regime” (129). Such speeches demonstrate that liberation wars have been fought “using both the bullet and the word” (129). 

Primarily an analysis of Bishop Dumeni’s epideictic and deliberate strategies, this article employs a simple Aristotelian framework of the three technical means of persuasion—ethos, pathos, and logos—in order to deconstruct Dumeni’s use of metaphors, his main stylistic device (131). However, the article also offers some historical context for Namibia’s war of independence from South Africa, its former colonial history as Southwest Africa, and the growth of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) during the time that Namibia’s liberation movement was gaining momentum. 

Dumeni joined Anglican and Roman Catholic church leaders in writing letters to petition several South African presidents for Namibia’s independence. He eventually called for the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 435, which allowed U.N.-supervised elections that led to the formation of the Republic of Namibia, independent of South Africa and its apartheid politics (131, 155). The history of Namibia’s independence bears directly on how Petrus and Kangira re-appropriate what have historically been considered European or Western rhetorical appeals. The combination of those letters and Dumeni’s funeral speeches compel Petrus and Kangira to recognize that, in employing epideictic genres, the Bishop was able to achieve forensic and deliberative outcomes, making the broader claim that the three means function more as three dimensions to the same strategy than they do as separate strategies in postcolonial African rhetorical practices. 

More specifically, Mbenzi and Kangira explain the localized honorific practices in Southwestern Africa—including Oshiwambo proverbs, the metonymic appropriation of meme or sword, biblical allusions, and the use of euphemistic expressions to refer to personal loss—that may have made Dumeni’s funeral oration genre an especially effective mode for encouraging political engagement in that particular historical moment. In sum, Petrus and Kangira show in intricate detail how Dumeni’s eulogies made examples of the dead to help “conscientise both the local and internal communities of [South African] violence,” and thus encourage Namibians to “follow their examples” (155).

Tags: Aristotle, Democratic Rhetorics, Epideictic, Genres, Pathos, Performance, Political Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics, South African Rhetorics, Speeches 

McPhail, Mark Lawrence. “Revisiting the Rhetoric of Racism.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 20, no. 1/2, 2001, pp. 43–6. JSTOR,

Mark Lawrence McPhail explores the question, “Is racism a rhetorical problem?” and ultimately decides that it remains unanswered. McPhail states that many scholars study the role of language and discourse in the social construction of identity and difference but take vastly different approaches. The constant change of perspective on how to study the rhetoric of racism has made this field of study difficult. McPhail cites Molefi Asante’s “Markings of an African Concept of Rhetoric” in order to show the African influence over African American rhetoric on racism and the theory of Afrocentricity. 

In this article, McPhail traces the history of racism as a rhetorical issue in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly exploring two questions: Is racism a rhetorical problem? and How should we best study the rhetoric of racism? After one study argued that the issue of race might be a psychological one rather than a rhetorical one, studies emerged in the years that followed to further delineate this issue. Previously, in the sixties, the focus had been to discuss political issues surrounding Black resistance movements. In the seventies, there was an obvious push to elaborate rhetorical issues outside the realms of persuasion. This is the period when Asante’s “Markings of an African Concept of Rhetoric” was published, the most comprehensive work on rhetoric and race. In the eighties, studies focused on issues of identity among African Americans and how blacks dealt with issues of white racism. An interesting shift occurred in the nineties, giving rise to studies on Whiteness and the efforts to justify White privilege. Ultimately, McPhail contends that future studies might focus more on how difference is constructed. 

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Diasporic Rhetorics, Identity, Racism, Rhetorical Histories

Mhlanga, Brilliant. “Africa’s Transformational Post-Colonial Leadership and Colonial Antinomies: Sir Quett Ketumile Joni Masire of Botswana.” African Journal of Rhetoric, vol. 7, no. 1, 2015, pp. 93–128. Sabinet, 

This article offers a critical re-positioning of Masire’s rhetorical leadership style, and of Botswana’s leadership rhetoric more broadly, since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1966. By synthesizing several debates about Africa’s alleged leadership deficit, Brilliant Mhlanga’s article makes the significant critical observation that rhetorical analysts, theorists, and historians should not ignore “the dialectical link between Africa’s political leadership with the colonial past and its present global contraflows in line with geopolitics and, in particular, Global West politics, as imperial designs” (94). 

More specifically, Mhlanga begins with three acknowledgments before rhetorically deconstructing the myth of Africa’s leadership deficit: first, there is no such singularity as Africa; second, Africa is not a tabula rasa; and third, most African cultures constantly reside in the middle space between historical occurrences and more recent events, which creates a challenging rhetorical space in which to intervene for postcolonial theorizing. Then, he offers discussion of Sir Quett Ketumile Masire’s contributions during his eighteen years in power (from 1980 to 1998), using his analysis of Masire’s political philosophy to argue that “Africa’s leadership, even the second and third generation, are products of external machinations” (97). 

For Mhlanga, theoretically and practically, Masire epitomizes the kind of transformational political leadership that has sustained Botswana’s political stability since independence. Furthermore, Mhlanga articulates the various leadership styles held by Botswana’s elected leaders prior to Masire, emphasizing four ideologies that emerged from various intersections of the indigenous and the modern: socialism, political pragmatism, military nationalism, and Afro-Marxism (101, 103). The evolution of these ideologies contributed to the ways in which Botswana “presents an interesting case of state capture” (110), in that even as it fought for political independence, its liberation fighters sought to infuse traditional ideals back into the culture. In example, Mhlanga reminds us that Masire’s greatest political contributions were his traditional values and his abilities to farm, limning Masire in the same suspended space as other elected African leaders. 

Unlike other discussions about Botswana’s leadership, philosophy and style that claim Botswana to be a “citadel” of democracy in Africa, Mhlanga aims to provide more insight and detail into the many complex and shifting political factors that have contributed to Botswana’s political configurations and to the rhetorical expectations of its leaders. In sum, Mhlanga presents new theories about leadership dominance for rhetorical theorists, postcolonial theorists, and political historians to better guide their investigations into how African leadership “continues to come from ‘dominant’ ethnic groups” even as they become exposed to more liberal ideologies from the Global West (124).

Tags: Persuasion, Political Rhetorics, Postcolonial Rhetorics, South African Rhetorics 

Nnodim, Rita. “Configuring Audiences in Yorùbá Novels, Print and Media Poetry.” Research in African Literatures, vol. 37, no. 3, 2006, pp. 154–75. JSTOR,

Although it employs comparative literary analysis, Rita Nnodim’s article is important for inclusion in rhetorical study because it proposes a Nigerian theory of audience, based on text technology evolutions in Yorùbá poems and novels, and demonstrates the implicit and explicit addressing of audiences in Yorùbá texts—or the interpolated and extrapolated audiences. In uncovering a uniquely Nigerian rhetoric of addressivity, Nnodim’s analysis focuses on the concept of ewi, which is defined as “a semi-oral, semi written genre of poetic expression that oscillates between the written and the oral” (155) occurring in both print and media (164). 

Nnodim moves through her argument by showcasing how Yorùbá poets and novelists—representing one of the two major ethnic groups in Nigeria—participate in ewi and storytelling rhetoric around the time Nigeria became its own nation state. Poets and creatives became almost griots to their people locally. However, as a national identity was emerging, they manipulated their audiences to imagine a more expansive public of Yorùbá peoples. Furthermore, some poets even employed the us-them dichotomy to help solidify this national identity (167). Therefore, Nnodim’s article is imperative to rhetorical study because it showcases how poets and creatives become agents of government to help forge a rhetoric around nationhood in two principal ways: by transporting “moralizing and socio-political content of an often precarious nature” into inhabitable subject positions; and “endors[ing] notions of a public which are set against an other” (167).

Tags: Audience, The Media, Oral Literacies, Othering, Poetics, Political Rhetorics, Subject Position, West African Rhetorics  

Ochieng, Omedi. “The Ideology of African Philosophy: The Silences and Possibilities of African Rhetorical Knowledge.” Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts, edited by Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe, Southern Illinois UP, 2011, pp. 147-62. 

In this essay, Omedi Ochieng refers to Africa as both a philosophical ideology and a colonialist framework. He works against the underlying idea that “Africa has no sense of the past nor of the future” (158). But at the same time, he acknowledges that the history of Western literacy affects how we look upon African philosophy (149, 156). In this context, Ochieng takes up conversations by some of Africa’s “sages” to see who explicitly discusses the university as the institutional space for the production of cultural capital (154).

Based on the sage philosophy project of Odera Oruka, Ochieng argues (with Oruka) several points: (1) that there is such a phenomenon as “real” African philosophical thought, not merely introduced/imported Western philosophical thought and culture (147); (2) that philosophy “in the strict sense . . . critical, reflective, individualistic, dialectical” (Oruka 14, as qtd. in Ochieng 148) does exist in Africa; (3) that Oruka’s sage philosophy project “is articulated and emerges from two intimately related forms of knowledge whose condition of possibility emerge from two types of ‘silences’” (148); and (4) that perceptions of African philosophy often hinge on scholars’ beliefs that writing leads to superior cognitive abilities (149), or that there is no African philosophy without some positioning in respect to “the West” (156).

Articulating two sources of knowledge—forensic and sapiential—enables Ochieng to argue that epistemology is rhetorical for how it draws attention to “articulations of what counts as knowledge and who counts as legitimate knowledge makers” (148). Forensic knowledge emerges from the attempts of African philosophers in the academy to legitimate their own knowledge by contrasting it with beliefs of Africans outside the academy (148), while sapiential knowledge references the “silenced, fugitive, secret, and/or conspiratorial knowledges of oppressed and exploited Africans who have been ruled out of consideration and delegitimized by dominant institutions of knowledge production,” circulating in places like beauty shops, barber shops, and women’s clubs (148), and is often dismissed as marginal or unimportant. 

In this way, Ochieng critiques the metaphysical and idealistic notions of an essential “West” vs. a transcendent “Africa” (157), so as to replace that dichotomy with a “critical contextual critique” (158), or a critique that is more responsive to specific “aftershocks” of development. Such critique involves dialogues “that would seek nonviolent resistances to the expropriation and conquest of these knowledges” (160) and, ultimately would be oriented toward rhetorical praxis. 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Epistemology, Oral Literacies, Resistance, Rhetorical Silence 

Oha, Obododimma. “Pursuing the Night Hawk: The Political Thought of C. Odumegwu-Ojukwu.” Africa: Rivista Trimestrale di Studi e Documentazione dell’Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, vol. 55, no. 1, 2000, pp. 72–85. JSTOR,

Employing the metaphor of “night hawks” to mean “political philosophies,” Obododimma Oha conducts a critical analysis of Nigerian military ruler Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s speeches for their variant ideological influences—including Saint-Simonist socialism, Black nationalism, and freedom of the individual—so as to argue for their rhetorical appropriation across three major works. Oha begins the article by explaining two concepts central to Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s writings—nka okwu (rhetoric) and amamihe (wisdom)—emphasizing direct links between wisdom and the ability to employ rhetoric as a consequent tool. This article can be of interest to rhetorical scholars in how Oha situates rhetoric in relation to other Igbo cultural values like morality, philosophy, semiosis, all defined as important to a “rational being” (74). These values construct a political philosophy that “emphasizes [simultaneously] communalism, democracy, and egalitarianism” (74). Because Odumegwu-Ojukwu is Igbo, these are some of the things he inherits as part of his own political philosophy. At the same time, Oha argues for the “multi-voicedness” of Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s rhetorical and political philosophy, given its origins in Western (non-Igbo) institutions such as formal education, Christianity, and military subculture, indicating how he—like other pan-African writers—moves between postcolonial and Western rhetorical ideals.

Through a careful analysis of excerpts from Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s work, Oha showcases the employment of this hybrid rhetoric, drawing attention to its uses and mis-uses, intergenerational prejudices and conflicts, and illuminating Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s self portrayal as a “physician” or “healer,” in response to Nigeria’s ailing politics (78). Many of the excerpts demonstrate a kind of persuasive and inclusive language to allow for multiple ethnic groups to feel included into the burgeoning Nigerian nation, while others demonstrate what Oha argues for as engagement in a more coercive rhetoric. Yet, Oha showcases Odumegwu-Ojukwu balancing coercive and persuasive language to persuade audiences in the Biafran region to see future possibilities for the pan-African citizen in his political views. For Oha, it is this balance of different rhetorical strategies that demonstrate how effective Odumegwu-Ojukwu was as a leader and orator, and Oha makes this argument both comparatively by describing similar tactics and influences draw from other pan-African writers, most notably Chinua Achebe.

Tags: Audience, Democratic Rhetorics, Hybridity, Political Rhetorics, Wisdom

Salazar, Philippe-Joseph. An African Athens: Rhetoric and the Shaping of Democracy in South Africa. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002.  

In An African Athens, Philippe-Joseph Salazar analyzes key political and critical historical discursive performances throughout South Africa’s transformation, from post-apartheid to a global democracy. He notes how former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Mandela performed rhetorical commonplaces such as shalom (peace/unity), koinonia (unity), and metanoia (transformation) as public realities that unfolded as their performances unfolded (11). Salazar describes the effect as the “very propagation[s] of a national united voice” (7). 

The project’s underlying metaphor, “African Athens,” implies a space that is a powerful rhetorical agent for integration in a democracy. In using the metaphor, Salazar argues for South Africa as a “postmodern analogy of ancient Athens, . . . surrounded by tyrannies with which it entertains a love-hate relationship; . . . striv[ing] to set on a safe course democratic behaviors; . . . not free of self-righteousness; and . . . herald[ing] a turning point in the cultural and social history of its historical environment” (xviii-xix). Furthermore, in calling South Africa’s democracy model a “laboratory for democracy” and “an oddity . . . in global politics” (xix), Salazar demonstrates how rhetoric studies can be applied to examine democratic shapings worldwide (xvii). 

Over eight chapters (or major areas of inquiry), Salazar progressively conducts theoretical and historical examinations of oratorical performances, circulating human rights documents, public policy, speechmaking practices, objects and artifacts, and national monuments to demonstrate the metaphor at work. In Chapter 1, he uses the religious oratory of Desmond Tutu as a case for “[a] system of oratorical invention” (4). In Chapter 2, he uses the political performances of Nelson Mandela and ways of speaking so as to change human nature through that act (19). In Chapter 3, he asks whether a performative presidency can sustain itself, in contrast to the nineteenth-century democracy model (which might mute the voice of a President for garnering too much power)? In Chapter 4, he argues that South Africa’s Public Participation Programme surrounding the drafting of a new (post-1994) constitution created a “public we”—and moreover, that the “rhetoric of ‘inventing’ a constitutional text is presented as the result and the representation in speech of a ‘collective wisdom of the South African people’” (61).

In Chapters 5 and 6, he complicates the legacy of reconciliation discourses, not only because of the illegibility of TRC documents to the general public (77) but also because “shaping a nation requires, in rhetorical terms, a process of popular argumentation” (93) beyond just reconciliation rhetoric. In Chapter 7, Salazar discusses “why and how seemingly a-rhetorical modes of communication such as fashion and sport (what I call the ‘cosmetics of peace’) are, in fact, firmly embedded in deliberation” (xviii, 108). And in Chapter 8, Salazar argues for South Africa as a deliberative and formative “Athens” by examining space as democratic deliberation, ultimately arguing for the national monument Robben Island as a “Foundation Rhetoric” (157), or the fullest expression of a “new political ecology of rhetoric borne by a democracy built by a sanguine belief in human rights” (xvii).

Tags: Citizenship, Deliberative Rhetorics, Democratic Rhetorics, Human Rights, Invention, Nelson Mandela, Oratory, Performance, Political Rhetorics, Post-apartheid Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories, South African Rhetorics 

Smith, Arthur L. “Markings of an African Concept of Rhetoric.” Today’s Speech, vol. 19, no. 2, 1971, pp. 13-8. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/01463377109368973. 

In this precursor to his more critical work as Molefi Kete Asante, Arthur L. Smith begins by stating that Aristotle’s rhetoric does not appear in African cultural history, but the concept of rhetoric is there. Employing reverse ethnocentrism, Smith asserts that, “[w]hile African culture did not produce a written treatise on rhetoric, it is nevertheless, perhaps more so than Western society, an expressive society” (13). For the African tradition as Smith traces it back to Islamic rhetorical scholars in Nigeria, expression is not merely a written word; it is shown in everyday life (13). Smith urges his readers not to impose Western rhetorical values on the African traditions because doing so would constitute a form of cultural imperialism, on the basis that rhetoric has existed in Africa as long as it has in Greece. African culture does not appreciate the written word the way European culture does, which does not imply cultural inferiority, merely cultural difference. Arguing contrastively, Smith notes that African art–including music, sculpture, and public speaking–is always a functional and creative manifestation of what is called to be (14). In the African tradition, speech is always linked to society and community; this concept is vastly different from speech values in Western rhetoric, where most instances of discourse are initiated by a speaker and determined through feedback from an audience: “one cannot speak of a speech as an object, but of speech as an attitude” (15). 

Because African rhetorics function on the basis of harmony and the compatibility of people, things and modality, Smith generalizes that Afrocentric public discourse “cannot exist apart from the mutual compatibility of the entire traditional worldview” (15). Mentioning Nommo (the Word) as a collective concept, Smith also explains that, while Western rhetoric functions according to properties of syllogistic reasoning, African rhetoric functions according to the speaker’s ability to fascinate (17).  Thus, the effectiveness of the word and the power of the speaker—positioned as “poet not lecturer”—work together to create an authentically African tradition of public discourse. As a result, Smith claims one needs to study African philosophy in order to study African rhetoric apart from Eurocentric values and more in line with an African architecton that is both the source of and the influence for public behavior (17).

Tags: Afrocentric Rhetorics, Aristotle, Audience, Imperialism, Islamic Rhetorics, Methodology, Nommo, Oral Literacies, Poetics, Worldview

Trabold, Bryan. “Historical Narratives as a Rhetoric of Resistance in Apartheid South Africa: The History Workshop and The New Nation.” South African Historical Journal, vol. 62, no. 4, 2010, pp. 735–52. doi:10.1080/02582473.2010.519941.

Bryan Trabold focuses on the history lessons contained in the anti-apartheid newspaper New Nation to argue that these narratives, produced by the History Workshop, were a form of resistance that fashioned alternative and a more comprehensive history of South Africa during apartheid. Trabold claims that these history lessons were part of a larger project to provide black South Africans with a critical lens to understand their own histories, against the grain of the single, dominant narratives that justified white rule for decades. Working from a conception of rhetoric as a tool for shaping reality, Trabold notes that the history lessons not only targeted black South Africans, but they also helped the newspaper’s readers understand contemporary political issues surrounding land ownership and socio-economic inequality, while inspiring anti-apartheid movements among South Africa’s young people.

Tags: Historical Evidence, Historiography, The Media, Post-apartheid Rhetorics, Racism, Resistance, South African Rhetorics

Trabold, Bryan. Rhetorics of Resistance: Opposition Journalism in Apartheid South Africa. U of Pittsburgh P, 2018.

Focusing on two anti-apartheid newspapers, New Nation and Weekly Mail, Bryan Trabold reports on the ways that journalists, editors, and lawyers at these two opposition newspapers effectively harnessed both rhetorical and legal strategies to subvert the oppressive apartheid system in the 1980s. Trabold situates the study within scholarly conversations in writing and resistance, arguing that an understanding of the strategies used by these two newspapers hold immense analytical relevance for other contexts of writing and resistance. One important idea Trabold advances in the book is the concept of writing space, defined as “the public places where the powerful and those with less power interact” (7). According to Trabold, the South African writers analyzed in the book sought to maximize those protean, contingent spaces for successful anti-apartheid writing.

Among several strategies, Trabold’s analysis reveals the ways that writers at both newspapers exploited legal loopholes to escape prosecution and torture by the government, engaged in self-censorship, relied on and synthesized government legal documents in order to legitimize their own operations, and employed both direct and indirect forms of rhetoric, including “oblique speak,” or subversive ways of expression, including “allusions, repetitions, and arrangement” (93) to hide potentially offensive writing. Based on his analysis of the rhetorical and legal strategies of resistance employed by both papers, Trabold extrapolates implications for other contexts of writing and resistance, while tracing commonalities across contexts as varied as the United States, Iran, and Chile.

Tags: Historioraphy, The Media, Post-apartheid Rhetorics, Repetition, Resistance, South African Rhetorics

The Americas (pre-Columbian American) 

Baca, Damián. Mestiz@ Scripts, Digital Migrations and the Territories of Writing. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 

Baca’s work on Mestiz@ rhetorics demonstrates and performs how rhetorics are in a state of constant becoming across cultures and throughout time and space. To do so, Baca reimagines rhetoric as the exploration of knowing, rather than persuasion, by examining the composition practices of indigenous peoples. Mestiz@ rhetorics are built around strategies of “invention between different ways of knowing,” instead of finding common or persuasive ways of knowing (3). Baca also re-locates the origins of American history among the indigenous and constructs a counter-narrative to colonial exploration and expansion. 

By doing this, Baca hopes Western scholars can learn to read culture in new ways (3). Baca then gives a history of Mestiz@ culture from an indigenous perspective to show that they had “no choice but to slowly blend, to intermix their own values and lifestyles with Western views” (58). Using modern codexes to show how Mestiz@s navigate the “dialectic of oppositions and reversals” to resist the grand narratives of the West, Baca work towards “a plurality of directions, toward new ways of reading” (64, 83). 

Tags: Cultural Rhetorics, Historiography, Hybrid Rhetorics, Indigenous Rhetorics, Invention, Multimodality, Postcolonial Rhetorics, Re-Mix, Subaltern Literacies

Baca, Damián. “Te-ixtli: The ‘Other Face’ of the Americas.” Rhetorics of the Americas: 3114 BCE to 2012 CE, edited by Baca Damián and Victor Villanueva, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, pp. 1–13. 

Baca introduces Rhetorics of the Americas 3114 BCE to 2012 CE by recounting the story of the Pre-Colombian invasion of the Spanish into the indigenous Nahua people’s land, providing insight into the rhetorical creation of language that occurs among the Nahua which serves to preserve their identity and “give voice to themselves” (4). With this opening chapter, Baca outlines some of the more challenging lines of inquiry that are threaded throughout Rhetorics of the Americas, including but not limited to questions about how intellectuals of the Americas have practiced “effective resistance,” how that resistance has been intertwined with cultural accommodation, whether post-colonial critique has diminished or reinforced Occidental binaries such as advanced/primitive and citizen/alien, what distinguishes adaptation from assimilation in rhetorical practices of the Americas, what factors cause arguments for indigeneity to become exoticized, and how to differentiate between autonomy and self-determination among rhetorical cultures that are largely diasporic (2). 

Owing to the large number of colonial agendas and policies bearing on the Western Hemisphere, Baca justifies the collection’s emphasis as an exploration of “new and old rhetorical strategies of cultural resistance and power” (2), by which he means the overarching metanarratives that have kept Anglo-American perspectives at the core of rhetorical study. Most significantly, Baca advocates for a “hermeneutical shift that would locate the colonization of rhetorical production [in the Americas] at the center of disciplinary and postdisciplinary thought” (4). Thus, with the colonial imaginaries of Rhetoric and Composition Studies at the book’s center, Baca discusses how he and the collection’s other contributors plan to address what he calls “admixtures” of divergent rationalities and subjectivities, i.e., the various dialogic situations and vantage points that scholars might look between in order to comprehend a plurality of rhetorical practices without “the baggage of Western teleologies” (4). Following a summary of each of the book’s twelve chapters, Baca closes with the titular metaphor of te-ixtli, the “other face” of the Americas that he hopes to reveal through their work.

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Cross-Cultural Rhetorics, Diasporic Rhetorics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Latin American Rhetorics, Othering, Post-colonial Rhetorics, Rhetorical Traditions

Baca, Damián, and Victor Villanueva. Rhetorics of the Americas: 3114 BCE to 2012 CE. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. 

The essays in this collection explore a varied array of ancient, pre-modern, and post-modern rhetorical cultures of the Americas, occurring between 3114 BCE and 2012 CE, following the Epi-Olmec/Maya calendar to suggest a span of roughly 5,000 years of indigenous work. Avoiding an emphasis on only the colonial discourses of and around 1492, Baca and Villanueva assemble chapters to convey a longer historical timeline of communicative practices that promote “a more inclusive and historically sound theory of how rhetoric is and has been practiced across regions, cultures, and migrations unique to the Americas and the Caribbean” (Baca, “te-ixtli” 3). Rather than merely add to, correct, or revise Eurocentric perspectives on Pre-Columbian history, the chapters in this collection instead present a newly imagined cultural legacy of rhetorical practices, sometimes based on archaeological evidence or visual artifacts, other times based on the material resonances of cultural and religious practices, and often without concrete evidence of the “rhetorics” therein, but determined by studying other known aspects such as oral history, linguistic memory, burial rituals, and border art—all productive ways of discovering the rhetorical “Other” within the Americas.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Archaeology, Colonial Rhetorics, Cross-Cultural Rhetorics, Cultural Rhetorics, Diasporic Rhetorics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Latin American Rhetorics, Oral Literacies, Othering, Post-colonial Rhetorics, Resistance, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Traditions

Bizzell, Patricia. “(Native) American Jeremiad.” American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance: Word Medicine, Word Magic, edited by Ernest Stromberg, U of Pittsburgh P, 2006, pp. 34-49. 

In this historiographic essay, Patricia Bizzell argues that a contact zone perspective is especially productive for understanding the work of William Apess—particularly its linguistic, cultural, and cognitive elements. Apess’s work highlights the ways in which linguistic and cultural struggle reflect struggles for the power to interoperate communication, a process that “necessitates the crossing of linguistic and cultural boundaries” (35). Writing from a mixed-race background, Apess identifies  himself as an Indian who converted to European Christianity. This mixed identity, argues Bizzell, allowed Apess to draw his positioning simultaneously from Indian traditions and from the rhetorical traditions of Christian discourse, while still advocating for the inclusion of Indians and all other people of color into the US body politic. Apess used a literary form that was of traditional and religious importance to his Puritan-descended readers, “namely what American literature scholar Sacvan Bercovitch has called ‘American jeremiad’ . . . invok[ing] the audience’s cherished values and prophes[ying] dire consequences for the community if these values are not served” (36).

Apess’s “An Indian Looking Glass for the White Man” was first published in 1822, highlighting “the difficulty of finding a source of religious identity in the face of white supremist racism,” and arguing that members of his white Puritan audience were not “behaving in accordance with their own principles” (37). In this way Bizzell notes, Apess “flatter[ed] English sensibilities by demonstrating his familiarity with English history” while also leveling a critique and usually “wrap[ping] himself in a mantle of Christian Pacifism or the humble guise of ‘poor Indian’” (46). 

Bizzell also writes that we need the work of “Peyer, Pratt, and Lyons in order to understand the complex rhetorical situation of William Apess” (35). By situating her discussion in such a body of contact zone discourse, Bizzell validates a particular scholarly discussion that reveals how, after centuries of contact zone struggles, communities have interpenetrated each other to a significant degree, complicating any determination of who is culturally pure or unmixed. Citing Scott Lyons, Bizzell argues that “it is no longer adequate to think of cross-cultural individuals as those who leave a ‘pure’ homogeneous cultural community of one kind to and travel into another homogenous community” (35). Thus, theorists should view the discourses employed in these cross-cultural situations as “mixed blood rhetoric, [or] a hybrid discourse in which linguistic, cultural, and cognitive-affective elements are even more thoroughly mixed and mutually influential” (35).

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Contact Zone, Historiography, Hybridity, Indigenous Rhetorics, Magic, Methodology, Native American Rhetorics, Rhetorical Traditions, Survivance

Cushman, Ellen. “Toward a Rhetoric of Self-Representation: Identity Politics in Indian Country and Rhetoric and Composition.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 60, no. 2, 2008, pp. 321-365. JSTOR,

Ellen Cushman differentiates the rhetoric of Native American self-identification and self-representation through case studies of three Native scholars: Ward Churchill, Resa Crane Bizarro, and herself. These case studies reveal the ways in which Native identity emerges from exigencies particular to Native Americans that place reputation, authority, access, and even sovereignty at stake. Cushman demonstrates that identity for Native scholars should be measured as authentic and accountable. Together, identity as both being and doing allows Native scholars to account for a history of dispossession while preserving an essential aspect of identity that recognizes and preserves Native tradition. Ultimately, Cushman offers this approach as fruitful for both writers and audiences as well as other marginalized groups.

Tags: Authenticity, Identity, Methodology, Native American Rhetorics, Representation, Subaltern Literacies

Dennis, Matthew. “Red Jacket’s Rhetoric.” American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance: Word Medicine, Word Magic, edited by Ernest Stromberg, U of Pittsburgh P, 2006, pp. 15–33. 

Matthew Dennis performs a rhetorical analysis of Seneca leader Red Jacket’s oratory, illuminating how Red Jacket brings into relief a stark juxtaposition between Colonial American beliefs and the territorial actions they took against the Seneca nation. Specifically, Dennis argues that Red Jacket is able perform a hybrid discourse that reshapes Seneca “traditions,” in the end helping to promote new traditions in support of Native revitalization, and inventing new ways to be Seneca, while contesting white conquest (15). In this discourse, Red Jacket used his knowledge of white interlocutors and of American’s perceptions toward the changing republic, in order to argue for the injustice of white land conquest (18). Historically, Thomas Jefferson espoused an ideal that Colonial citizens could live in perpetual peace with Native American Indians and cultivate a passionate attachment with them (21). Yet, while Americans’ self-image professed charitability and self-constraint, these values did not translate to their relations with the Seneca people nor to other Native Americans (19).

Red Jacket also identified a deepening religious factioning between Evangelical Christians and Quakers in the young republic, and used this divisioning as a kind of refuge for his own Seneca people. In his oration, Red Jacket charged: “You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us” (as qtd. in Dennis, 24). Dennis attributes Red Jacket’s oratorical skill to the fact he had the measure of both his white friends and his white foes. He appealed to both their heads and their hearts, yet implored them to keep their distance (30).

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Magic, Methodology, Native American Rhetorics, Oratory, Rhetorical Figures, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Traditions, Survivance 

King, Lisa, Rose Gubele, and Joyce Rain Anderson, editors.  Survivance, Sovereignty, and Story: Teaching American Indian Rhetorics, Colorado UP, 2015.  

Contributors to this collection foreground the importance of sovereignty and the diversity of Native American cultures as they discuss how and why American Indian rhetorics should be taught in university writing classrooms. They also offer examples of methods for incorporating Native American texts into classes and the curriculum. They draw upon history and a culture of orality to explore the concept of “survivance”—survival plus resistance—which characterizes the American Indian saga. Authors argue that stories serve not only as entertainment, but also as a powerful learning tool which educators should strive to include in their teaching as a means of teaching American Indian heritage, which has long been suppressed. Thus, they offer a vision of what pedagogy can be and mean through the lens of Native American epistemologies. Chapters offer resources for instructors, and a variety of ways to not only teach but also write about indigenous North American rhetorics.

Tags: Native American Rhetorics, Oral Literacies, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Storytelling, Survivance

Klotz, Sarah. “Impossible Rhetorics of Survivance at the Carlisle School, 1879–1883.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 69, no. 2, Dec. 2017, pp. 208–29.  

Using historical research into Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Sarah Klotz argues that the focus of rhetorical theory and cultural rhetorics on the literate individual limits our understanding of how we legitimize voices as sites of rhetorical sovereignty and survivance. Looking at student compositions, Klotz argues that  we must understand the teaching of writing as linked to the processes of colonization, used as “tools for the dispossession and deculturation of Native peoples” (209). To see how indigenous students deployed rhetorics of survivance, scholars must look beyond the written word to see how students pushed back as a rhetorical body (211). 

This article includes an extensive historical examination of the Carlisle Indian School and the colonization practices that it embodies, but also a close analysis of student writing in this school.  As a body, students intentionally and creatively resisted assimilation. Klotz hopes scholars will see this as an opportunity to more fully acknowledge the role writing instruction has played in colonialism and identify the more creative and embodied ways indigenous peoples develop rhetorics of resistance.

Tags: American Writing Pedagogy, Colonial Rhetorics, Cultural Rhetorics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Native American Rhetorics, Resistance, Subaltern Literacies, Survivance  

Medina-López, Kelly. “Rasquache Rhetorics: A Cultural Rhetorics Sensibility.” Constellations: A Cultural Rhetoric Publishing Space, no. 1, May 2018.

Kelly Medina-López operationalizes “rasquache” as a term that can be applied to rhetorical theory and practice. Rasquache is a movement in chicanx art that stresses the use of remix and improvisation to make meaning (2). Understanding rhetoric through this term highlights indigenous practices that work to decolonize cultures and return to pre-colonial ways of knowing (3). To illustrate this practice, Medina-López analyzes several art installations created as altars that juxtapose various cultural elements together in one unusual space, often combining images like Catholic religious symbols and Aztec symbols. She ends her article by illustrating how rasquache is a lifestyle—not just an artistic movement, making it an excellent example of cultural rhetoric. 

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Cultural Rhetorics, Hybridity, Indigenous Rhetorics, Visual Rhetorics 

Olson, Christa J. Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador. Penn State UP, 2013. 

Constitutive Visions chronicles the ways in which indigeneity has figured itself as a commonplace in the making of national identity in republican Ecuador from 1857 to 1947. Including theoretical reflections on constitutive rhetoric, rhetorical commonplaces, and identification and division, the book traces the nation-making topoi of Ecuador with careful attention to the socio-historic context and the full ecological—material and visual—dimensions of rhetoric. This analysis brings together the rhetorical theory of Kenneth Burke, Isocrates, Carolyn Miller, and Diane Davis with the history of Latin America. 

For instance, in comparing costumbrismo and indigenismo images of indigenous in her first chapter, Christa Olson demonstrates how nineteenth century costumbrista images narrowed the gap between white-mestizos and Indians while keeping Indians distant enough to preclude Ecuadorian citizenship. Indigenismo came to challenge this hegemony by capturing the oppressive conditions of Indians during the twentieth century. Later chapters tackle geography, labor, and scapegoating to demonstrate how the indigenous population eventually became incorporated into the Ecuadorian nation. Olson’s inclusion of her own research process prompts necessary reflection on the unique contribution that the history of Latin America makes to rhetorical studies.

Tags: Citizenship, Communication Theory, Historiography, Hybridity, Identity, Indigenous Rhetorics, Kenneth Burke, Latin American Rhetorics, Subaltern Literacies, Visual Rhetorics

Perales, Monica. “On Borderlands/La Frontera: Gloria Anzaldúa and Twenty-Five Years of Research on Gender in the Borderlands.” Journal of Women’s History, vol. 25, no. 4, 2013, pp. 163-73, 371-72. Project Muse, doi:10.1353/jowh.2013.0047. 

In this article, Monica Perales positions Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera as a central text in rhetoric and gender studies, serving to put women’s bodies at the center of intellectual scholarship at the turn of the twenty-first century. Since its publication in 1987, La Frontera has provided Chicana scholars with a theoretical approach for deriving critical meaning from the lived experiences of those who inhabit borderland spaces. Perales argues that “for as violent and oppressive as such forces are, the borderlands also provide a space of resistance and survival,” in turn creating the new opportunities for rhetorical identification (164). Anzaldúa’s analysis of borderland cultures placed women at the heart of historical processes of creating such cultural spaces, rather than treating women as additive subjects. In addition, Perales argues that Anzaldúa’s personal insights into the centrality of gender and sexuality have made her work endure across disciplines, noting that because it was published “beyond the boundaries of traditional academic borderlands scholarship—[it] transformed the field [ of Chicana/o studies] by forcing a different perspective” (164).

Perales then examines the tradition of new work that takes up borderlands and moves both gender and borderland studies in new directions. For example, historian Emma Pérez’s concept of “decolonial imagery” offers up a different way of thinking about women’s history “in light of traditional chronologies and archives that rendered Mexicana and Chicana bodies invisible and their voices silent” (165). However, inclusion is not enough, and alone it is not revolutionary. Pérez’s theory requires historians to ask new questions, identify new sources, and refuse to adhere to old narratives that only replicate and reproduce silences. Other Chicana scholars have “utilized gendered analyses to show the ways in which imperialism, globalization, capitalism, and transnationalism structure power in the borderlands” (165). For example, at a borderlands conference in San Antonio in 2001, the shared critical goal was to “humanize and re-inscribe women’s voices, and provide a framework for considering how the ‘mind-numbing’ forms of violence exacted against borderlands women in the present are legacies of a much longer process in which the inseparability of gendered politics and other politics” (165). Much like the essays in the collection Women and Migration in the US-Mexico, Anzaldúa’s Borderlands examines contemporary women’s migration within the borderlands and, ultimately, “how women’s bodies served as sites for mapping transnational relations of social inequality” (165).

Tags: Feminist Rhetorics, Gendered Rhetorics, Hybridity, Identity, Representation, Rhetorical Theory, Subject Positions, Women’s Rhetorics

Powell, Malea. “Rhetorics of Survivance: How American Indians Use Writing.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 53, no. 1, 2002, pp. 396–434. JSTOR,

Malea Powell pays attention to the uses of Indian writing in this article by listening to the language of survivance—a language of survival and resistance—in the writing of Sarah Winnemucca and Charles Alexander Eastman. In outlining their writing as use, she shows how these nineteenth century writers participated in reimagining “the Indian” within the colonizing discourse of their day and were able to tactically transform their object-status into subject-status. She demonstrates how both writers sustained their difference by embracing multiplicity and irony. 

Winnemucca used difference to argue for changes to Indian policy that could benefit her tribe, the Northern Paiutes. Her arguments play on nineteenth century tropes about women and the civilized Indian in a way that deftly both engaged and critiqued these constructs. Eastman, on the other hand, used difference to craft a doubleness that brought together Native and Euroamerican values while including both explicit and more subtle critiques of his surrounding society. Eastman complicated the simple binary between savage and civilized and ultimately revealed the ways in which the Indian survived the American. Powell ends by urging those in rhetoric and composition to listen to this difficult history of American imperialism in order to tell new stories. 

Tags: Hybridity, Identity, Native American Rhetorics, Resistance, Subaltern Literacies, Survivance 

Romano, Susan. “Tlaltelolco: The Grammatical-Rhetorical Indios of Colonial Mexico.” College English, vol. 66, no. 3, 2004, pp. 257–77. JSTOR,

Susan Romano extends the history of rhetorical education in North America south of the contemporary US border by returning to the rhetorical curriculum at the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlaltelolco, a sixteenth century college catering to the sons of indigenous Mexican elites. Situating both the establishment and eventual demise of this college within the colonial policies of Spain’s Patronato Real, Romano demonstrates the ways in which the discourse surrounding and institutional mechanisms supporting native education reveal the relationship between writing and power. First documenting the rhetorics of schooling recorded by early colonial chroniclers, Romano captures the inconsistency of administrators and instructors when it came to understanding the rhetorical power of the educated indio.

Romano then describes the ways in which the translation of European doctrines and reconstruction of native codices undertaken at Tlaltelolco betrayed native literacy practices even while increasing the influence of these literacies. Colonial paranoia about the social dangers of the indio’s growing rhetorical power ultimately led to a series of laws restricting native access to reading and writing. Rhetorics of literacy both reflect and deflect broader social anxieties, Romano concludes. 

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Historiography, Hybridity, Indigenous Rhetorics, Power,  Rhetorical Education, Subaltern Literacies 

Romney, Abraham. “Indian Ability (auilidad de Indio) and Rhetoric’s Civilizing Narrative: Guaman Poma’s Contact with the Rhetorical Tradition.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 63, no. 1, 2011, pp. 12–34. JSTOR,

Abraham Romney’s reconsideration of Mary Louise Pratt’s theorization of the contact zone begins with a closer look at Guaman Poma’s First New Chronicle and Good Government, the text grounding Pratt’s argument. Resisting previous characterizations of the text as unclear, Romney argues that Poma’s work champions the rhetorical auilidad of his people by recovering the symbolic power of native meaning-making practices, demonstrating how indigenous writers reshape symbolic space from inside and outside the Western tradition. Romney questions rhetoric’s role in excluding certain writers by approaching the spatial dimensions of the text and foregrounding rhetoric’s emphasis on system and tradition. Rather than question the legitimacy of writing emerging out of contact zones and classrooms, he argues that teachers should recognize the abilities these writers already possess and encourage students to reshape pre-established writing conventions.

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Contact Zone, Indigenous Rhetorics, Rhetorical Traditions, Subaltern Rhetorics, Writing Studies 

Stromberg, Ernest. “Resistance and Mediation.” American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance: Word Medicine, Word Magic, edited by Ernest Stromberg, U of Pittsburgh P, 2006, pp. 95–109.

Ernest Stromberg conducts a Burkean analysis of two autobiographical narratives, highlighting the ways in which the texts of Susette La Flesche and Zitkála-Šá “affirm[ed], contest[ed], or supplement[ed] the dominant discourse’s position of American Indian” (98). More specifically Stromberg examined their discourse in order to determine the extent to which it subverted dominant English narratives that supported the conversion of American Indian children at the turn of the twentieth century. One such narrative occurred in the first recorded encounters with Native Americans by Christopher Columbus, articulating a perspective that, Stromberg argues, remained “stunningly contemporary for over four centuries: [That t]hey should be good intelligent servants . . . and . . . that they would become Christians very easily” (96). Undergirding this narrative were several unstated assumptions made clearer in La Flesche’s and Zitkála-Šá’s writings as they reflected on Indian children’s recruitment to the boarding schools that ultimately introduced them to Christianity and prepared them primarily for vocations of “honest labor” (Lomawaima, qtd. in Stromberg, 96). These unstated assumptions included the need for American Indian children to learn English because their first language was inadequate for ensuring their success and the need to undergo religious conversion because their own traditions were unclean. 

Drawing on Kenneth Burke’s Rhetoric of Motives, Stromberg associates both women’s texts with attempts to “establish the human consubstantiality of Indian peoples” (99). Their initial rhetorical move was to construct rhetorical identification with the English, unsurprising given Zitkála-Šá’s hybridity and conflicted worldview. A secondary rhetorical move was to contend with and respond to the dominant images placed upon them by the English, their texts “reflect[ing] a rhetorical situation in which to even be heard they needed to establish a speaking position that would be recognized by mainstream audiences” (100). Though Stromberg argues that they were writing from constrained and limited positions within their own historical and rhetorical contexts, La Flesche and Zitkála-Šá were quite successful in challenging readers to rethink the representation of indigenous peoples in twentieth-century textual descriptions, and thus to better “develop a coherent sense of the United States’ multicultural rhetorical tradition” (96).

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Magic, Methodology, Native American Rhetorics, Rhetorical Figures, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Traditions, Survivance, Women’s Rhetorics

Ancient Egyptian Rhetorics

Bochi, Patricia A. “Gender and Genre in Ancient Egyptian Poetry: The Rhetoric of Performance in the Harpers’ Songs.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, vol. 35 , 1998, pp. 89–95. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/40000463

In this essay, Patricia Bochi considers the complexity and contradiction within one of the most ambiguous texts of ancient Egyptian literature, the harpers’ songs. She asks whether they were actually sung in the world of the living or made only for funerary purposes. Traditionally, these songs are studied as abstract literary compositions, considering their visual dimension in that light; Bochi instead approaches the harpers’ songs’ visual representations on tombs rhetorically, as visual performances, and asserts that such an approach can serve to improve our understanding of the roles these songs played within ancient Egypt. She points out that this approach highlights the regular exclusion of women from these funerary performances. The songs are traditionally classified as wisdom literature, and Bochi suggests that this is a genre made by men for men who are its exponents. She asserts that the male orientation of the harpers’ songs is rhetorical and that a gender-conscious visual analysis of them offers insight into their significance.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Egyptian Rhetorics, Feminist Rhetorics, Gendered Rhetorics, Genres, Performance, Poetics, Visual Rhetorics, Wisdom, Women’s Rhetorics

Fox, Michael V. “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric.” Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, vol. 1, no. 1, 1983, pp. 9–22. doi:10.1525/rh.1983.1.1.9.

In Rhetorica’s first issue, Michael Fox argues for integrating ancient Egyptians into the history of rhetoric, on the basis of “wisdom instructions of the Middle and New Kingdoms from about 2200 B.C. to about 1500 B.C.” (9). Wisdom books were used by ancient Egyptians for the training of young men to become scribes or officials (9). The teachings in the wisdom books “promise[d] divine favor and professional success for those who obey[ed] their teaching,” and were often centered around ethics, etiquette, and interpersonal relations (10). Although 50 to 60 of such wisdom books are thought to exist, only about ten books have actually been discovered in their entirety. Fox draws on the teaching of five of these books, including the Kagemeni, Ptahhotep, Merikare, Any, and Amenemope (10-11). As the ultimate rhetorical virtue, the speaker’s ethos was essential for regulating societal harmony in Egyptian rhetorical practice. Style did play a role in this practice, which Fox highlights in an example of the peasant’s speech, but ultimately, the goal of Egyptian rhetoric was not argumentation, but the ethical stance of the speakers.   

Even still, eloquence was central to Egyptian teachings in rhetoric, and it was as important in private conversation as it was in public oratory (11). The Egyptians considered eloquence to be an innate faculty that one did or did not possess, but could still be improved by instruction (12), and it could be embodied in four canons of Egyptian rhetoric: silence, restraint, fluency, and truthfulness. The first canon, silence, “is both a moral posture and a rhetorical tactic” (12). Like the other canons of Egyptian rhetoric, silence was intended to improve one’s ethos while diminishing his opponent’s. The second canon, restraint, refers to the ability to hold back one’s “emotions, covering up your anger, and regulating carefully what comes from your mouth” (14). When the right time comes to speak the wise man will both “choose the right response from [his] belly and speak them with fluency,” or the third canon (15), which creates “an impression of competence of knowledge” (15). The final canon was that of truthfulness, effective because it both “creates your ethos and because it is and of itself persuasive” (15). The assumption was that false words (such as heated words) would turn an audience against the speaker, but truthful words would not. 

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Egyptian Rhetorics, Eloquence, Ethics, Harmony, Historiography, Maat, Performance, Rhetorical Histories, Wisdom

Hutto, David. “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric in the Old and Middle Kingdoms.” Rhetorica, vol. 20, no. 3, Summer 2002, pp. 213–33. doi:10.1525/rh.2002.20.3.213.

David Hutto explores rhetorical practices in Egypt from 2686 BCE to 1650 BCE. He revisits the three main tenets of ancient Egyptian rhetoric, including rhetorical silence, reticence, and truthfulness. In general, ancient Egyptian rhetoric is to be understood from both a magical perspective and a practical one. In the magical sense, Egyptian culture assigned a deity for eloquent speech, attributed power to names, and held that the hieroglyphs were divine. In the practical sense, the timeliness of when to speak and when not to speak was essential. The proper use of language was also seen as a guide for the proper conduct in public as well as private.

Hutto differentiates the Greek rhetor from the Egyptian rhetor, emphasizing that it was common for Greeks to challenge the status quo, whereas Egyptians were taught to uphold it. With a worldview grounded in the belief that language is power, there was a sanctity about the use of language in Egypt, that it should not be approached carelessly. Ethically, it should not be used to manipulate or deceive for the purpose of winning arguments, but rather to reveal truth. This led to the valuing of rhetorical silence—a restraining from immodest emotional responses, learning to speak at the appropriate moment, and speaking in fairness and justice. 

In theory, then, the ancient Egyptian’s rhetorical audience consisted of a rhetor who was either superior to one’s self, equal to one’s self, or unequal to one’s self. In each situation, a silent response was often considered most wise. The concept of rhetorical silence has even resurfaced in contemporary rhetorical studies, revealing the relevance and timeliness of ancient rhetorics for today’s world. 

Tags: Egyptian Rhetorics, Justice, Magic, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Silence, Truth 

Lesko, Barbara. “Women’s Rhetoric from Ancient Egypt.” Listening to Their Voices: The Rhetorical Activities of Historical Women, edited by Molly Meijer Wertheimer, U of South Carolina P, 1997, pp. 89–111. 

Barbara Lesko’s article showcases the way women during the Middle and New Kingdoms engaged in more direct speech and writing than has been thought. Responding to Michael Fox’s claim in “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric” that there are five canons of Egyptian Rhetoric (silence, kairos, restraint, fluency, and truthfulness), Lesko reminds readers that these canons presented in wisdom texts were used much like textbooks to instruct young boys in schools to encourage docility. In Lesko’s estimation, these texts are not representative of Egyptian rhetoric, but were mere propaganda of the education system. She reproduces women’s letters, testimonials, and songs to counter Fox’s claim that the five canons he outlines are essential to Egyptian rhetoric. 

Lesko claims that Egyptian women participated in direct forms of speech and writing. Her examples include Aknhesenamum, a queen of Egypt, and Hatshepshut, who served as Pharaoh for nearly twenty years. Hatshepsut made grandiose pronouncements about her accomplishments and other undertakings to reaffirm her legitimacy to the throne on several occasions, which could be seen as stemming from insecurity. Lesko argues that she must employ this type of rhetoric and language in order for her rule to go unquestioned and in order to be seen as divine; however, she points out that male pharaohs also engaged in grandiose and boastful pronouncements. Ankhesenamum also engages in bold rhetoric to find a new husband among the Hittite princes, once her husband Tutankhamen dies. Both women engage in direct and boastful language that challenges Fox’s position on the canons of Egyptian Rhetoric. Lesko argues that women’s bold rhetoric might be the result of not being educated in those schools that preached caution. However, she acknowledges that Hatshepsut and Ankhesenamum would likely have had access to these school materials. Lesko’s analysis illustrates that Egyptian rhetoric is more complicated and dynamic than previously thought. 

Tags: Eloquence, Epistolary Rhetorics, Gendered Rhetorics, Maat, Restraint, Rhetorical Silence, Truth, Wisdom, Women’s Rhetorics

Lipson, Carol S. “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric: It All Comes Down to Maat.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 79–98. 

In this essay, Carol Lipson explores how Egyptian rhetoric is intricately tied to Maat—a  rhetorical concept central to life in Ancient Egypt. Lipson examines the genres of wisdom texts, autobiographies, and the letter genre specifically, to show how a seemingly mundane genre is constructed rhetorically and enacts cultural values. Maat is referenced as a divine tribunal. Lipson attempts to define Maat, which is “often referred to as truth, justice, or order,” interpreting Maat as “what is right” (80-81). In ancient Egyptian culture, the goddess Maat judges access to the afterlife and has been depicted in many visual representations in the hall of Maat. Lipson considers the way texts look at Maat as content, such as teaching how to do Maat through instructional texts and through autobiographical texts, serving to provide guidelines for maintaining the well-being of society. 

Her main focus is on the letters that were very important to the day to day operations of the ruling class. Letters were common in this culture, notes Lipson, particularly among administrators. Letters were used for conducting the business of taxing families, assigning large work projects, such as the building of pyramids and tombs. They were also used to communicate with families, record official policies, and issue petitions. Lipson’s examination of the opening of these letters as a genre suggests that the letter-writing conventions, particularly their openings, include ritual enactments devoted to the principles of Maat, often defining Maat behavior for their readers by expressing how one might understand Maat. Maat is by extension used for argument. Using Michael Baktin’s term “superaddressee,” Lipson proposes that ancient Egypt’s cultural concept of Maat serves as a third voice, always present, superseding both the author of the letter and the one who reads it (93). Lipson urges that by no means should these letters be deemed inconsequential, as they reinforce the strong place of Maat as a concept that organized everyday life in ancient Egypt. 

Tags: Divinity of Speech, Egyptian Rhetorics, Epistolary Rhetorics, Maat, Truth 

Lipson, Carol S. “Rhetoric and Identity: A Study of Ancient Egyptian Non Royal Tombs and Tomb Autobiographies.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 94–124. 

Carol Lipson studies tombs for non-royal members of the elite in Ek Kab (once called Nekheb) during the New Kingdom period, offering a rhetorical analysis of the tombs’ design, visual elements, and texts, which include autobiographies. Lipson argues that the tombs’ rhetorical purposes were threefold: (1) to present the deceased as an elite and worthy individual; (2) to preserve the identity of the deceased; and (3) to persuade living visitors to perform the necessary rituals to preserve the identity of the deceased (121). 

Lipson focuses on four tombs, those of Paheri and Renni, who were mayors with additional titles, and Ahmose of Abana and Ahmose Pennekhbet, both warriors. Lipson finds two distinct tomb designs. The tombs of Paheri and Renni shared one style while the warriors’ tombs shared another style. Similarly, the autobiographical content differed between the tombs of Paheri and Ahmose of Abana. Paheri focused his autobiography on his moral nature and behavior, while that of Ahmose of Abana foregrounded his military career. All four tombs contained scenes of relatives, their names and relationships to the deceased. By contrast, tombs for non-royal elites in Thebes focused on colleagues and anonymous participants. Finally, Lipson asserts that scholars must consider the material, visual, and oral dimensions in their rhetorical study of ancient cultures (121). 

Tags: Archaeology, Egyptian Rhetorics, Identity, Multimodal Rhetorics

Arabic Rhetorics

Al-Musawi, Muhsin J. “Arabic Rhetoric.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, edited by Thomas O. Sloane, Oxford UP, 2001, pp. 29–33. 

As al-Musawi sheds light on the rise of balāghah, a term that roughly denotes rhetoric in the Arabic tradition, he covers pertinent terms and underlines domains for balāghah’s development, namely literary, scholastic, hermeneutic, philological, and oratorical. Used since the pre-Islamic times in the Arabic tradition, balaghah refers to “eloquence and fasahah (purity and perfection of language)” and is also concerned with “manner and matters” as well as “clarity and brevity of address for the purpose of communicative efficacy” (29). Al-Musawi argues that the study of balaghah (ilm-al balaghah) is closely linked with Islam as it was practiced in Arabic culture. Since the ninth century CE, philologists, grammarians, and theologians studied pre-Islamic poetry and oratory as a means to preserve ancient traditions, expand influence over Islamic cultures, and resist cultural subversion. 

For some scholars, the primary goal of balaghah was al-I’jāz: providing interpretations for Quranic verses and arguing for Quran’s absolute inimitability. For example, in order to interpret and explicate the inimitability of the Qur’ān (i‘jāz), scholars, grammarians, and critics engaged in numerous debates relevant to rhetoric. These debates include distinguishing between literal and figurative interpretation (30), which resulted in and coincided with meticulous study of tropes (majāzāt). In addition to exegesis, there was increased attention to persuasion, attending to one’s audience, and oratorical arts. The rhetorical goals “to know and to let others share that understanding” (30) made scholars articulate principles of rhetoric. A case in point, al-Jāḥiẓ advises rhetors to make their “usage of discourse [suit] a certain milieu, while keeping in mind its target” (30). Still, some Mu’tazilite scholars believed in the inimitability of God but the imitability of the language. Overall, the Arabic rhetorical tradition was defined by a division between ancient and modern or literary and scholastic. 

By reviewing various scholars’ views on the Arabic tradition, al-Musawi observes that scholars progressively focused more on textual analysis aspects of rhetoric, granting rhetoric a status of its own (independent of eloquence). For example, Ibn Sinan al-Khafaji associated eloquence with “description and depiction of words” while defining rhetoric as “both a description of words and meanings” (32). Abū Hilāl al-’Askarī associated eloquence with the speaker but not the speech. 

The twentieth century brought about a Hellenizing influence on balaghah, evident in increasing references to Greek rhetors and philosophers (bypassing the Indian and Persian traditions). Some balaghah scholars argued for Greeks’ lack of rhetorical output in comparison to their philosophical work, and others added that the Greek influence on Arabic tradition was too little to mention (e.g., for a long time, Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics was known only to specialized philosophers and was not an object of attention for literary scholars). In the twentieth century, balaghah advanced through extensive studies on traditional texts (focusing on rhetoric’s scholastic, literary, and philological dimensions) the possible motives for which included challenging modernism and state manipulation of oratory. 

Tags: Eloquence, Exegesis, Islamic Rhetorics, Metaphor, Oratory, Persuasion, Poetics, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories

Al-Musawi, Muhsin J.  “Vindicating a Profession or a Personal Career? Al-Qalqashandī’s Maqamah in Context.” Mamlūk Studies Review, vol. 7, 2003, pp. 111–35.

Focusing on the art of letter-writing, Muhsin al-Musawi points to multiple lines of rhetorical development. These include epistolary rhetoric, manuals used for rhetorical education of secretaries or chancery writers, and literary genres like maqāmah (short narrative that blends verse and rhymed prose) and panegyrics. These lines of rhetorical development intersect in a unique medieval maqāmah, titled “Al-Kawākib al-Durrīyah fī al-Manāqib al-Badrīyah.” Al-maqāmah was written by al-Qāḍī (i.e., judge) Shihāb al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Qalqashandī (756–821/1355–1420) in 791/1389. Years later, al-Qalqashandī became a well-known scholar and head of the Mamlūk chancery (i.e., governmental bureau charged with the production of letters and documents) in Egypt. Al-maqāmah was written “in praise of his [al-Qalqashandī’s] patron Badr al-Dīn ibn Faḍl Allāh al-‘Umarī [the head of the chancery at the time] and the epistolary art . . . ” (111). In addition to praise, al-maqāmah can be considered a unique “manual on secretaryship,” written by a writer and the head of the chancery.  Al-maqāmah anticipates al-Qalqashandī’s fourteen-volume encyclopedia on chancery writing titled Ṣubḥ al-A‘shá fī Ṣ˝inā‘at al-Inshā.’ 

Al-Musawi identifies al-maqāmah’s eleven discernable parts (113). Al-maqāmah includes an explication of the term maqāmah, an introduction to the genre’s originators, a prologue establishing al-maqāmah’s context, and a dialogue between the protagonist and a sage, within which the qualities of the secretary and the value of epistolography are clearly identified. Al-Musawi demonstrates al-Qalqashandī’s knowledge of epistolography, famed epistolographers, and skills and expertise of chancery writers. Refuting dismissive remarks that downplay the skills and expertise of writers, al-Qalqashandī “argues that the chancery kātib is a learned person, ‘ālim,” or a scholar, and “place[s] epistolography and literary writing ahead of every other vocation,” for their “profession . . . [is] not only the most prestigious, but also the most needed for statecraft and culture” (122). According to al-Qalqashandī, his patron Badr al-Dīn ibn Faḍl Allāh al-‘Umarī stands out. In his praise of his patron, al-Qalqashandī names exemplars of his professions like al-Qāḍī al-Fāḍil (“The Excellent Magistrate”) whose exceptional skills was praised by Ṣalāḥ˝ al-Dīn and compares them. But, in these comparisons, “every other glory fades in the presence of the overwhelming magnitude of Badr al-Dīn,” al-Qalqashandī’s patron (121). 

Al-Musawi underlines al-maqāmah’s rhetorical significance. First, it is an autobiographical account of a chancery writer who “had to demonstrate talent in the absence of [professional and familial] lineage”—at a time when this was atypical—to join Dīwān al-Inshā’ (The Chancery) as kātib darj (i.e., secretary of the scroll; entry level position). Additionally, in writing al-maqāmah, al-Qalqashandī demonstrates his facility with literary genres like al-maqāmah, which Arab predecessors finessed. This complements his exceptional knowledge of prose (nathr), epistolography (inshā’), and “prerequisites and attributes” of the erudite writer, or kātib (128), which include writer’s knowledge of Qur’ān, law, politics, geography, history, and other areas of study including literature as well as “procedural matters, formats, varieties of address, samples of polished correspondence, and stylistic needs,” for example (126). The writer is also expected to be “sensible, mindful, insightful, and reasonable” (129). This is why al-maqāmah can be considered a “manual on secretaryship.”

Tags: Chancery Writers, Epideictic, Epistolary Rhetorics, Genres, Islamic Rhetorics, Manuals, Poetics, Textbooks

Baddar, Maha. “The Arabs Did Not ‘Just’ Translate Aristotle: Al-Farabi’s Logico-Rhetorical Theory.” The Responsibilities of Rhetoric, edited by Michelle Smith and Barbara Warnick, Waveland P, 2010, pp. 230–42.

Joining other scholars who study the contributions of Arabic philosophy (e.g., Philip Halldén, J. Anderson, David Reisman, Majid Fakhry, Ian Netton), Maha Baddar critiques the assumption that al-Farabi’s book on rhetoric is “a mere summary of Aristotle’s On Rhetoric.”  Her chapter focuses on al-Farabi’s book on rhetoric titled Kitāb fi al-Mantiq: Al-Khaṭābah (A Book on Logic: Rhetoric) and draws our attention to both his atypical intellectual environment and his re-purposing of rhetoric. She counsels, “al-Farabi’s rhetorical theory cannot, therefore, be studied in isolation from his larger logical curriculum that, in its turn, is directly related to his theory of how knowledge is acquired and the different kinds of intellect” (235). This is why Baddar reads al-Farabi’s rhetorical theory in the context of his other works like Iḥṣā’al-‘Ulūm (Enumeration and Classification of Sciences) and Kitāb Ārā’ Ahl al-Madinah al-Fadilah (The Book on the Opinions of the People of the Virtuous City).

Al-Farabi (b. circa 870 CE) —well-known philosopher, commonly known as the second master (Aristotle is the first)—lived and studied in Baghdad, the capital of the Islamic empire at the time and therefore a cultural and commercial hub. Owing to its eclectic cultural and intellectual milieu and a monotheistic religious environment, which Baddar notes is often downplayed, al-Farabi had access to Aristotle’s Prior and Posterior Analytics, to Plato, and to Neoplatonists like Plotinus and Proclus (233). Explaining the impactful nature of this context, Baddar writes that “[b]y the time Aristotle’s works reached al-Farabi in Baghdad, they had undergone several centuries of studying and reinterpretation. Following the Alexandrian tradition, the Organon included the Rhetoric and Poetics, as well as Porphyry’s Isagogue, a factor that has major implications for the re-purposing of rhetoric in the Arabic tradition” (233).

Read as part of the Organon, rhetoric is seen as a logical art that has an epistemological function. Baddar explains that it is within this context “rhetoric [is transformed] from a practical art with the three uses [epideictic, forensic, and deliberative] that Aristotle assigns it to a theoretical epistemological one. . . . [I]t is not only a means of conveying knowledge (acquired through other means, as Aristotle would have it), but also a tool for acquiring knowledge, albeit not the most sophisticated one” (234-5). Additionally, Baddar explains the rhetorical nature of al-Farabi’s translation of terms and its relation to the re-purposing of Rhetoric. In addition to accommodating his audience, al-Farabi was attempting to “create a philosophical lexicon rooted in the Arabic language, and, because he does so, new connotations are added to the philosophical concepts that they did not possess in the original Greek” (238). As an illustration, Baddar explains the culturally-based added shades of meaning to his translation of concepts like persuasion and enthymeme.

Tags: Al-Farabi, Aristotle, Enthymeme, Epistemology, Persuasion, Plato, Translation 

Baddar, Maha. “From Athens (Via Alexandria) to Baghdad: Hybridity as Epistemology in the Work of Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, and in the Rhetorical Legacy of the Medieval Arabic Translation Movement.” ProQuest, 2010.  

This dissertation sheds light on the ways that the Arabic Translation Movement in Abbasid Baghdad (between the 8th and the 10th centuries CE) influenced the development of Western rhetorical theory after the fall of Greece and Rome. By making substantive intellectual contributions to the knowledge the translators provided for the Islamic empire (53), the Movement resulted in hybridized knowledge that, Maha Baddar argues, has been overlooked in rhetorical studies of the medieval period (144). Yet translators such as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroes), and Ibn Sinha (known as Avicenna), commissioned by Islamic sponsors, made significant adjustments to the texts to serve their social context and purposes, adding commentary or clarification and making condensations, elisions, and substitutions.

For example, references to “pagan” gods were transformed into didactic monotheistic passages that made the foreign knowledge acceptable to its Islamic patrons (37). Such hybridization of texts could change their focus and sometimes their meanings, as in Alexandria, where commentaries on “the Aristotelian corpus from a Platonic-mystical standpoint . . . yielded a Neo-Platonic school of thinking that would be later adopted by the Arabic scholars in Baghdad” (52). The term translation was differently understood by medieval translators than in modern times, Baddar explains (38-39). Baddar illustrates the process by presenting her translations of al-Kindi’s “A Statement on the Soul” in Chapter 3 and al-Farabi’s “Book on Rhetoric” in Chapter 4.

Baddar’s methodological approach discussed in Chapter 2 is not comparative, she argues, but dialogic, because the study proceeds “in a Western intellectual context (the US academy), on predominantly Western subject matter (Aristotle) as it was adapted in medieval times to suit an Arabic-Islamic context, and how this scholarship was represented in Orientalist scholarship” (72). Thus, Baddar posits that Bakhtinian dialogism is a more suitable approach for exploring the hybridization of texts and genres (63); the knowledge created resulted from the dialogic handling of translations “across time periods, cultures, and geographical centers of learning” (72). Texts came mainly from Greece but also from India and other foreign countries, from which Arabic sponsors and translators avidly sought out renowned texts on medicine, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, and persuasion. Baddar draws on Michel Foucault’s philosophy of power/knowledge dynamics to explain in part the motives behind acquiring and translating texts that brought desirable knowledge into the Arabian empire.

This work provides consequential missing links useful for tracing non-Western influences on Western rhetorical culture by using a methodological approach that makes the hybridization of the texts helpfully transparent.

Tags: Al-Farabi, Aristotle, Averroes, Biblical Rhetorics, Didactic Rhetorics, Epistemology, Epistolary Rhetorics, Genres, Histories of Rhetoric, Historiography, Hybridity, Islamic Rhetorics, Methodology, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Persuasion, Plato, Religious Rhetorics, Translation

Baddar, Maha. “Toward a New Understanding of Audience in the Medieval Arabic Translation Movement: The Case of Al-Kindi’s ‘Statement of the Soul.’” Rhetoric Across Borders, edited by Anne Teresa Demo, Parlor P, 2015, pp. 59–70. 

In this piece, Maha Baddar analyzes the exceptional role of audience in the Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in ninth-century Islamic Baghdad. Using al-Kindi’s “A Statement on the Soul,” Baddar illustrates how the audience-author position in the translation movement inverts the traditional rhetorical triangle, where the audience becomes a knowledge-making participant. The classical tradition’s definition of audience, as passive recipients of information, does not accurately portray the dynamics involved in the position of scholars who translated source texts; Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism more accurately portrays the active role of audience in the Translation Movement, where the scholar translator is both audience and author. al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) legitimized Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic philosophy through translations of the source texts in both summaries and commentaries, occupying both audience position (as they were audience of the source texts) and author position (as they were in the process of translating, summarizing, and commenting on the source texts for an Arabic and Islamic context). There were two types of audiences: those receptive to imported philosophical knowledge and its integration into Islamic settings and those who resisted imported knowledge and viewed Islam as a self-sufficient religion. The Arabic philosophers, Baddar observes, had to contend with opposing ideologies, and “showed shrewd awareness and sophisticated analysis of the moral fields shaping the different audiences whom they needed to persuade of the compatibility of philosophy and religion” (63-64). 

Baddar analyzes Al-Kindi’s “A Statement on the Soul,” focusing on his awareness of audience, namely his inventional decision to include monotheistic and Islamic references to replace Greek and neo-Platonic references in his translation, appeasing traditional Islamic thinkers’ critical stance towards philosophy. The use of angels, for example, in al-Kindi’s translation is an example of the “authorial, creative qualities” of medieval Muslim scholars, as angels were an integral part of the Muslim context but played no part in Aristotelian and Platonic traditions (65). Similarly, the tone of “A Statement on the Soul” is similar to khutbas (sermons), he begins and ends the text with prayer, and inserts didactic passages into his text, all indicating, “that the purpose of the treatise was to advocate an Islamic philosophy rooted in a (Neo)Platonic version of virtue” (66). Baddar’s analysis of al-Kindi’s text illustrates how the scholars in the Translation Movement occupied both audience and author positions simultaneously in a number of ways.   

Tags: Aristotle, Audience, Averroes, Histories of Rhetoric, Historiography, Hybridity, Islamic Rhetorics, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Persuasion, Plato, Religious Rhetorics, Translation

Borrowman, Shane. “The Islamization of Rhetoric: Ibn Rushd and the Reintroduction of Aristotle into Medieval Europe.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 27, no. 4, 2008, pp. 341–60. JSTOR,

This essay aims to unearth the contributions of Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes (1126-1198 CE), to rhetorical history. Though often forgotten in our mainstream histories of rhetoric, Shane Borrowman argues it was Averroes’ Arabic translations and commentaries of Aristotelian texts that ultimately paved the way for the eventual transmission of ancient Greek thought to Europe during the Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad (342). However, Shane Borrowman is careful to reflect on the ways Averroes’ translations were also influenced by his Islamic heritage, as well as Islamic Spain’s integration of Muslims, Christians, and Jews (344). It was during this period of flourishing multiculturalism that Averroes began to embrace and adapt hellenistic texts for Arab and Muslim societies. 

Borrowman argues that “Arab scholars did far more than preserve Aristotle’s work: They studied it, considered it, reconciled its paganism with their own monotheism, and transmitted both the original texts and their responses to those scholars who followed” (346). Indeed, Borrowman provides extensive examples derived from Averroes’ commentaries to provide evidence of his inventive translations. As such, Borrowman’s essay offers valuable insights into Averroes’ original contributions to rhetorical thought that have long been overlooked in our histories of medieval rhetorics. 

Tags: Averroes, Aristotle, Islamic Rhetorics, Translation  

Borrowman, Shane. “Recovering the Arabic Aristotle: Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd on the Logic of Civic and Poetic Discourse.” Rhetoric in the Rest of the West, edited by Shane Borrowman, Robert L. Lively, and Marcia Kmetz, Cambridge Scholars, 2010, pp. 97–118.

In this chapter, Shane Borrowman argues that while the Arab world inherited the same Aristotelian corpus that Eurpope inherited, their contributions have been largely ignored by most studies of the history of rhetoric. The Arabic Aristotle, he claims, was studied in al-Andalus, and was “more coherent and more cohesive in his articulation of the methods by which humans search for truth,” but has been obscured by the European version (99). The Arabic Aristotle, Borrowman argued, must be recovered for the purpose of advancing Aristotelian logical thought in Western scholarship.  Since Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all valued Greek learning and Aristotelian thought, studying the Arabic Aristotle will further allow us to begin to fully understand the connections among them. Borrowman argues for a reading of the Rhetoric within an Arabo-Aristotelian context, as a comprehensive reading within the eight books of the Organon, breaking down the institutional division between the study of rhetoric (in composition and communication studies) and the study of poetics (among literary critics and dramatists). 

The essay begins with a history of the Arabo-Islamic scholarly tradition that not only preserved Aristotle’s works, but provided commentaries (tafsir-long, sharh-middle, and jawami-short) and translated both the original works and their own commentaries. Borrowman focuses on a rereading of Rhetoric and Poetics within the Arabo-Islamic context and within the timeline of the Organon to show the Rhetoric as a testament to logical thought and the Poetics as the culminating statement of logic in poetry. He focuses on links among poetry, oratory, and Aristotelian logic in the commentaries of Ibn Rushd and his predecessor Ibn Sina available in English translation, which include Ibn Sina’s lengthy commentary on Poetics and Ibn Rushd’s commentaries on Rhetoric on Poetics.

Borrowman’s rereading of Aristotle’s Rhetoric as the first full expression of theory on civic discourse and Poetics within the Arab-Islamic context, through al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, offers readers a reconceptualization of how to frame Aristotle’s body of work. This rereading and recovery of the Arab Aristotle tradition is an integral part of continuing to develop the Aristotelian tradition in Western Antiquity. 

Tags: Al-Farabi, Aristotle, Averroes, Biblical Rhetorics, Histories of Rhetoric, Historiography, Islamic Rhetorics, Methodology, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Persuasion, Religious Rhetorics, Translation

Clark, Carol Lea. “Aristotle and Averroes: The Influences of Aristotle’s Arabic Commentator upon Western European and Arabic Rhetoric.” Review of Communication, vol. 7, no. 4, 2007, pp. 369–87. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/15358590701596955.

Pointing to the rise of translation scholars in Baghdad during the medieval period, Carol Lea Clark gestures to the contributions of al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), whose Arabic translations and commentaries of Aristotle’s texts “had a lasting influence on rhetorical traditions in the West” (370). Despite the advances of these Arabic translations, Clark observes how those in rhetorical studies have paid very little attention to Arab rhetorics in our histories and theories. To intervene in this gap, Clark emphasizes how Averroes offered insightful, original commentaries on Aristotle’s texts. Even more, Clark suggests Averroes’ translations and commentaries aimed to make Aristotelian thought relevant for an Arab-Muslim society (376). For these reasons, Clark’s essay provides comparative rhetoricians with extensive textual evidence derived from Averroes’ commentaries to illustrate how the Arabic translations reintroduced Aristotle’s texts to an Arab-Islamic context; such contributions remain rarely studied in rhetorical studies and merit further attention. 

Tags: Al-Farabi, Aristotle, Averroes, Islamic Rhetorics, Translation

Geiger, Joseph. “Notes on the Second Sophistic in Palestine.” Illinois Classical Studies, vol. 19, 1994, pp. 221–30. JSTOR,

Joseph Geiger returns to the Second Sophistic Movement but offers a new perspective by examining places and cultures that often remain overlooked in our discipline’s histories of Sophistic activities. Though the Sophists have long been recognized for their itinerant teaching, Geiger argues that Sophistic activity migrated to other less familiar places in Asia, including Gadara, Petra, Syria, and Palestine. Geiger advocates for increased attention to two sources of information: first, there is evidence of Sophistic activity derived from adjacent geographic locales; and second, there is evidence of Sophists originating from Palestine during the era of the Second Sophistic (224). However, Geiger acknowledges the limitations of available evidence (227). To study evidence of the Second Sophistic in new locations, we must proceed with an awareness of the limitations of our historical evidence and our historical methods. Geiger’s study illuminates the importance of looking at diverse forms of evidence that exceed literary sources to study the Second Sophistic Movement beyond its Greek and Roman contributions.

Tags: Historiography, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories 

Halldén, Philip. “What is Arab Islamic Rhetoric? Rethinking the History of Muslim Oratory Art and Homiletics.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 37, no. 1, 2005, pp. 19–38. JSTOR,

Philip Halldén’s article sheds light on the art and practice of oratory, which continues to be invisible to rhetoric studies. To counter this invisibility, Halldén’s addresses a terminological problem. Halldén posits that the centering of the term balāgha and the de-centering of the term khaṭāba has far-reaching consequences. He clarifies, “[I]n the dictionaries, two different words are generally given as translations in Arabic for the word rhetoric: al-balāgha and al-khaṭāba. . . . In most studies explicitly concerned with Arab Islamic rhetoric, al-balāgha tends to be in focus. One can safely say that al-balāgha has received far more scholarly attention than al- khaṭāba” (20). The former is assumed to be more relevant to literary criticism and the latter is assumed to be a “foreign discipline, belonging to the tradition of philosophy” and “something foreign to Islam” (20). To explain this terminological problem, Halldén explains the meaning and scope of al-balāgha, addresses the repurposing of rhetoric, and identifies functions of al-khaṭāba. 

Halldén traces the origin of the study of balāgha, which “can be referred to as an Islamically motivated kind of rhetoric” since the study was motivated by a desire to interpret the meaning of the Qur’ān and to demonstrate its inimitability (i‘jāz) “or, more precisely, the capacity of the Qur’ān to frustrate all human efforts to imitate or suppress the eloquence of God” (21). Scholars poured over the study of eloquence and catalogued figures of style and meaning; thus, the study of eloquence in its broadest sense was beneficial not just to the study of al-Qur’ān. 

In its most expansive sense, al-balāgha comprised three areas of study, namely ‘ilm al-ma‘ānī, or the science/study of meaning, ‘ilm al-bayān, or the science/study of clear expression, and ‘ilm al-badī‘, or the science/study of ornamentation (21). However, “Western students of ‘ilm al-balāgha have tended to focus on the parts called ‘ilm al-bayān (the science of metaphors) and ‘ilm al-badī‘ (the science of ornaments). . . . Muslim scholastics considered ‘ilm al-ma‘ānī the most important of the three parts of ‘ilm al-balāgha” (22). Additionally, rhetoric studies and Arab-Islamic studies tended to center medieval Muslim philosophers’ engagement with khaṭāba. 

To medieval Muslim philosophers the practice of public speaking “was something for the rational mind to reflect on” (23). Both resulted in the deflection of khaṭāba. This deflection was furthered by the fact that the study of khaṭāba became “subject to “jurisprudence” (fiqh), whose experts stipulate the proper conduct or decorum for public speech on the basis of the shari ‘a” (23). Put differently, varied reasons have contributed to the invisibility of khaṭāba. Some of these relate to the use of rhetorical terms and asymmetrical investment in different lines of rhetorical development.

For the preacher, the need to reflect and study speech was coupled with and driven by a practical need to know rhetoric, to imitate previous orators, and to appeal to their audience. For them “[t]he art of public speech becomes a doxological knowledge in contrast to the philosopher’s epistemical knowledge” (23). The centrality of philosophic rhetoric deflects attention of these practical, rhetorical exigences. To trace this doxological knowledge and the art of preaching, Halldén identifies sources for recent and old studies of khaṭāba, textbooks and handbooks on the ethics of preaching as well as compilations of khaṭābas (24-26).

Tags: Eloquence, Epistemology, Islamic Rhetorics, Meaning, Metaphor, Oratory, Poetics, Religious Rhetorics

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. “The Essay and the Debate.” Arabic Literature in the Post Classical Period, edited by Roger Allan and D.S. Richards, Cambridge UP, 2006, pp. 134-44. 

Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila studies risālah, which in Arabic refers both to epistles and essays. The chapter demonstrates the rich and versatile use of risālah. Hämeen-Anttila sheds light on the major types of epistles, the science/art to which they belong, the sciences/arts that are drawn on to write letters, and significant manuals/handbooks that clarify how letters should be written.

Hämeen-Anttila explains that epistolary rhetoric “could roughly be divided according to a tripartite scheme into functional, technical, and literary [rasā’il], the first type being letters in the modern sense (conveying a message to the recipient), the second covering tracts or essays (brief studies of a limited subject) and the third consisting of various sub-genres that clearly fall within belles-lettres” (134). All three types of letters exemplify tarassul (act of letter-writing and correspondence), which is systematized and theorized as ‘ilm al-tarassul (epistolography). ‘Ilm al-tarassul is a section of ‘ilm al-inshā’ (science of artistic composition). Handbooks and manuals were produced to train and support writers. These include the works of al-Athīr and al-Aṭṭār (136).

Hämeen-Anttila clarifies that Arab scholars have also subdivided these three major types. To illustrate, functional letters are subdivided into personal (ikhwāniyya) and official (dīwāniyya) letters. And both were further subdivided thematically to felicitation (tahānī) and invitation (istizāra) letters, for example (136). Similarly, literary epistles had different rhetorical goals like celebrating or describing activities and events (138). Hämeen-Anttila zooms in on one of the main genres of Arabic prose, namely al-mufākharāt (141-144). Hämeen-Anttila translates the term as “debate” (Mufākharah is a form of symbolic or literary debate that illustrates the comparative merits of two compared entities). Typically, a mufākharah comprised a prologue, a eulogy of oneself, and an invective of another, and the comparison or debate is arbitrated or judged by a third party in the epilogue (141-142). However, sometimes the debate was open-ended (142). While naming well-known or noteworthy debates, Hämeen-Anttila points to varied subject matters of mufākharah, which include ones between the pen and the sword, between the different disciplines, and the Nile and the Sea.

Tags: Debate, Epideictic, Epistolary Rhetorics, Essay Genre, Manuals

Hatim, Basil. “A Model of Argumentation from Arabic Rhetoric: Insights for a Theory of Text Types.” Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies), vol. 17, no. 1, 1990, pp. 47–54. JSTOR,

Basil Hatim elaborates on his first article, “The Pragmatics of Argumentation of Arabic: The Rise and Fall of a Text Type,” responding to criticism that persuasive arguments in Modern Standard Arabic are exclusively reliant on the counter-argumentative text-type model. He uses an example of Naqd al Nathr (“The Criticism of Prose”), a work in the third century Abbasid Age, to compare argumentation in the classical Arabic language and modern use of Arabic. He contends that the comparison, being “instructive,” takes the reader to when “cross-cultural openness flourished.” Hatim contrasts the earlier period with the use of Modern Standard Arabic, and how its use affects truth and speech. He uses the examples of translation and academic writing among highly educated Arab speaking scholars to show this contrast. For example, Hatim explains Arab rhetoricians studied texts in their context, and were aware of how their utterances were received by different audience openness to the argument; three contexts are defined: (1) Utterances addressed to a munkir, or one who denies the argument, needs to be highly evaluative and strongly emphasized; (2) Utterances addressed to a mutaraddid audience, or one who is hesitant, will need to exhibit some evaluative element based on the audience display of hesitation; and (3) Utterances addressed to an open-minded audience, or khali al-dhihn, need to remain non-evaluative. Argument, therefore, occurs on a continuum of evaluative statements and utterances based on the audience’s openness to persuasion. 

Hatim also discusses the concept of ‘illa as a basic concept of Naqd argumentation, defined as “proof of logical sustainability,” comparing it to the Aristotelian notion of syllogism. The ‘illa is the “why” reasoning of a logical statement, and can be invoked by someone in a debate. The rhetorician is required to provide reasons for their utterances, and a lack of reasons results in a flawed argument. Hatim further elaborates on the different ways ‘illa is invoked and provides a substantial understanding of how the invocation of the ‘illa is a form of counter-argumentative text-type, which he had initially attributed to English speaking persuasive arguments in his previously published article. Hatim blames the system of education that uses Modern Standard Arabic for having ignored this historical rhetorical tradition of the ‘illa—a move that has left scholars disconnected from the rich rhetorical tradition of the past.

Tags: Argumentation, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Historiography, Rhetorical Traditions, Translation, Truth

Hatim, Basil. “The Pragmatics of Argumentation in Arabic: The Rise and Fall of a Text Type.” Text & Talk, vol. 11, no. 2, 1991, pp. 189–99. doi:10.1515/text.1.1991.11.2.189.  

In this study, Basil Hatim distinguishes between two forms of argumentation: through-argumentation, which initially presents a thesis and provides substantiated support for the stated thesis, and counter-argumentative text, which refutes a previously cited thesis and provides support for the rebuttal. Hatim observes that persuasion in Modern Standard Arabic prefers through-argumentation, while persuasion in English adopts a counter-argumentative text type. Hatim suggests the preference of argument as text type in persuasion varies across cultures and languages, as well as within the same language by different people across different historical contexts. 

The text-type model outlined by Hatim is of a hybrid nature, multifunctional, and constantly shifting. Defining utterance as a semiotic “sign,” Hatim describes a set of models that emerges, identified as “situation monitoring” or “situation managing” (190-191). Distinguishing between texts that monitor and texts that manage, Hatim adopts a typology of texts distinguishing between expository texts and argumentative texts. 

Further elaborating on the definition of argumentation, Hatim explains argumentative text-types as those that “‘evaluate’ through persuasion” and distinguishes between two types: through-argumentation (thesis, substantiation, conclusion) and counter-argumentation (191). Within counter-argumentation, two types emerge: a balanced counterargument where the contrastive shift between claim and counterclaim is signaled in the text (thesis, opposition, substantiation, conclusion), and a lop-sided argument where the counter-proposition is anticipated by qualifying the stated proposition (e.g., while, although, etc.) (193). From his perspective of translation across languages, Hatim observes English language argument tends to emphasize use of balanced counter-argumentation, whereas Modern Standard Arabic favors through-argumentation, and when using counter-argumentation tends to emphasize the lop-sided format. 

During the process of translation, the difference in text-type preference may cause some misunderstanding and lead to problems translating the text to an English audience, but Hatim emphasizes that this difference can be more fully understood within the relationship between language and society. This deficit in Modern Standard Arabic is shaped by social and political conditions that have resulted in an erasure of text-types utilized and theorized by ancient Arabic rhetoricians, such as Qudama (who died in 337 H.). 

Ancient Arabic is pioneering in that it is part of a rich tradition of elegant theories of argumentation that stems from a nuanced understanding of audience: “the type of text will be a function of the predominant degree of evaluativeness in the text, which is consistent with the predominant ‘state’ of the addressee envisaged by the producer for that particular text” (197). The state of the addressee in ancient Arbic rhetorical tradition is further elaborated in his later article (see Hatim, “A Model of Argumentation from Arabic Rhetoric: Insights for a Theory of Text Types”). Hatim urges educators to recover ancient Arabic rhetorical tradition to further bridge misunderstandings that emerge as a result of cultural and language barriers. 

Tags: Arabic Rhetorics, Argumentation, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Genre, Historiography, Ideology, Persuasion, Rhetorical Traditions, Translation

Hayes, Heather Ashley. “Doing Rhetorical Studies In Situ: The Nomad Citizen in Jordan.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 20, no. 2, 2017, pp. 167–79. doi:10.1080/15362426.2017.1325415.

In this special collection of essays derived from the 2016 ASHR symposium “Rhetoric in Situ,” Heather Hayes advances a timely call to “do our work in situ: in real time, or in the place where rhetoric is occurring, when it is occurring” (167). Such a charge holds widespread implications for rhetorical methodologies in historical scholarship. Drawing from fieldwork in Jordan in 2014, Hayes describes her encounters with what she terms “nomad citizens” or displaced refugees; in all, Hayes aims to advance new orientations to what she deems the “crises of transnational migration” (168). For this reason, Hayes identifies the affordances of repurposing anthropological research methods to suit rhetorical scholarship (169). 

However, Hayes readily acknowledges the constraints of fieldwork, as many scholars lack the institutional support, time, and resources to enact these laborious methods (170). Despite these constraints, this essay is itself a testament to the merit of in situ fieldwork in rhetorical studies, as Hayes recounts her powerful exchanges with refugees and reflects on their often treacherous journeys from Syria. Such firsthand accounts afford rhetorical scholars rich and tangible insights not readily available from secondary research alone. As scholars in rhetorical studies continue to grapple with nomadism and globalization, attention to anthropological methods of fieldwork offers comparative rhetoricians new tools to examine new lines of inquiry and new forms of evidence that may broaden our theories and understandings of rhetoric. 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Fieldwork, Methodology, Middle Eastern Rhetorics, Place 

Ibn al-Athīr, iyā’al-Dīn Nasr Allāh ibn Muḥammad. Al-Mathal al-Sā’ir fī Adab al-Kātib wa al-Shāʿir [The Current Model: On the Arts of the Writer and Poet], translated by Aḥmad al-Ḥufī and Badawī Ṭabanah, Vol. 1. Nahat Masr Library and Press, 1959.  

Ibn al-Athīr (1163–1239 CE) was a scholar, literary critic, and prolific writer in the ancient Islamic world. His Al-Mathal al-Sā’ir fī Adab al-Kātib wa al-Shāʿir is a four-volume book on the arts and skills of the poet and the scribe or chancery writer, which synthesizes information about their rhetorical arts. It illustrates Ibn al-Athīr’s extensive knowledge of language and rhetorical arts; poets, chancery writers, and essayists; philosophers; linguists; and former and contemporary scholars. Because poets and writers are expected to have a comprehensive understanding of language and rhetoric, the book covers different areas of knowledge, such as how to quote verbatim and be well versed in the Qur’ān and prophetic sayings, the difference between proof and fallacy, (in)appropriate use of brevity, lexical or semantic repetition, and figurative language. The book comprises a preface, an introduction, and two essays, with the first essay addressing verbal expression (volume 1), and the second essay addressing the science of meaning, or ma‘ānī (volumes 2 through 4).

In Volume 1, Ibn al-Athīr provides a detailed description of the art of the poet and the chancery writer and then provides a detailed explication of varied dimensions of verbal expression. Volume 1 comprises a lengthy introduction with ten chapters that shed light on varied areas of linguistic and rhetorical knowledge, as well as the first essay on verbal expression. Together, the ten chapters provide preceptive and technical information that elucidate varied rhetorical and linguistic excellences that writers need to be aware of and to work toward in order to become writers: the art of expression (Chapter 1), the tools of expression (Chapter 2), interpreting and discerning the appropriate interpretation (Chapters 3 and 4), the pillars of writing (Chapter 9), and the pathway to learning to write (Chapter 10). 

Ibn al-Athīr’s explanation of the tools of expression or metaphorical language demonstrates an understanding of the needs and constraints as well as a deep knowledge of the long history of investment in and study of artistic prose and verse, literary criticism, and handbooks guiding writers. For example, in Chapter 9, Ibn al-Athīr notes that writers need to invest in both verbal expression (biyān) and meaning (ma‘ānī), for their writing is expected to be elegant, accessible, appropriate, clear, novel, fluid and coherent, and purposive. Their composition is expected to be enhanced by using Qur’ānic verses and eloquent expression. And in Chapter 10, Ibn al-Athīr addresses the need for on-going training, before distinguishing between three pathways to excellence. The first pathway depends on imitating exemplars, the second pathway depends on blending the predecessors with one’s own innovation in terms of verbal expression and meaning, and the third pathway hinges on continual reading and training. In particular, he advises writers to study the three sources/exemplars of rhetorical excellence, namely the Quran (al-Qur’ān), Prophetic Sayings and actions, and the best of poetry. The third pathway is clearly described as the pathway to excellence, and it is supported by a long section which provides copious examples of ibn al-Athīr’s quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing great poetry. 

After the introductory chapters, the first essay, which focuses on verbal expression, enumerates and elucidates a huge range of terms that seek to enhance the writer’s awareness of verbal expression. Ibn al-Athīr first focuses on single words to elucidate how the writer needs to attend to the novelty, accessibility, refinement of words. Then, Ibn al-Athīr moves beyond single words and provides an extensive and elucidated glossary of terms ranging from assonance and rhyme and parallelism. Again, he provides copious examples from his own writing as well as the writings of noted poets, essayists, and official writers.

Tags: Chancery Writers, Eloquence, Islamic Rhetorics, Linguistics, Philosophy, Poetics, Writing Studies

Koch, Barbara Johnstone. “Presentation as Proof: The Language of Arabic Rhetoric.” Anthropological Linguistics, vol. 25, no. 1, 1983, pp. 47–60. JSTOR,  

In this article, Koch summarizes the results of a linguistic analysis of several persuasive texts written in Modern Standard Arabic, which indicates that Arabic texts persuade by making their argumentative claims linguistically present: through repetition, through paraphrase, and by clothing them in cadences (47). Koch finds that they have “elaborate and persuasive patterns of lexical, morphological and syntactic repetition and paraphrase.” She focuses on repetition as a key element which, she argues, is not only for aesthetic effect. Rather, repetition serves as a glue that provides coherence, enhancing rhetorical efficacy.

Koch names this rhetorical strategy “presentation as proof,” and in so doing, she crosses two areas of research in the ethnography of speaking: “the study of rhetorical discourse in non-western languages, and the cross-linguistic study of the nature and function of repetition” (48). To solidify her theory, Koch draws on scholarship that grapples with non-western rhetorical discourse such as Elthal Albert’s study of Rundi “Logic, Rhetoric, and Poetics” and Charles Franke’s “Analysis on Yakan Litigation” (48). She also draws on studies of repetition by Fox (1971, 1974) and on discussions of parallelism in Rotinese ritual language (48).

All of the texts she discusses have been written in the second half of the twentieth century, and she argues for their complexity on multiple levels: “phonological, morphological, and lexical, syntactic, and semantic” (52). Words that are nearly synonymous are separated on the sentence level by and, revealing how many lexical couplets in contemporary Arabic discourse are also morphologically parallel, in that they have in common “one of the multitudes of internal vowel, gemination, or prefixation patterns”(49), e.g., “at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth,” or they represent a “common construction in which a verb is modified by its own verbal noun plus an adjective, e.g., “one thing that indicates a decisive indicating” (49). However, reverse-paraphrasing seems to be the most frequent and most basic mechanism in the statement of an argumentative thesis (51). Koch finds that the goal of this form of argument is not to convince the reader through logic, but rather to instill in the audience a sense of identification with its point of view (52). An arguer, therefore, presents his truths by “making them present” in the discourse (55).

Tags: Communication Theory, Discourse Analysis, Ethnography, Linguistics, Persuasion, Repetition

Merriam, Allen H. “Rhetoric and the Islamic Tradition.” Today’s Speech, vol. 22, no. 1, 1974, pp. 43–49. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/01463377409369129. 

In this essay, Allen Merriam points out the scarcity of scholarly attention to Islamic rhetoric in the West, despite the fact that Islam represents one of the world’s major rhetorical patterns (with nearly half a billion adherents from northern Africa to Indonesia, as of the date of the article). This, he claims, might be the result of language differences and historical animosities dating back to the Crusades. To shed some light on the Islamic tradition in relation to the development of rhetorical theory, he focuses on the significant body of literature on language use that was produced with the rise of Islam and contributed even to the preservation and dissemination of ancient Greek scholarship. 

Merriam also argues that with extensive scholarship on balagha (i.e., “eloquence or the attainment of verbal effectiveness”) as well as in accordance with the Islamic religion that encourages language study, Islamic tradition “has fostered an abiding respect for rhetoric and the principles of effective discourse” (46). Balagha incorporated both dispositio and elocutio (the traditional Latin concepts for the formation and production of effective speech). A major work in the systematic study of balagha was the encyclopedic work Miftah al-ulum (Key to the Sciences) by al-Sakkaki of Khwarizmi (1160-1229). 

On the whole, Merriam argues that Islamic rhetorical theory grew in a way similar to the Greco-Roman tradition: “both systems enjoyed a firm basis in the theoretical writings of Aristotle” and “experienced the growth of a stylistic orientation to rhetoric” (46-47). Also, Western rhetorical theory has “placed a strong emphasis on preaching and Biblical style” since the time of St. Augustine (4647). To demonstrate, he cites Muslim scholars such as Ibn Khaldun and al-Farabi who “demonstrated a recognition of the complexities involved in the pursuit of truth through the use of language” (47). He also points out the similarity of the three-part division of Muslim rhetoric into grammar, clarity, and metaphor to the Burkean schema of a Grammar, Rhetoric, and Symbolism of Motives. With such characteristics, Islamic rhetoric deserves attention to its long and diverse tradition as well as its anticipation of contemporary rhetorical theory.

Tags: Al-Farabi, Contrastive Rhetoric, Greek Rhetorics, Islamic Rhetorics, Kenneth Burke, Rhetorical Theory 

Peters, Francis Edward. Aristotle and the Arabs: The Aristotelian Tradition in Islam. 1st ed., New York UP, 1968.

F. E. Peters makes visible Arab contributions to the eventual transmission of ancient Greek philosophical traditions in the Western world. Long overlooked, Peters describes a vibrant cultural center in Baghdad that once brought together Muslims and Christians alike in a shared effort to translate texts derived from Hellenistic culture into the Arabic language (xxii). Dated from 750 to 1055 CE, Peters traces the evolution of the Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and points to key figures like al-Kindi and al-Farabi whose leadership transformed the creative movement (23). Peters identifies three major stages of the Baghdad Translation Movement: (1) literal translations of Greek texts; (2) polished translations; and (3) revisions of earlier translations (59-60). Across these stages, he acknowledges the rich diversity that permeated the movement, stating “The study of falsafah was never very homogenous” (75). Significantly, he is careful to acknowledge the translations were generative works that offered original commentary on the Greek texts (93). 

This book offers important historical and cultural insights to understand the vital contributions of Arab translations in the dissemination of ancient Greek texts within Islamic society. Peters’ observations are critical for those comparative rhetoricians who seek to uncover how Greek rhetorical thought took on a new meaning in the Middle East. 

Tags: Al-Farabi, Islamic Rhetorics, Translation 

Qutbuddin, Tahera. “Khutba: The Evolution of Early Arabic Oration.” Classical Arabic Humanities in Their Own Terms: Festschrift for Wolfhart Heinrichs, edited by Beatrice Gruendler and Michael Cooperson. Brill, 2008, pp. 176–273.

Tahera Qutbuddin’s chapter abounds with useful information about khuṭba. First, Qutbuddin explains that the Arabs also excelled in prose: “In the seventh and eighth centuries CE, rather than painting or sculpture or music, the peoples of Arabia assiduously cultivated the art of the spoken word—the eloquently, metaphorically, rhythmically, appositely spoken word. It is well known that a major genre of this oral tradition was poetry; it is less well known that the primary prose form of that art was the khuṭba, or oration” (176-177). Second, Qutbuddin notes that orations form a small part of a huge corpus of artistic prose that was used to realize different goals, including “political and spiritual leadership” (176). Third, to demonstrate that this tradition is rich, Qutbuddin—after explaining the meaning of the word khuṭba and its denotation—traces early forms of orations used by soothsayers, for example to underline continuity. She then illustrates how orations were used for religious counsel as well as for civic and religio-political goals. 

To address the invisibility of khuṭba in the West, and the fact that the corpus holds but a sliver of the oratorical tradition, Qutbuddin identifies sources for extant khuṭbas (184-186). She illustrates the richness and endurance of this tradition by shedding light on types of khuṭbas (189-203) and their major characteristics (204-222). Her description of the types and characteristics of khuṭbas are condensed in two informative tables (191; 205). Her research on khuṭba demonstrates expansive research and an ability to trace this rhetorical tradition using dissimilar sources. These include chancery manuals, which preserved and reproduced as models the best of artistic prose, literary anthologies, and jurisprudential (fiqh) works and books compiling Prophetic Sayings (ḥadīth), which “yielded various kinds of information on the khuṭba in their sections on the Friday and Eid prayers” (185). Another significant contribution is the re-production, introduction, and translation of khuṭbas from pre-Islamic and early-Islamic times, roughly covering the period between 600-748 CE The orators in her appendix cover dissimilar themes, rhetorical exigencies, and socio-political positions, for some khuṭbas addressed pious counsel and were given by a male orator, while others were religio-political in nature and were given by a woman (e.g., Zaynab bt. ‘Alī, 245). 

Tags: Chancery Writers, Eloquence, Islamic Rhetorics, Manuals, Oratory, Poetics, Political Rhetorics, Prophecy, Religious Rhetorics, Women’s Rhetorics 

Said, Edward. “Living in Arabic.” Raritan, vol. 21, no. 4, 2002, pp. 220–36.

In this essay, Edward Said examines the importance of eloquence (or rhetorical ability) in the Arabic literary tradition, which has been studied alongside rhetoric and tropes. In the first half of the essay, Said draws parallels between Giambatista Vico’s definitions of eloquence and modern Arabic persuasion. As an eighteenth-century Italian philosopher and professor of rhetoric, Vico emphasized the teaching of both eloquence and wisdom to give direction to young minds, resulting in ornate impassioned speech. According to Said, educated modern Arabs understand eloquence as Vico intended it, drawing from a history of Arab literary traditions based on classical written Arabic. 

He argues this point in several ways. First, he maintains that classical Arabic is “a sonorous, carefully modulated, heightened, and extraordinarily inflicted instrument capable of great, often (but not always) formulaic eloquence” (224). Second, Said offers insights into the practical uses of amiya (colloquial Arabic) and fus-ha (classical Arabic), whereby Arabic speakers frequently and fluently switch between one and the other, referring to this position as “living in Arabic.” Finally, he reminds us that the classical Arabic language is central to all Arab culture, and its modernization from the language used in the Qur’an is the result of the period of the Nahda (renaissance), which modified and simplified its syntax. At the same time, however, Said emphasizes that “Arabic is Islam and Islam Arabic on some very profound level” (227).   

In the second half of the essay, Said delves into his own personal experience living in Arabic-speaking countries and learning classical and colloquial Arabic, and describes the particular use of standard Arabic and dramatic delivery in political speeches of Palestinian and Egyptian leaders. He concludes the article by briefly discussing the shortcomings of studies on bilingualism that do not adequately address what it means to live between two completely different languages. 

Tags: Delivery, Eloquence, Historiography, Islamic Rhetoric, Poetics, Speeches

Suchan, Jim. “Toward an Understanding of Arabic Persuasion: A Western Perspective.” International Journal of Business Communication, vol. 51, no. 3, 2014, pp. 279–303. SAGE, doi:10.1177/23294884

In this essay, Jim Suchan offers insight into the communication practices of Arabic speaking countries by showing the influence of classical Arabic language on modern Arabic communication practices. The author studies communication practices among an American and a Jordanian company to illustrate the fundamental ways Arabic and Western communication practices differ. Arabic persuasion is defined by three primary characteristics:  repetition, ornate language, and strong emotional emphasis. These persuasive techniques are drawn from a history of classical Arabic language and literature. Repetition in Arabic persuasion refers to the repetition of phonology, lexicology, syntax and semantics and is widely used as a persuasive strategy. This greatly differs from Western persuasive techniques that draw on logical structures. In Suchan’s study, participants from the United States rated the repetition technique as having low persuasive appeal.  

Arabic persuasion offers more than information and logical reasoning, as Suchan explains, it requires emotional emphasis. As a leader, persuasion is representative of whan Suchan refers to as group feeling: “When a senior person persuades, he or she represents not merely his or her own ideas but those of an entire social, business, and perhaps even religious network” (289). The social and political hierarchies in Arabic culture shape Arabic persuasive techniques: “Representing a network of people and the historical associations that are a part of that network carries significant emotional impact” (289). The miscommunication is especially present in business communications, Suchan’s study illustrates, as Arabic persuasion’s emphasis on emotional speech differs from Western emphasis on factual, logical communication. 

Tags: Islamic Rhetorics, Middle Eastern Rhetorics, Near East, Persuasion, Political Rhetorics, Repetition

Tesdell, Lee S. “Greek Rhetoric and Philosophy in Medieval Arabic Culture: The State of the Research.” Disputatio: An International Transdisciplinary Journal of the Late Middle AgesVolume 4 Discourses of Power: Grammar and Rhetoric in the Middle Ages, edited by Carol Poster and Richard T. Utz. Northwestern UP, July 2000, pp. 51–58.

This essay examines the role of Arab translators in Baghdad and Muslim Spain who translated and offered commentary on ancient Greek philosophical texts. Lee Tesdell explains these translations were later adapted from Arabic into Latin in Christian Europe during the Middle Ages (51). Across these major translation centers, Greek texts were translated into several languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin (54). Tesdell points to the contributions of Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Averroes (Ibn Rushd), and others, suggesting the Arab translators did not merely transcribe word-for-word iterations of Greek texts; instead, the translations were influenced by regional and cultural insights. 

Instantiations of rhetoric among the Arabs have largely been overlooked, as many of our histories of rhetoric credit Christian Europe with inheriting the Greek texts. In addition to translations, Tesdell also describes an “indigenous Arabic rhetoric,” which he identifies in Bedouin poetry and Islamic rhetorical proofs (55-56). Both Arabic translations and indigenous rhetorics offer two new pathways forward for learning about the contributions of the Arabs to rhetorical history. 

Tags: Al-Farabi, Greek Rhetorics, Historiography, Indigenous Rhetorics, Philosophy, Translation  

Celtic (non-Anglo Irish) Rhetorics

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard. “Orality, Magic, and Myth in Ancient Irish Rhetoric.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 267–92. 

In this chapter, Richard Johnson-Sheehan discusses the rhetorical culture of bards and druids, an oral culture where magic in the form of spells, symbols, and satire are central, asserting that “The Irish had great faith in the magical ability of language to move people to do things” (290). He points out that ancient Irish rhetoric was not significantly influenced by the Greeks or Romans whose driving rhetorical purpose is to persuade. He starts by describing the four chronological cycles in the Irish canon of mythology: the Mythological Cycle, the Ultonian Cycle, the Ossianic Cycle and the Historical Cycle, which are found in two sources: medieval codices and the oral versions of these stories that Yeats and his contemporaries collected in the nineteenth century. Johnson-Sheehan argues for considering both sources as mutually complementary rather than privileging the medieval texts over the nineteenth-century collection. 

To explore how oral culture and storytelling affected the rhetorical culture, he discusses two canonical texts from Celtic literature: “The Coming of the Milesian Celts” and Táin Bó Cúalgne. He argues that the rhetoric of oral cultures such as this one use repetition, redundancy, and formulaic speech in order to build consensus and to reinforce and transmit traditional values, beliefs, and civic practices (272), suggesting that ancient Irish rhetorical practices such as leys and legends “would have a pollinating effect on Irish society,” reinforcing the core values of courage, loyalty, generosity, and beauty (273), values which function somewhat like topoi. 

Finally, Johnson-Sheehan suggests future directions for research into the rich literature that arose from this oral pre-Roman culture and invites research on other ancient pre-Roman rhetorical cultures to “perhaps develop a broader sense of how rhetoric might have operated in oral cultures” (291). Thus, this article may serve as a starting point not only for the study of ancient Irish rhetorics, but also more broadly for the study of the oral rhetorical cultures of antiquity.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Celtic Rhetorics, Consensus, Didactic Rhetorics, Historiography, Indirection, Magic, Mythology, Oral Literacies, Repetition, Storytelling 

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard, and Paul Lynch. “Rhetoric of Myth, Magic, and Conversion: A Prolegomena to Ancient Irish Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 26, no. 3, 2007, pp. 233–52. JSTOR,

Richard Johnson-Sheehan and Paul Lynch return to Ireland as a key site of rhetorical history to understand how rhetoric emerged differently in this ancient geographic location. They argue that “the ancient Irish relied on a narrative-based rhetoric to persuade others, conduct their civil affairs, educate their youth, and preserve their cultural values” (234). Thus, the rural, material environment and culture of the ancient Irish played a fundamental role in shaping how rhetoric was crafted and, thus, performed. Pointing to Irish mythologies, mysticism, and cultural legends, Johnson-Sheehan and Lynch argue that a deep reverence for fine and eloquent language and rich storytelling is rooted in ancient Irish culture. 

The authors highlight what they recognize as four commonplace topoi in Celtic narratives: courage, generosity, loyalty, and beauty (238). Even more, the article offers a textual analysis of Táin Bó Cúalgne and a history on the rise of Aes Dana, a collective of ancient Irish orators, to examine the relationship between language, power, and magic. While Johnson-Sheehan and Lynch acknowledge that such correlations have also been observed in ancient Greek culture by thinkers like Jacqueline de Romilly (241), they suggest that very little is known about the magical dimensions of rhetoric among the Irish; this has not yet been disclosed to comparative rhetoricians. 

The authors pull rhetoric into the domain of magic, offering up a different historical perspective on rhetoric’s rise in pre-Roman Europe. Such a comparative history demonstrates the importance of looking for rhetoric in new instantiations that deviate from the usual Greco-Roman suspects. 

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Celtic Rhetorics, Didactic Rhetorics, Historiography, Magic, Mythology, Persuasion, Power, Ritual, Storytelling 

Chinese Rhetorics

Carney, Zoë Hess, and Xiaobo Wang. “‘Oba-Mao’: the Synthesis of National Leaders as Transnational Rhetorical Resources.” China Media Research, vol. 15, no. 1, 2019, pp. 23–33.

In this essay, Zoë Hess Carney, and Xiaobo Wang examine “Oba-Mao,” a visual image that combines features of Barack Obama and Mao Zedong circulated mainly in China and the US during Barack Obama’s presidency. Carney and Wang argue that the “Oba-Mao” image is best understood as a polysemic text that produces rhetorical meaning through its Chinese Cultural Revolution aesthetic, as well as its fusion of the leaders of China and the US. Carney demonstrates how the visual text’s complexity and diversity of meaning enable myriad transnational political discussions—in China, as a way to challenge contemporary politics or identify with global blackness, and in the US, as a way to “other” or exclude Obama from the US national identity.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Othering, Political Rhetorics, Popular Culture, Post-Mao Rhetorics, Transnational Rhetorics, Visual Rhetorics

Combs, Steven C. The Dao of Rhetoric. State U of New York P, 2006. 

Steven Combs seeks to operationalize Daoism as a rhetorical approach that can be used to analyze texts that come from an alternative understanding of reality. According to Combs, the daoist approach to the relationship between text and context relies on a single-world cosmological order that is significantly different from the dualistic cosmology undergirding much of Western rhetorical thought (10). Instead of focusing on uniqueness and stability, daoist approaches to reality focus on interdependence and flow (12). To illustrate, Combs examines how Chinese thinkers like Laozi, Zhuangzhi, and Sunzi understand text and context rhetorically. He then shows how Daoism can be used as a heuristic for examining popular movies like Antz, A Bug’s Life, and The Tao of Steve. When taken on its own terms, Daoism formulates a unique rhetorical approach that can be used to enhance our understandings of text and contexts in a broad range of rhetorical situations. 

Tags: Asiacentric Rhetorics, Dao/Tao, Philosophy, Popular Culture 

Garrett, Mary. “Pathos Reconsidered from the Perspective of Classical Chinese Rhetorical Theories.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 79, no. 1, 1993, pp. 19–39. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/00335639309384017. 

Mary Garrett argues for the value of understanding pathos and related emotional appeals from the perspective of classical Chinese rhetoric. Beginning with the idea that contemporary Western notions of pathos are underdeveloped and/or off loaded to psychology and philosophy (where problematic divisions between reason and emotion persist), Garret offers a conceptual overview of classical Chinese audience as well as an understandings of how reason and emotion exist along a continuum of energy (qi/ch’i) rather than as separate modes. 

Specifically, there are two primary understandings of audience: a mass audience, of which there are Legalist, Taoist, and Confucian ways of persuading; and a one-on-one audience, such as an audience held with a king as rhetor. Persuading an audience refers to how a ruler can instill attitudes in the people, or how a ruler can come to the correct decision. In the latter case, the focus is on the subjective position of the ruler and how he might ensure that his heart, the vessel through which the energy of both thought and emotion come to be known, is in the correct state to make a wise decision. In the end, Garrett offers broader implications for rhetoric, including the value of affect and embodiment, rhetorical style, and arrangement as affective dimensions of rhetoric, and the potential for using education to develop “emotional capabilities” (35). 

Tags: Audience, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Emotion, Heart, Pathos, Philosophy, Wisdom

Liu, Lydia H. “Scripts in Motion: Writing as Imperial Technology, Past and Present.” PMLA, vol. 130, no. 2, 2015, pp. 375–83. doi:10.1632/pmla.2015.130.2.375

Through a brief history of the adoption of different scripts by colonial subjects, Lydia Liu argues that the conflation of language with writing scripts elides connections between writing and “imperial communication networks” (376). Liu begins with a critique of the language-centered approach to empire studies and how historically, scripts such as Roman, hanzi, Arabic, and Cyrillic, have served as efficient tools for imperial rule and organization. 

Specific to modernity and colonization, the existence of alphabets has been used as justification for the imposition of “civilization.” Further, the colonized have tended to adopt scripts quickly as was the case of Roman scripts adopted by the Vietnamese, thereby rendering pre-Romanized writings illegible to contemporary generations. Throughout the twentieth century, Roman script has come to be seen as a universal medium for progress, and thus has been depoliticized. In the end, Liu argues that the current spread of digital technologies and their English-centric interfaces could be read as a continued expansion of imperial and/or colonial coding systems and communication networks. Awareness of the imperial and political nature of scripts can help rhetoric scholars better understand the impact of writing as technology and its relationship to power.

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, English Language, Historiography, Imperialism, Oral Literacies, Power

Liu, Yameng. “To Capture the Essence of Chinese Rhetoric: An Anatomy of a Paradigm in Comparative Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 1996, pp. 318–35. JSTOR,  

Yameng Liu discusses rhetorical handbooks from China’s past to argue against popular and essentialized notions of Chinese rhetoric. She begins by discussing Carolyn Matalene’s 1985 characterization of Chinese students and her generalizations about Chinese rhetoric. Liu associates Matalene’s conclusions with those of Robert Oliver and George Kennedy, which she asserts, essentialize Chinese rhetoric as indirect and harmony-focused. 

Liu critiques comparative methodologies overall, on the basis of their quest to uncover essential characteristics of different rhetorical traditions. She posits that such an approach is flawed because rhetorical traditions are more complex than these generalizations suggest. She gives the example of the Wenzhong Zhinan (A Guide to Composition) edited by the Ming Dynasty scholar Gui Youguang, which included discussions of rhetorical principles such as arrangement, invention, technical and stylistic devices, and argument, closely resembling Western approaches to writing and composition. 

Liu argues that understandings of Chinese rhetoric should account for the range of rhetorics present in China. While indirectness is valued, it is not a “defining characteristic” (330). Moreover, these texts demonstrate that, as in Western rhetoric, getting the message across takes precedence over other concerns. In the end, Liu suggests that a major obstacle to understanding Chinese rhetoric is the lack of appropriate translations of Chinese texts. She suggests that scholars of comparative rhetoric may have relied on texts translated by philosophy and literary scholars, and consequently have talked in generalizations in their discussions of Chinese rhetorics.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Essentialism, Harmony, Indirection, Textbooks, Translation

Liu, Yameng. “‘Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable’: Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 147–64. 

In this chapter, Yameng Liu reframes debates about the role of rhetoric in Classical Chinese discourse. Liu begins by discussing how contemporary sinologists and philosophers have typically framed figures such as Han Feizi and Mencius as “philosophers” or “thinkers.” These labels are problematic, Liu argues, because they assume a rigidity in philosophical schools, implying a clear-cut ownership of ideas, even though this was not the case. Further, when these labels are imposed on such figures, the importance of rhetoric to their discourse is lost, casting rhetoric as a response to socio-political conditions rather than core to the development of these conditions. Instead, Liu argues, Han Feizi, Mencius, and their contemporaries were more likely to see themselves as rhetorical critics or discursive practitioners.

With this understanding in mind, scholars of Chinese rhetoric, as well as sinologists and philosophers, can look to a shared body of terms, problems, and rhetorical frameworks to better understand the role of rhetoric in traditional Chinese discourse. Similarities among these rhetorical critics can be found in their shared belief in the centrality of discourse in society and politics, the idea that rhetoric is essential for pursuing self-cultivation and advancement, the importance of comparison and debate, the importance of a fair way to evaluate rhetorics, and shared terms, concepts, and distinctions amongst the “100 schools” of discourse present during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods of ancient China.

In the end, Liu reiterates that, instead of philosophy or thought, traditional Chinese discourse can be understood as rhetorical criticism. Thus, scholars of rhetoric can better understand the underlying assumptions shared by the intertwined and overlapping discourses present within Classical China.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Han Feizi, Political Rhetorics

Liu, Yingqin. “Cultural Factors and Rhetorical Patterns in Classical Chinese Argumentation.” Intercultural Communication Studies, vol. 16, no. 1, 2007, pp. 197–204. 

In this brief article, Yingqin Liu outlines some dominant ways to argue in Chinese rhetoric and connects these ways to socio-historical exigencies. Early in the article, Liu discusses China’s historical relationship with agrarian production and hierarchy, thereby making the case that Chinese rhetoric is responding to the reality of rigid political and hierarchical contexts where being indirect is necessary for individuals of lower status to communicate with those of higher status. 

There are three primary strategies for argument that these conditions helped give rise to: (1) argument by analogy; (2) argument from authority (which usually takes the form of citing past prestigious figures); and (3) argument by historical example. These argumentative strategies enable the rhetor to respect the dignity of others by avoiding outright conflict. 

In the end, Liu makes the point that EFL and ESL teachers, when working with Chinese students, should consider audience awareness from a multicultural perspective. Specifically, instructors should be aware of potential differences between Chinese and Western strategies for argument.

Tags: Analogy, Argumentation, Chinese Rhetorics, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Cross-Cultural Rhetorics, Indirection, Second Language, Writing Studies

Liu, Yichun, and Xiaoye You. “Reading the Heavenly Mandate: Dong Zhongshu’s Rhetoric of the Way (Dao).” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 153–75. 

Yichun Liu and Xiaoye You offer a reading of the Han Dynasty scholar Dong Zohngshu, arguing that his rhetoric of the Way (dao) builds a bridge between Confucian rhetoric and the imperial politics of his time. The authors begin by offering varied perspectives on Confucian rhetoric, emphasizing the importance of ritual and sound historical knowledge. For Confucius, the Way is about learning from practices and traditions of the wise and benevolent. Thus, practicing rituals wisely is indicative of an understanding of the Way and leads to harmonious relationships.

Dong’s innovation was to argue that Heaven was a mediator of the Way, presenting Heaven as an “emotionally charged arbitrator of human affairs” (164). For a ruler to follow the Way of Heaven was to develop a correct understanding of natural events (seasonal change, natural disasters) and to build these understandings into seasonal rituals and other state affairs. Thus, Heaven becomes a kind of Confucian deity in that, like the historical figures that Confucius drew upon to make his arguments, it is assumed to be wise and benevolent. Ultimately, this understanding opened the door for state sponsorship of Confucian thought and cemented the centrality of Confucian understandings of the Way at the expense of other understandings.

Ultimately, the authors argue that Dong’s reconfiguration of Confucian rhetoric had an impact on Chinese education in the sense that imperial exams were heavily influenced by the rhetoric of the Way and the centrality of Confucius.

Tags: Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Confucius, Dao/Tao, Political Rhetorics, Ritual 

Lu, Xing. Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E: A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric. U of South Carolina P, 2011. 

This book lays out the richness and complexity of early Chinese rhetorical tradition from the fifth to third century BCE As a rationale for her work, Xing Lu claims that “Rhetoric is regarded as an invention of the West: Athens is considered the cradle of world civilization, with the ancient Greeks the founders of rhetorical discourse . . . it is also asserted that no non-Western culture, including that of the Chinese, is capable of producing rhetoric”  (17). Lu also points out that “Western perceptions of Chinese rhetoric are, by and large, defined by the limits of Orientalism” (17), and many previous studies of Chinese rhetoric were based on “a decontextualized analysis” (34). 

Lu attempts to address the gap in the literature on China by considering rhetoric as an essential pillar of Chinese philosophical discussion; she points out that “the Chinese rhetorical tradition has never separated rhetoric and philosophy” (300). Lu suggests that understanding Chinese rhetoric is possible only through a comprehensive discussion of the ancient Chinese texts and the various schools of philosophical thought exemplified by those works. To that end, Lu begins her discussion with the cultural context of the pre-Qin period (before 221 BCE), explores the Chinese rhetorical terminology extracted from those, and continues with a survey of literary and historical texts that are not affiliated with a specific schools of thought as well as an exploration of the major texts of the schools Ming, Confucianism, Mohism, Daoism, and Legalism (the last entitled as “Conceptualization of Shui and Ming Bian by Han Feizi”). 

Lu concludes with a chapter on her comparative insights. She claims that Chinese ming bian (the closest Chinese equivalent to Greek rhe-torike) “seems to offer a spirit of cooperation and compromise, while Greek rhetoric appears relatively confrontational and antagonistic”  (300). As opposed to the Greek emphasis on the persuasive power of emotion and pathos, “the Chinese did not consider emotions a primary concern with regard to ming bian” (301). Instead, “Chinese engaged in logical thinking in a manner similar to the ancient Greek practice” (301). 

The Greeks “prioritized essence and certainty in the deductive and inductive processes” while the Chinese “made allowances for flexibility and probability”  (301). Lu emphasizes that because Chinese never considered rhetoric apart from philosophy, concepts like “ming bian” were not “well established and systematized as Greek rhetoric” (302).  

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Confucius, Dao/Tao, Emotion, Greek Rhetorics, Han Feizi, Historiography, Legalism, Logic, Pathos, Philosophy, Style 

Lyon, Arabella. “Confucian Silence and  Remonstration: A Basis for Deliberation?” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 131–45.

Arabella Lyon examines Confucian silence and remonstration through the lens of a deliberative rhetoric, arguing that both rhetorical practices emphasize harmonious relations and respect. Lyon begins with a discussion of differences between Aristotelian rhetorics of persuasion and strategies of deliberation in the writings attributed to Confucius. Because family values and hierarchy are placed at the center of society in Classical Chinese thought, the process-focused strategies of silence and remonstration are favored. 

Specifically, Confucian notions of silence emphasize action over speech. Rather than silence being a sign of disengagement, Confucian silence can indicate questions, promises, denials, warnings, threats, insults, requests, and other processes that relate to on-going relationships with others. Confucian notions of remonstration are also process oriented, and thereby, relationship oriented. Instead of attempting to persuade, the speaker focuses on the ritual of finishing a given act or model, leaving the question of persuasion open-ended, and ultimately, in the hands of the audience. In the end, Lyon connects these deliberative rhetorics to democracy, arguing that even though contemporary notions of equality were not present during Confucius’ time, there are indications that these rhetorics worked to empower commoners as well as elites. 

Tags: Aristotle, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Confucius, Deliberative Rhetorics, Democratic Rhetorics, Harmony, Persuasion, Rhetorical Silence, Ritual

Lyon, Arabella. “Rhetorical Authority in Athenian Democracy and the Chinese Legalism of Han Fei.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 41, no. 1, 2008, pp. 51–71. JSTOR,

Arabella Lyon argues that Chinese Legalism and the writings of Han Fei offer an alternative to Western notions of deliberative persuasion. To begin, Lyon outlines assumptions and theories of Western rhetorics, including notions of equality between rhetor and audience; the importance of logic and deliberation; and Kenneth Burke’s interpretations of J.L. Austin’s theory of speech acts. Han Fei, writing during a time when China was transitioning from feudal to imperial rule, theorized legalism as the idea that laws are what promote stability and social good. 

This Legalism differs from Western rhetorical traditions in that power is not in the hands of individuals but in the codes of law. Lyon argues that this code is a speech act that works towards the ends of separating private interests from the public good. Specific to these mechanisms of power, Han Fei’s Legalism advocates a unity of word with the world, meaning that definitions, roles, and ultimately, laws, should be strictly abided by. Advisors to rulers must stay in their roles and rulers should employ the principle of Wuwei, a set of dispositions often translated as non-action because speech acts that veer outside of prescribed roles will almost always only advance private interests. This principle applies to advisors and rulers alike. 

In sum, non-action and silence have a larger role than deliberative persuasion in Han Fei’s Legalism because power is not located in the speech act, but in the roles and laws that govern. Moreover, in Legalism it is rare for Western varieties of persuasion to be successful.

Tags: Audience, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Deliberative Rhetorics, Han Fei, Kenneth Burke, Legalism, Persuasion, Rhetorical Silence

Lyon, Arabella. “‘Why Do Rulers Listen to the Wild Theories of Speech-Makers?’ Or Wuwei, Shi, and Methods of Comparative Rhetoric.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 176–96.

In this essay, Arabella Lyon frames the wordless rhetorics of non-action (wuwei) and position/disposition (shi) as an alternative to the Western emphasis on the persuasive effects of language. She argues that wuwei and shi are useful concepts for analyzing political or strategic discourse. Because the traditional Chinese rhetor tries to identify with the audience’s perspective of the process of decision making, the use of a process-oriented remonstration attunes the rhetor to the “power potentials within a situation” (179). This places the outcomes of persuasion in the hands of every participant. Both wuwei and shi offer strategies that stem from the emphasis on process, ritual, and power relationships. 

Lyon develops this theme by examining shi in the context of Sun Tzu’s Art of War and the writings of Han Feizi and then examines wuwei in the context of The Analects, the Dao De Ching, and Han Feizi’s writings. In the end, Lyon draws attention to the contradictions inherent in acting with non-action and the ambiguity of positions and dispositions. Finally, she makes connections between methods in comparative rhetoric and traditional Chinese discourses. 

Tags: Analects, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Confucius, Dao/Tao, Han Feizi, Political Rhetorics, Power

Lyon, Arabella. “Writing an Empire: Cross-Talk on Authority, Act, and Relationships with the Other in the Analects, Daodejing, and HanFeizi.” College English, vol. 72, no. 4, 2010, pp. 367–84. JSTOR,

In this essay, Arabella Lyon considers three prominent texts that offer different views of state leadership, political rhetoric, discursive strategy, and the Other. She asserts that the disagreement among classical texts demonstrates complexity and the need to recognize the network of dialogic ideas and cultural tensions which underlie any cultural tradition. Because cross-cultural communication is quotidian, teachers should examine alternative patterns, and then use what they learn to rethink their pedagogies in consideration of multiple cultures (350). 

Responding to the recent challenge to the methodologies of comparative rhetoric (351), Lyon argues that while comparative, cultural, multicultural, and/or transnational approaches might be useful, to understand and competently engage with other cultures, we have to learn the primary and secondary texts of a particular culture. She also argues that the deep study of key texts within a specific culture not only creates comprehension of its cultural density and diversity, but also teaches more cross-cultural literacy than does an anthology of multicultural or transnational texts (351). Further, she asserts that cross-cultural literacy depends on recognizing how a culture’s texts speak to its own history, other texts and contexts (351). 

Because rhetoric’s primary grace is its recognition and negotiation of difference—real difference—composition and rhetorical studies are uniquely positioned to recognize diversity among and/or within cultures without diminishing internal heterogeneity and political struggles. To recognize difference and respect diversity, scholars must make commitments to deep understanding, commitments more intimate than knowing or literacy (351). 

Through her analysis of three prominent Chinese texts, Lyon strives to demonstrate the tensions, multiplicity, and even lack of tolerance within any cultural debate. Focusing on texts well known in the West, she also examines three rhetorical genres and three models of rhetoric: Analects, Daodejing, and Legalist Han Fei (353). Her article teaches us that the study of a different culture nurtures counter-discourses that can help us in two ways: First, they help us respond to the dominant discourse with strong voices from different traditions of thought; second, they unmask the presence of the dominant discourse to depoliticize education and render it as neutral writing or reading (364).

Tags: Analects, Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Cultural Rhetorics, Dao/Tao, Han Fei, Intercultural Communication, Legalism, The Other, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Political Rhetorics

Mao, LuMing. “Studying the Chinese Rhetorical Tradition in the Present: Re-Presenting the Native’s Point of View.” College English, vol. 69, no. 3, 2007, pp. 216–37. JSTOR,

LuMing Mao claims that the study of the Chinese rhetorical tradition in the United States has regularly been conducted in the general context of comparative rhetoric and with a particular interest in comparing it with the Euro-American rhetorical tradition. This essay aims to directly address the relationship between the “how” and the “what” of Chinese rhetoric (216). Mao firstly reviews and discusses three major methodological approaches that have influenced the study of the Chinese rhetorical tradition in the United States. He then addresses a recent turn to cultural anthropology in rhetorical studies, which has refocused scholarly attention from one’s own discursive conditions toward the native’s point of view. Mao proposes revisiting the native’s point of view using the Analects as an example. He believes that focusing on our own rhetorical exigencies and discursive fields, we can better respond to the methodological challenges discussed above. 

Ultimately, Mao claims that differences must not be contained because they are always distributed across the flow of speech events. He suggests that only when rhetorical scholars put in the utmost efforts connecting with others’ rhetorical traditions and facing up to the complex, historically determined relations of power, can significant comparative rhetorical processes happen. That is, when rhetoricians can represent the native’s point of view in ways that can contribute to a discourse of reciprocity, then re-presentation authentically happens (235). 

Tags: Anthropology, Analects, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology,  Power 

Wang, Bo. “Engaging Nüquanzhuyi: The Making of a Chinese Feminist Rhetoric.” College English, vol. 72, no. 4, 2010, pp. 385–405. JSTOR,  

Responding in part to the lack of scholarship on non-Western women’s rhetoric, Bo Wang’s essay discusses the emergence of modern Chinese feminist discourse by examining the writings of Chen Hengzhe and Yang Zhihua. Specifically, Wang argues that Chen and Yang used the essay genre (sanwen) and the rhetorical strategy of redefinition to contribute to the creation of a Chinese feminist rhetoric. 

Chen’s essays challenge gender-biased discourse by redefining gender equality not as the masculinization of women, but as opportunities for women to develop individual talents and characters suited to their strengths. Yang challenges the discourse of Chinese modernization and the subservient role of women in this discourse by arguing that women’s liberation must be an end in itself, not just a means towards a larger (male-dominated) struggle. Both writers use redefinition as a rhetorical strategy as well as aspects of Chinese rhetoric (quoting from classical texts) and the essay form (responding to specific arguments, use of first person) towards the ends of a Chinese feminist rhetoric. 

In the end, Wang argues that this work of recovery holds the potential to accomplish three things: (1) recognize complexity in the formation of a Chinese feminist discourse; (2) reread and reclaim overlooked discourses in Chinese feminism; and (3) demonstrate how Chinese women appropriated Western ideas towards unique formations of feminism.

Tags: Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Essay Genre, Feminist Rhetorics, Modernity,  Historiography, Hybridity

Wexler, Steven. “Rhetoric, Literacy, and Social Change in Post-Mao China.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 60, no. 4, Jun 2009, pp. 808–26. JSTOR,

Steven Wexler presents and discusses his findings from a discourse analysis of the political and socioeconomic rhetorics represented in the written reflections of three Chinese migrant women and their experiences laboring in Chinese metropolitan areas. The three case studies highlight narratives about how these individuals raised their economic status through practicing integrity, understanding the laws, and developing literacy, respectively. These narratives demonstrate how migrant workers internalize the global neoliberal discourse that the Chinese government uses to “placate international trade organizations” (824). At the same time these workers use these discourses to their own economic advantage. 

Wexler’s discussion makes two primary claims: first, that the Chinese government sees China’s “subaltern” populations via a neoliberal gaze, and further, Orientalizes those not participating in the global economy; and second, that subaltern literacies hold the potential to subvert this Orientalism by asserting a class-differentiated political consciousness. In the end, this situation is connected to Deborah Brandt’s discussions of literacy in the United States and the idea that literacy can both enable and appropriate subversive discourses.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Discourse Analysis, Post-Mao Rhetorics, Rhetorical Theory, Subaltern Literacies 

Wu, Hui. “Lost and Found in Transnation: Modern Conceptualization of Chinese Rhetoric,” Rhetoric Review, vol. 28, no. 2, 2009, pp. 148–66. JSTOR,

This historiographical study won the 2010 Theresa J. Enos 25th Anniversary Award for the 2009 best article in the Rhetoric Review. It tracks the development of modern Chinese rhetoric across global exchanges from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century to answer the question of why the modern Chinese relate rhetoric only to stylistic devices in writing, and not to oratory, a question that has puzzled scholars for decades. Hui Wu’s study approaches the Chinese assimilation of Western rhetoric as a social struggle, a process of meaning-building through textbooks and debate. 

Wu’s purpose is to find answers to these questions: If translations of Japanese and Anglo-American rhetorical works played a significant role in the process of assimilation, how did the translators’ reading affect the meaning-building of rhetoric in China? Was there any debate about adoption of Western rhetoric to Chinese language studies, and if so, who participated in the debate? What was written as a result of the debate? Chinese scholars of rhetoric all agree that Chen Wangdao’s 1932 book, xiuci xue fafan (An Introduction to Rhetoric), established the principles of modern Chinese rhetoric. Did he represent the powerful group that conflated traditional Chinese rhetoric into modern Chinese rhetorical theory? 

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Histories of Rhetoric, Historiography, Japanese Rhetorics, Meaning , Modernity, Rhetorical Figures, Textbooks, Translation,  Writing Studies 

Wu, Hui, trans. Guiguzi, China’s First Treatise on Rhetoric. With Commentaries by Hui Wu and C. Jan Swearingen. Southern Illinois UP, 2016.

Hui Wu’s critical translation of the ancient Guiguzi, which is named after its author, contributes to ameliorating the shortage of primary sources essential for the study of Chinese rhetoric. A contemporary of Aristotle, Guiguzi (Master of the Ghost Valley) is thought to have taught over 350 students from 378 to 322 BCE. The Guiguzi is the first known text to present indigenous Chinese rhetorical theory and key persuasive strategies, some of which are still used in China today by those involved in decision making and negotiations. 

This book includes an introduction by Hui Wu presenting the socio-political context of the Guiguzi text, a new critical translation, and a translator’s note. For comparative purposes, this book also includes an essay by C. Jan Swearingen, who compares ancient Greek and Chinese rhetorical traditions based on her reading of Guiguzi.

Tags: Aristotle, Comparative Rhetoric, Dao/Tao, Guiguzi, Persuasion

Wu, Hui. “Post-Mao Chinese Literary Women’s Rhetoric Revisited: A Case for an Enlightened Feminist Rhetorical Theory.” College English, vol. 72, no. 4, 2010, pp. 406–23. JSTOR,

This study points out fundamental problems in the reading of the work of Chinese post-Mao literary women who openly disavow the label of “feminist.” A contextualized transnational rhetorical feminist perspective problematizes that label. Hui Wu proposes an enlightened feminist rhetorical theory that can both clarify and unravel cultural and political complexities in “other” women’s rhetoric and literature. She posits that his approach can strengthen transnational connectivity of feminist ideas about world women’s literature. 

The proposed theory asks critics to practice responsible, respectful, and reflective research through rhetorical inquiry into the writer’s literary creation. Wu argues that responsible critical studies begin with respect for non-mainstream, non-Western women’s philosophies of writing, and end with reflection on the dominant interpretive framework. She posits that belief in the superiority of the dominant framework often results in the misreading of the writing of women from other cultures.

Tags: Chinese Women Writers, Comparative Rhetoric, Feminist Rhetorics, Methodology, Post-Mao Rhetorics, Transnational Rhetorics

Wu, Hui. “Yin-Yang as the Philosophical Foundation of Chinese Rhetoric.” China Media Research, vol. 14, no. 4, 2018, pp. 46–55.

In this essay, Hui Wu draws upon Guiguzi, China’s earliest treatise specifically on rhetoric, to highlight yin-yang as the philosophical foundation of Chinese rhetorical theory. Wu examines organic connections between yin-yang and the Dao in light of the quality and characteristics of the sage of rhetoric. She points to the potential and implications of studying yin-yang as an integral component of Chinese rhetorical theory, especially for expanding intellectual inquiry into indigenous communication scholarship.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Communication Theory, Comparative Rhetoric, Dao/Tao, Guiguzi, Indigenous Rhetorics, Persuasion

Wu, Hui, and C. Jan Swearingen. “Interality as a Key to Deciphering Guiguzi: A Challenge to Critics.” Canadian Journal of Communication, vol. 41, 2016, pp. 503–19. 

Guiguzi (the Master of Ghost Valley) has been routinely rebuked in Chinese literary and philosophical history, excluded from the canon, and charged with teaching strategic manipulation. In this essay, part of a special issue on “interality”—or Jianxing in Chinese, a concept coined by Chinese-American philosopher Jeling Shan to mean “betweenness” or “intersubjectivity”—Hui Wu and C. Jan Swearingen argue that Guiguzi is long overdue for a reappraisal, for it becomes apparent that his teachings focus on the Daoist principles that change is constant, that unseen harmonies and dialectics shape many interactions, and that quietness and observation can improve wisdom and direct correct actions (and words). Moreover, Wu and Swearingen argue that, when Guiguzi’s teachings are approached through the lens of interality, scholars might better acquire the ability to understand how the physical and extra-physical bonds of knowledge hold the world together, i.e. how language’s expression and form are inherently tied up with its interpretive patterns.

More specifically, Wu and Swearingen argue that two critics of Guiguzi have misread him, even distorted his intent, on grounds that are familiar to Chinese historians. They point out how details of translation and cultural context contribute to the misreading. Wu and Swearingen’s other ideas are less indigenous to Chinese history. The posit, for example, that Guiguzi’s teaching can be seen as pre-philosophical, part sagely teaching, and part performance and illustration of the result of that thinking. They classify it as “pre-philosophical” because “philosophy” and “literature” had not yet become separate literary genres; in an oral culture the boundaries are less firm. 

Using an ancient model for persuasion allegedly exemplifying the rhetorical principles in Guiguzi, this study proposes that Guigucian rhetoric requires critics to revise their understanding of relational rationality in several interalial interactions: among rhetorical contexts, as manifest in non-linear (but nonetheless interrelated) components of discourse; as reflected in an explicit awareness of change and space; and as an emphasis on human relationships in Master Guiguzi’s forms of logic and teaching of persuasion.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Communication Theory, Comparative Rhetoric, Genres, Guiguzi, Oral Literacies, Persuasion

Xiao, Xiaosui. “From the Hierarchical Ren to Egalitarianism: A Case of Cross-Cultural Rhetorical Mediation.” Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 82, no. 1, 1996, pp. 38–54. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/00335639609384139.

In this article, Xiaosui Xiao asks how modern liberal and democratic movements in the East have been inspired by ideas from the West and how these movements have adapted to their Eastern contexts. In answer, Xiao performs a rhetorical analysis on Tan Sitong’s A Study of Humanity (Xue Ren). Sitong’s text critiqued the Chinese government during the late nineteenth century and later and influenced modern Chinese critiques of tradition. The text argues for egalitarianism through the lens of Confucian notions of interconnectedness, making analogies from Western notions of ether, electricity, and mental power to explain “vitalistic and humanistic forces” (43). Thus, through the cultural reinterpretation of these Western ideas, Sitong kept the fundamental experience of Chinese culture intact while simultaneously introducing notions of equality through Confucian terms and principles. In the end, Xiao connects Sitong’s act of rhetorical mediation to rhetorical tropes used in the writings and policies of Mao Zedong.

Tags: Confucius, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Democratic Rhetorics, Post-Mao Rhetorics

Xu, George Q. “The Use of Eloquence: The Confucian Perspective.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 115–29.

In this chapter, George Q. Xu examines the mistrust of eloquence in the Confucian world view and the legacy of this mistrust. Xu begins with the observation that, during the Warring States period, all the schools of thought—including Daoism, Legalism, and Confucianism—agreed that eloquence should not be valorized. From a Confucian perspective, because rites and rituals (li) were central to a harmonious society, eloquence, or glibness, was usually only used by those speaking out/up to those in power, and therefore, was unnecessary and harmful to the natural order. Later Confucianists, Xunzi, and Mencius, echoed these sentiments.

Xu argues that, ironically, Confucius himself practiced eloquence in the sense that he implemented rhetorical devices of his own, such as drawing on the authority of Heaven, denying interest in argument, and claiming that his ideas were merely the transmission of ancient truths. Further, Xu argues, Confucius and his followers employed terministic screens a la Burke and argued that anyone who didn’t sound like them or subscribe to their beliefs was speaking glibly.

Xu’s discussion shows that Confucius and his followers were deeply involved in the social practice of besting other schools of thought. In the end, Xu argues that these historical instances have been reiterated in different forms in contemporary China, where li has been replaced with Communist Party orthodoxy and where a glibness that challenges the dominant power structures is still frowned upon.

Tags: Classical Chinese Rhetorics, Confucius, Eloquence, Kenneth Burke, Post-Mao Rhetorics, Ritual

You, Xiaoye. “Building Empire through Argumentation: Debating Salt and Iron in Western Han China.” College English, vol. 72, no. 4, 2010, pp. 367–84. JSTOR,

Xiaoye You discusses several key issues arising from globalization, where local and global rhetorical practices interact. Because China is such a strong global presence, You argues, it is imperative to study and familiarize ourselves with their means of deliberation. You specifically focuses on the Western Han dynasty. As with Greek education, philosophical schools of thought in China began to emerge under the tutelage of learned men or ru, giving rise to Daoism, Confucianism, and Legalism, among others. In the context of Imperialism, Confucianism became a state-sanctioned practice, and “debates” often were guided by certain advisory positions in politics. 

More specifically, You does a close analysis of a court debate later known as Discourses on Salt and Iron. Themes of the Other, empathy, and responsibility occur throughout. The debate is largely between Confucianists and Legalists on issues of monopolizing resources. He looks at their different modes of argumentation, such as rectification of names (i.e., social status), rites (i.e., social codes), and Yin-Yang and non-action (i.e., balance/analogy and non-intrusiveness). 

You argues that debate between these two parties reveals and demonstrates rhetorical hybridity. He asserts that it also serves as a global analogy, stressing the values of a global citizenship: respect and dignity.

Tags: Argumentation, Chinese Rhetorics, Confucius, Debate, Deliberative Rhetorics, Hybridity, Imperialism, Legalism, The Other, Rhetorical Theory, Yin-yang

Zhao, Yebing. “Wenqi 文气 and Wende 文德: Ecological and Ethical Voice in Writing and Communication from a Comparative Rhetoric Lens.” China Media Research, vol. 15, no. 1, 2019, pp. 13–26.

This essay brings two ancient Chinese writing concepts into dialogue with the concept of voice as found in Western writing studies. These Chinese concepts are wenqi (文气), an ecological view of the author’s presence in writing, and wende (文德), the author’s self-cultivated critical and ethical wenqi in writing. Yebing Zhao aims to recuperate, reinterpret, and recontextualize these terms and concepts to shed new light on the existing scholarship on voice in non-Western rhetorical cultures. His essay thus provides alternative theories and understandings of voice in writing and communication.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Ethics, Writing Studies

Zhu, Hua. “Rhetorical Listening: Guiguzi and Feminists in Dialogue.” China Media Research, vol. 15, no. 1, 2019, pp. 3–12.

This essay examines the various purposes and tactics of listening as conceptualized in Guiguzi and in Western rhetorical feminism. It proceeds by engaging with three specific Guigucian listening tactics: open-shut, resist-reconcile, and reflect-respond. Hua Zhu thus strives to complicate our understanding of why we listen, and more importantly, to complicate how we employ listening to reshape power differentials from a disempowered position.

Tags: Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Feminist Rhetorics, Guiguzi, Power

Japanese Rhetorics

Ashby, Dominic. “Uchi/Soto in Japan: A Global Turn.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 256–69. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2013.792695.

By emphasizing the networks and relations between cultural, linguistic, and national groups, Dominic Ashby argues that comparative rhetoric needs to replace nation-bound identities and methodologies with more global and cross-cultural perspectives. Although Ashby recognizes that the idea of the nation has been a useful tool for focusing rhetorical studies, he also points out their exclusionary and possibly essentializing nature. Based on Jane Bachnik’s “uchi-soto dynamic” and Kaori Chino’s study of Tang-dynasty Chinese art’s place in early Japanese regional identity, Ashby proposes an alternative framework for considering place-based identities and their constitutive rhetoric. 

Drawing upon Japanese rhetorical trope of uchi-soto (inside-outside), he offers a comparative methodology for rhetorical study and examines notions of place-related identity (e.g., “national identity”). That is, he focuses on the meaning-making dynamic between incoming and indigenous cultural forces (inside-outside, foreign-local, and traditional-modern). Ashby considers the place-based constructions of inside-outside as a spatial metaphor, which he claims is prominent not only in Euro-American rhetoric but also in Japanese use of uchi and soto

To demonstrate this approach, he provides a reading of the Japanese Christmas cake tradition (one of many symbols constituting post-war Japanese identity). This tradition supposes a foreign origin while it does not openly cite older Japanese traditions. “The Christmas cake has strong local meanings specific to Japan, meanings unfamiliar in the cake’s supposed place of origin” (256). With this reading, Ashby goes beyond the meaning-making processes in Japan. He suggests that the similarities in ‘the metaphorical use of inside and outside’ deems it an apparently universal language phenomenon. Ashby argues that “readings based in inside-outside positionalities open space for greater intercultural understanding by tracing points of connectedness where more absolute divisions are often imagined. Inside-outside positionalities keeps us focused on the historicity and rhetoricity of cultural and other group identities” (258). 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Cross-Cultural Rhetorics, Identity, Meaning, Methodology, Place, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Theory, Uchi-soto

Dubuc, Claude-Eve. “When Women Are in Charge: The Language Japanese Women Speak at Work.” Anthropologica, vol. 54, no. 2, 2012, pp. 293–308. JSTOR,

Claude-Eve Dubuc’s article begins by considering how women in positions of power speak in Japan. She did extensive fieldwork to collect data on four companies, spending several months at each company, observing women in managerial positions (with voice recording, video recording and note taking) and conducting interviews. She used the method put forth by Endo and Ozaki (2002) for transcriptions, complementary notes and coding for significant information. 

Dubuc offers an overview of the work environment in Japan. She describes the implementation of Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL) and the two-track system that many companies still use. These are the career track and the clerical track. The former provides low quotas for women while maintaining fierce competition. The latter, consisting predominantly of women, provides lower wages and no promotions. A new system that some companies use involves employing temporary workers, who are, again, afforded no opportunities for high pay or promotion. 

Dubuc then focuses mostly on one of the companies she studied, an advertising company, before discussing some general findings from all four field studies. Dubuc finds that women in managerial positions share some common linguistic characteristics, namely non-assertiveness, attention to others (through mothering strategies and laughter), and softening forms (for avoidance of conflict and self-affirmation). None of the women used masculine forms and they avoided overt use of women’s language. They strove to fight negative images of working women deviating from the norms of femininity through adaptation of women’s language to their particular context (position, activities, interactional goals). In short, these managers used the socio-cultural norms associated with women’s language but changed its external forms to navigate their context as women in managerial positions.

Tags: Discourse Analysis, Ethnography, Gendered Rhetorics, Hybridity, Methodology, Modern Standardized Japanese, Women’s Rhetorics

Inoue, Miyako. “Gender, Language, and Modernity: Toward an Effective History of Japanese Women’s Language.” American Ethnologist, vol. 29, no. 2, 2002, pp. 392–422. JSTOR,

In this article, Miyako Inoue presents a genealogy of “women’s language” in Japanese to problematize the factual certainty that has been ascribed to this idea in contemporary contexts, by identifying the historically contingent forces that gave rise to it. She challenges certain naturalistic and linear developments that linguists or others have hitherto taken for granted in the evolution of Japanese—for example, the fact that women spoke a certain way and that their linguistic practices eventually made some parts of the language feminine. According to Inoue, this claim is false and erroneously constructs a linear narrative from disparate and unrelated examples across time. 

Inoue begins by asserting that “women’s language” was born in the beginning of the Meiji era (during the early Japanese Empire), when Japan was striving to modernize and nationalize, and thereby Westernize. Inoue details the Gembun’itchi (speech and language unification) Movement, which tried to resolve the disconnect between written and spoken Japanese and respond to numerous varieties of written Japanese. The Movement championed writing as one speaks, much the way Western realist novels were written. This effort was eventually co-opted by the government as a means of creating and asserting a cohesive national identity. 

A more realistic depiction of life in written text demanded that women’s speech be created, a sleight of hand that, Inoue argues, served to instill an artificial and commodified quality to “women’s language.” Such language was derived from the speech of young school girls and originally considered vulgar, before being rebranded as feminine language, then popularized in the international Japanese language magazines consumed by young Japanese women of the early twentieth century. Inoue argues that, as a result of this evolution, the development of male/female linguistic indexicality is far from natural, but is historically contingent. She asserts that this effort affected actual usage. 

Tags: Discourse Analysis, Gembun’itchi, Gendered Rhetorics, Historiography, Hybridity, Identity, Japanese Rhetorics, Modern Standardized Japanese, Women’s Rhetorics

Maynard, Senko K. “On Rhetorical Ricochet: Expressivity of Nominalization and Da in Japanese Discourse.” Discourse Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 1999, pp. 57–81. JSTOR,

Senko Maynard theorizes the existence of rhetorical ricochet and suggests this device is preferred in Japanese discourse. The device frequently manifests in the use of nominalized clauses and the Japanese copula/modal verb da. When da is in use, a nominalized clause focuses on the event being described, instead of the agent; rhetorical ricochet refers to the consequent effect created by this grammatical feature, where the sentence ends with the author’s comment, and the comment causes a reader to return to the original image with a different perspective.

Before Maynard begins her analysis, she offers background. First, topic and comment structured sentences broadly consider the structure of Japanese sentences, which consist of a main topic highlighted with the topic marker wa (は) followed by a comment which may be an inflected verb or adjective with a sentence final particle. Second, the koto vs mono distinction considers sentence types that focus on koto, the event or entire scene, versus mono, the thing or agent of an action. Third, exclamatory expressions evoke emotional impact while possessing interesting or atypical grammar. Fourth, futaku covers an idea from waka poetry, futaku “commitment,” and notes how emotion is communicated indirectly through scenes and an authorial comment. 

In light of this briefing, Maynard focuses on a collection of letters published in the Asahi Shimbun addressed to imaginary recipients and selections from Yasunari Kawabat’s novel Yukiguni (Snow Country) to illustrate rhetorical ricochet. The latter examples often point to how English translations of Yukiguni transform sentences that follow the pattern of nominalizer + da into sentences more familiar to English, consisting of subject + predicate or agent + action. In the process, some of the rhetorical effect that Maynard identifies is lost. Maynard does not argue that this effect is unique to Japanese, but asserts that it is a preferred mode of expression. 

Tags: Discourse Analysis, Emotion, Epistolary Rhetorics, Indirection

SturtzSreetharan, Cindi L. “‘I Read the Nikkei, Too’: Crafting Positions of Authority and Masculinity in a Japanese Conversation.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, vol. 16, no. 2, 2006, pp. 173–93. JSTOR,

Cindi SturtzSreetharan begins her article by noting that the research on language use by Japanese men and women has traditionally focused on the latter, especially those from Eastern Japan, the region of Standard Japanese. Consequently, men’s homogenous and monolithic speech behavior is taken for granted with little to no evidence or research. In response, she analyzes the casual conversation of white-collar male speakers and how they use first-person pronouns and sentence-final particles to index their authority, masculinity, and solidarity. She also distinguishes between the participants’ use of Standard Japanese and the Hanshinkan dialect, which is spoken in Western Japan, in the Kansai region. 

SturtzSreetharan’s discourse analysis focuses on several conversations that Hamada has with his friends and coworkers. SturtzSreetharan observes how Hamada and his similarly aged coworker employ masculine forms and refer to their younger coworkers diminutively in order to occupy “sempai” or senior positions, as elder brothers. She also notes that the other participants are not concerned about being referred to with diminutive forms.

The first conversation reveals how a younger man, Yamada, attempts to align himself with another younger employee by demonstrating his knowledge of a local coffee shop and his reading of an upscale, business-focused newspaper, the Nikkei. Another conversation occurs between Hamada and his similarly aged colleague, Tanaka, in which Hamada confides that he has been cheating on his wife, suddenly using more masculine pronouns and forms. Tanaka employs an idiom to lightly chastise Hamada and uses a mixture of polite, dialectal, and masculine forms in rebuke. SturtzSreetharan thus illustrates how men do not fulfill the stereotype of using traditionally masculine forms, but do employ this speech situationally, for rhetorical effect, with an understanding of the dominant gender and language ideologies and attention to the conversation, context, and fellow interlocutors. 

Tags: Discourse Analysis, Gendered Rhetorics, Register

SturtzSreetharan, Cindi L. “Students, Sarariiman (Pl.), and Seniors: Japanese Men’s Use of ‘Manly’ Speech Register.” Language in Society, vol. 33, no. 1, 2004, pp. 81–107. JSTOR, 

Cindi SturtzSreetharan analyzes the speech employed by Japanese men from the Kansai region (in Western Japan) in casual contexts to see how they reflect the stereotype of male speech or diverge from it. Rather than assert that there is an ideal manner in which all men speak, SturtzSreetharan aims to show that there are many ways that men speak. They do, however, fulfill certain ideas or expectations of linguistic masculinity. 

Her quantitative data suggests that most older men employ more neutral forms rather than stereotypically masculine ones. Young men or male students tend to use these masculine or rough forms with specific conversational goals. SturtzSreetharan provides conversational transcripts of three person conversations for young white collar men and first year undergraduate students. These forms are used to assert conversational authority, to which other men respond by re-aligning themselves conversationally, or with more masculine speech. 

SturtzSreetharan asserts that a person’s life stage is a more significant determiner of linguistic behavior than social class or gender. She further argues that older men even employ stereotypically feminine forms to suggest politeness, higher social class, or better upbringing. She notes that further research needs to be done to explore the linguistic habits of older retirees and members of working class communities or “nonstandard” varieties of Japanese. 

Tags: Discourse Analysis, Gendered Rhetorics, Modern Standardized Japanese, Register

Takagi, Tomoyo. “‘Questions’ in Argument Sequences in Japanese.” Human Studies, vol. 22, no. 2/4, 1999, pp. 397–423. JSTOR,  

Tomoyo Takagi analyzes several conversations between a Japanese couple to scrutinize whether it is appropriate to attribute “questioning” to interrogative grammar. Takagi is dissatisfied with such a traditional classification and argues, based on the data, that it is the context or sequential arrangement of a conversation which determines whether or not an expression is a question. Takagi reorients the purpose of interrogative grammar or questions away from the act of asking for information or specific answers and toward the intention of asking simply for a response. 

She argues that questioning another interlocutor appears to demarcate the end of one’s speech and serve as a signal to the other to begin speaking or responding. Takagi’s argument hinges on the fact that many questions present in the conversational data feature interlocutors asking past questions or engaging in more confrontational behavior that sidesteps the question, such as presenting excuses or arguments that undermine the question. This latter distinction underscores that the interlocutors understand the questions but do not necessarily respond with specific answers, or they emphasize the irresponsibility of another speaker by asking questions asked about something that is already certain. Takagi’s study highlights the importance of pragmatics to contemporary rhetorical analysts’ understanding of conversation, and how certain grammatical modes or forms can be observed as operating contrary to their conventional definitions.

Tags: Argumentation, Discourse Analysis, Japanese Rhetorics, Linguistics

Tomasi, Massimiliano. “Oratory in Meiji and Taishō Japan: Public Speaking and the Formation of a New Written Language.” Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 57, no. 1, 2002, pp. 43–71. JSTOR, 

Massimiliano Tomasi reviews the history of how Western rhetoric influenced the study of rhetoric as persuasion and oratory of Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, known as the Meiji and Taishō periods, respectively. Tomasi’s work displays a fierce debate around the importation of Western rhetoric in these centuries, as well as the establishment of the Japanese vernacular as a written standard. He acknowledges that eloquence was studied and oratory performed in Japan much earlier, but never on the same scale or with as much attention to persuasion as was assumed under the influence of Western rhetoric. Tomasi notes a marked change when Western rhetoric was first translated and developed within Japan, placing special focus on democracy, freedom of speech, and government. 

The development of oratory and this new style of rhetoric was initially quite successful, adopted by many scholars who pushed for similar instruction to improve deliberation and government in modern Japan. However, government censorship slowed this process toward the end of the Meiji period. Moreover, the influence of Western rhetoric produced guidebooks and treatises, which focused on audience, language, and rhetorical devices. These were rejected by conservative literary scholars. Many of the Japanese writers, scholars, and politicians who pushed for the implementation of oratorical and rhetorical training also asked for the standardization of Japanese according to its contemporary spoken use, specifically in Tokyo (Eastern Japan). Tomasi notes the resulting conflict between the drive to uphold the eloquence of classical literary Japanese against the growing influence of vernacular Japanese and its lack of sophistication.

Ultimately, by the Taishō period, debate associations and student groups appeared, which greatly promoted the study of rhetoric. Moreover, rhetorical manuals developed, which, instead of insisting upon a sparse and literal style, taught eloquence and insisted that it can be achieved in the vernacular, once one masters a repertoire of devices. 

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Debate, Democractic Rhetorics, Eloquence, Historiography, Hybridity, Manuals, Modern Standardized Japanese, Oratory, Persuasion, Vernacular Rhetorics

Tomasi, Massimiliano. “Quest for a New Written Language: Western Rhetoric and the Genbun Itchi Movement.” Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 54, no. 3, 1999, pp. 333–60. JSTOR,

Massimiliano Tomasi presents the history of the Genbun Itchi movement, a political initiative in the late nineteenth century to standardize written Japanese based on a spoken vernacular. Tomasi begins with a historical reconsideration of the word rhetoric, which in Western discourse, he asserts, often denotes the analytic identification of what makes a piece eloquent and effective. This concept of rhetoric as eloquence prevailed throughout much of Japanese literary history even before the translation of Western rhetorical texts into Japanese. Once translated into Japanese, scholars and writers quickly applied the principles, particularly for persuasion in public contexts.

Interestingly, Tomasi notes the influence of stenography on the development of a Japanese rhetoric, as the first efforts toward standardization appeared in the writings of stenographers. Due to a variety of historical and political contingencies, Japanese had not had a “standardized” written form until Genbun Itchi. Several writing styles were prominent and numerous dialects and varieties were not mutually intelligible. Consequently, spoken deliberation made stenography difficult and, once performed, unintelligible. It became imperative to establish a written standard for Japanese that actually reflected the spoken language, even though many literary scholars became critical of Genbun Itchi for its perceived lack of eloquence and ephemerality. Still, proponents of the movement succeeded, underscoring the exigency to make written works widely available. They held that this would promote freedom of speech because the Japanese people would then be able to communicate freely across the dialects.

Tomasi’s work reveals the contingent factors at play in the development of Genbun Itchi. It also suggests ways to perform rhetorical analysis on works in Classical Japanese, Modern Japanese, or even on the discourse of those who supported the opposing positions on Genbun Itchi. Their arguments present a discourse on the values and goals which are relevant to parsing Japanese rhetoric, with or without Western influence.

Tags: Eloquence, Historiography, Hybridity, Methodology, Modern Japanese Rhetorics, Modern Standardized Japanese, Oratory, Persuasion, Vernacular Rhetorics

Wolfe, Kathy. “The Right Use of True Words: Shinto and Shingon Buddhist Rhetoric in Ancient Japan.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 197–220. 

Kathy Wolfe argues that ancient Japan did indeed have rhetoric, which she identifies in the oral cultures of Shinto and Shingon, predating written literacies. Wolfe traces the Shinto concept of Kotodama, “the spiritual power residing in words” or “the right use of word” (201). Kotodama, which depended on human voice, the Japanese language, and a solemn tone and style, could be released through kotoage (a spell). Supplemental to Kotodama is the concept of Koto agesenu, which served to prevent the overuse of Kotodama so as not to weaken it. 

Speech was seen as a way to maintain peace and harmony of the whole. For example, Wolfe discusses the rhetoric of norito, brief prayers addressed to the kami or gods, drawing attention to its use of repetition and metaphor to emphasize the kinship between humans and the natural world. Wolfe argues that norito is somewhat comparable to the classical Western epideictic speech and deliberative speech in its purposes. However, she notes that Shinto did not rely on persuasion, since “if one had to be persuaded to follow one’s kami-nature, this ceased to be natural and therefore was not Shinto” (207). 

Wolfe draws parallels between rhetoric in Shinto and Shingon (True Word) (210). While the Kami (the people) were the audience for the norito in Shinto, the Buddha becomes a powerful new audience in Shingon. Deities merged and Buddhism and Shinto’s similarities were emphasized to promote acceptance of Buddhism. Wolfe describes the necessity for Buddhist priests to appeal both to aristocratic people (for resources to build temples, for example) and commoners (for widespread acceptance). Kukai, a Heian Buddhist priest, was most successful in appealing to both audiences and developing ethos. 

She also describes the exoteric and esoteric forms through which reality and truth could be understood and how both depended on words. In addition, the ability to hear the world (part of Buddhist teachings) depended on mudras (symbolic gestures and postures), mandalas (diagrams evoking the universe) and mantras (syllables such as “aum” or “hum”) (211), noting similarities between mantras and the Kotodama. She concludes by turning to the modern Japanese use of indirect communication styles and highly contextual speech, drawing attention to their brevity of speech and ishin-denshin (“heart-to-heart” communication) (214). 

Tags: Communication Theory, Deliberative Rhetorics, Epideictic, Heart, Indirection, Magic, Mantra, Metaphor, Modern Japanese Rhetorics, Oral Literacies, Religious Rhetorics, Repetition, Spiritual Rhetorics, Truth, Visual Rhetorics

Yotsukura, Lindsay Amthor. “Negotiation and Confirmation of Arrangements in Japanese Business Discourse.” Japanese Language and Literature, vol. 45, no. 1, 2011, pp. 255–72. JSTOR,

In arguing for the benefits of genre-based instruction in Japanese L2 classrooms, Lindsay Yotsukura sheds light on modern Japanese business rhetorical culture. She analyzes phone conversations of employees in Kansai based companies (in Western Japan) to reveal how interlocutors negotiate conflicts to arrive at consensus. Yotsukura analyzes the language used in two different phone conversations. The first is between two people trying to decide on a new delivery location in case of rainy weather, and the second features a manager expressing frustration at a delivery that was to have arrived that day but has not yet been received. 

Yotsukura’s essay highlights the semantic nuance revealed when one pragmatically analyzes language. Scholars of contemporary Japanese rhetoric have much to gain from observing different kinds of conversations and noting how certain speech acts navigate certain values, like politeness. In addition to discussing the use of hedges or minimalizers—words or phrases such as chotto “a little” or tabun “probably”—which soften unwelcome information, Yotsukura comments on the Territory of Information, a concept conceived by Akio Kamio. This strategy defends the information as if trespassed or defended, like territory. Territory of Information places greater emphasis on how information is conveyed. 

Even when interlocutors are certain of something, they use minimalizers and evidential markers to soften their assertion to prevent harming the social face of their interlocutor. For example, one speaker in the first conversation lightly insists that he has heard it will rain, initially from a coworker, and then he remarks he has just heard a radio forecast, rather than insist he knows it will certainly rain. Moreover, Yotsukura asserts that this tentative speech behavior is not a matter of being unsure or nervous, but a concerted effort to remain polite.

Tags: Consensus, Discourse Analysis, Indirection, Modern Japanese Rhetorics

Jewish Rhetorics

Bernard-Donals, Michael F., and Janice W. Fernheimer, eds. Jewish Rhetorics: History, Theory, Practice. Brandeis UP, 2014. 

This collection of essays explicates the term “Jewish rhetorics” by presenting an analysis of its various texts, contexts, practices, and theories from ancient times to the twenty-first century. The collection challenges existing models of the Western rhetorical tradition and calls for their recontextualization, while establishing and further elaborating on the significance of Jewish rhetorics as its own field within rhetorical studies. The editors argue that Jewish rhetorics allow speakers to maintain a “resolute sense of engagement” with their community, while also remaining aware of the dislocation from the members of those communities (x). 

Based on the three main textual modes of classical Jewish rhetoric (Torah/Tanakh, Mishna and Gemarra, and Midrash), the editors introduce the Jewish canons of rhetoric as follows: to-ness (relationship of the individual to the community or that of an insider group to an outsider group), hearing (when not speaking, hearing and acting in response to what is spoken and emphasized or allowing a space for greater audience engagement and interpretation), hidush (resembling the Greco-Roman notion of invention but one that emerges through the principles of engaging with the Talmudic text and its discussion and thus an interaction between tradition and invention), tzedek (the principle of justice that undergirds much of Jewish thought to determine the proper course of action), and multiplicity (the “nonadoption of the principle of noncontradiction” which values a continuous generation of multiple interpretations). 

The essays included in the collection expand on the historical and theoretical foundations of Jewish rhetorics, cultural variants and modes of cultural expression, and intersections with Greco-Roman, Christian, Islamic, and contemporary rhetorical theory and practice. The contributors of the collection—some of the prominent scholars of rhetoric, writing, and Jewish studies—explore gender and Yiddish as well as evaluate the actual and potential effect of Jewish rhetorics on contemporary scholarship and on the ways we understand and teach language and writing. To follow up on the pan-historiographic work begun by Samuel Edelman, the editors imagine a future where rhetorics of various civilizations are taught comparatively.

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Gendered Rhetorics, Invention, Jewish Rhetorics, Justice, Methodology, Recontextualization, Rhetorical Education, Rhetorical Histories, Rhetorical Theory  

Handelman, Susan. “The Philosopher, the Rabbi, and the Rhetorician.” College English, vol. 72, no. 6, 2010, pp. 590–607. JSTOR, 

Instead of attempting to define Jewish rhetoric historically or culturally, Susan Handelman examines “ethical-religious discourse” and how it defines our relation to “the other” (591). How we think about the other implicitly shapes our rhetorical theory. Using the epistemology and personal histories of three twentieth-century Jewish thinkers—Emmanual Levinas (philosopher), Manitou (Rabbi), and Chaïm Perelman (rhetorician)—Handelman demonstrates how the Jewish understanding of the “Other” influences their thinking and rhetorical approaches. Instead of defining Jewish rhetoric as a specific approach to ethics and the Other, Handelman shows how Jewish rhetoric entails a reciprocity of different perspectives and relations. These three thinkers not only serve as heuristic for thinking through different ethical relations and how they inform our rhetoric and cosmologies, they also show how difference can exist in dialogic interdependence.

Tags: Ethics, Jewish Rhetorics, The Other, Pluralistic Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics 

Katz, Steven B. “The Hebrew Bible as Another, Jewish Sophistic: A Genesis of Absence and Desire in Ancient Rhetoric.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 125–50.

Steven Katz argues that the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) may be the basis of a Jewish Sophistic. He discusses four obstacles that might prevent us from seeing the Tanakh as rhetorical theory. These four obstacles are: “1) the Christian concept of God in the Judeo-Christian tradition; 2) the hegemonic Greek concept of rhetoric as persuasion; 3) the question of the authorship of the Bible; and 4) the hidden rhetorical dimensions of the Hebrew language itself” (p. 126). He then counters these obstacles to show that the Tanakh is a sophistical rhetorical theory.

Katz emphasizes uncertainty in the Tanakh, which gives ground to the debates and interpretations that are essential to Judaism. He also discusses the primacy of language in the Tanakh, and thus in a Jewish Sophistic. He describes how God’s presence gives way to voice before fading into silence in the text. It is God’s use of language that creates reality in the Bible. It is also through language that God and reality can be understood, if there can be such understanding. Katz argues that persuasion (in the Greek sense) is not primary in the Tanakh as a rhetorical theory, but that language itself is physical action such that persuasion is redundant. Based on an analysis of the Hebrew language and other scholars, the Hebrew conception of reality is dynamic-temporal rather than the more static-spatial conception of reality of the Greeks.

Tags: Biblical Rhetorics, Divinity of Speech, Jewish Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics

Metzger, David. “Pentateuchal Rhetoric and the Voice of the Aaronides.” Rhetoric Before and  Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 165–81. 

In the midst of contestations on how to even start the study of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, David Metzger takes on the task by looking at various narrative traditions found in Pentateuchal sources. Since the author of the Pentateuch is unknown, and its origins (when it was written, redacted, compiled) is unknown, the study of the Pentateuch is a difficult undertaking. Grounding his analysis on the nineteenth-century Graf-Wellhausen’s hypothesis which states that the document is written by four different authors from different traditions, Metzger argues that these are not just four different voices, but that the narratives are rhetorically constructed within the text as a number of competing power groups. Metzger determines for specific sections which power group would be most likely to adopt such arguments and stances, and as a result of his analysis, provides us with an understanding of how to rhetorically examine the text. 

These four main traditions are known by the first letters of what they represent. The J and E traditions stand for the identification of God (deity) as Jehovah and Elokim. The E tradition is extended into another distinct group, the P tradition, which concerns itself with priestly matters. These three sources are seen as the basis of the first four books of the Pentateuch. Deuteronomy, the fourth, is called D. Metzger notes that scholars do not ignore the presence of the “redactor,” given the designation R, an editor who worked on the length of the P narrative resulting in the five books of the Pentateuch. In the second part of his essay, Metzger The Aaronides, however, bring with them another rhetorical stance as they present the Pentateuch as an “orchestration of voices” from various angles, including that of Moses, while presenting the deity as “not a voice but a consciousness” (177). The relationship between “superaddressee” and “consciousness,” then, becomes central to understanding the deity (178).   

Tags: Biblical Rhetorics, Consciousness, Cosmology of Speech, Divinity of Speech, Exegesis, Religious Rhetorics

Metzger, David, and Steven B. Katz. “The ‘Place’ of Rhetoric in Aggadic Midrash.” College English, vol. 72, no. 6, 2010, pp. 638–53. JSTOR,

David Metzger and Steven Katz suggest that Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, served both as a source of questions and a place from which people can draw answers to those questions; the term midrash refers to the act of forming and responding to these questions (rabbinic hermeneutics) as well as to oral or written “texts” by which rabbinical acts of interpretation are preserved and transmitted. The authors explain that there are two kinds of midrash—the halakhic midrash (behavioral codes and laws) and the aggadic midrash (a general category that subsumes rabbinic narratives, aphorisms, and parables). Challenging the perception that does not consider midrash a rhetorical activity, the authors argue that midrash as a literary activity is worthy of study both inside and outside Judaism. 

They focus particularly on aggadic midrash as a mode of Jewish rhetoric—as “retelling and interpreting its narratives, aphorisms, and parables are central rhetorical activities in Jewish religion, thought, literature, and culture” (639). To show how aggadah developed as a discursive space within the text-centered communities of the Jewish world, the authors provide a reading of two midrashim stories (preserved in the midrashic collection Lamentations Rabbah). They show that both aggadic and halakhic midrash allow for interpretations and opinions to coexist and therefore “acknowledges, accepts, and tends to retain multiple perspectives” (650). As the authors reveal that aggadah crosses the gaps between conceptual categories such as Jewish studies and rhetoric, they use the term textualization to denote the activity of locating a problem or question in a text and note how the two midrashim stories treat textualization as steps in the establishment of discursive spaces. 

Based on a passage from the Babylonian Talmud, they relate textualization not only to the process of internalization but also to the process of canonization, as “the texts that have the ability to come into our hearts may be limited by scripture, tradition, or the authority of the rabbis themselves” (651).They call for further Jewish rhetorical studies to explain the role of these limitations on interpretation in defining the process by which some texts and not others are allowed to create discursive spaces. 

Tag: Biblical Rhetorics, Exegesis, Heart, Historiography, Pluralistic Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics 

Watts, James W. “Rhetorical Strategy in the Composition of the Pentateuch.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, vol. 20, no. 68, 1995, pp. 3–21. SAGE, doi:10.1177/030908929502006801. 

James Watts examines the relationship between public law readings in Israelite tradition and the laws extant in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. He argues that the laws in ancient Israel functioned rhetorically because they were read aloud in public in hopes of swaying the opinions of the audience. Essentially, Watts claims that Israel’s ancient rhetorical tradition of reading laws to a public assembly informs its literary rhetorical genres and styles, which are exemplified in the collision of law and rhetorical storytelling in the Pentateuch. 

To demonstrate his point, the author breaks down the Pentateuch and its method of law presentation into three specific sections. First, the Sinai Covenant, Watts argues, is structured in response to the rhetoric of persuasion. The Pentateuch persuades its audience that Yahweh is legitimate and Moses is the mediator; therefore, the list of laws is deemed to be applicable. Second, Levitical Law uses lists—not stories—to rhetorically organize and validate laws, including instructions, purity rules, and regulations for religious leaders. Third, Deuteronomy features past and future stories and consequences, which are mirrored and reinforced. This emphasizes the nature of obedience or lack thereof, which is paramount in these laws. Watts concludes that the rhetorical strategies of persuasion employed in these first five books of the Old Testament are directly associated with public law readings in Israel.

Tags: Biblical Rhetorics, Law, Persuasion, Religious Rhetorics, Storytelling

Korean Rhetorics

Sung-Gi, Jon. “Towards a Rhetoric of Communication, with Special Reference to the History of Korean Rhetoric.” Rhetorica, vol. 28, no. 3, 2010, pp. 313–29. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rh.2010.28.3.313.

Jon Sung-Gi argues for a “rhetoric of communication;” that is, a comparative method that can account for varied non-Western approaches to rhetoric as exemplified by Korean rhetoric. The problem with Western methods of comparative rhetoric is that they rely on the notions of eloquence or on varied iterations of persuasion. Instead, a rhetoric of communication is an intercultural comparative method that attempts an inter-subjectivity through adaptation to different audiences and culturally sensitive interpretation. Understanding rhetoric as a theory of communication solves a number of problems for comparative rhetoric including differences between the status of speech in the East and West as well as definitions of science and ethics that differ between the East and West. 

Sung-Gi makes this argument by discussing how the term rhetoric has been translated into Korean (susa) as well as by discussing a variety of Korean rhetorics of communication ranging from two-thousand years ago to the modern period. The article concludes by outlining the rhetoric of dakkeum, a rhetoric that focuses on the production and elaboration of texts. Sung-Gi suggests that dakkeum holds the potential to connect older Korean texts based in Chinese characters and philosophies with newer texts based in Hangul and nationalism. A rhetoric of communication thereby offers novel ways to broaden the realm of rhetoric.

Tags: Asiacentric Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Ethics, Methodology

Near Eastern Rhetorics

Binkley, Roberta A. “Teaching Ancient Mesopotamian Rhetoric: Gender and Literacy, Enheduanna as a Case Study at the Beginning of Written Literacy.” Proceedings of the 54th Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication, New York, March, 2003, pp. 19–22. 

In the paper, Roberta Binkley offers an example of a literary case study of the ancient Mesopotamian princess, priestess, and poet, Enheduanna. She focuses on Enheduanna’s ritual hymn, “The Exaltation of Innana,” suggesting ways to introduce modern students to ancient rhetorics. This ancient text is unique because it was born out of the fertile crescent of literacy and offers insight into Enheduanna’s own writing process. Binkley argues that Enheduanna’s text helps us readdress certain contemporary issues in comparative rhetoric, issues of interpretation involving time and place, gender/representation, political/religious motives, and our reception and impression of ancient traditions from modern perspectives. As a teaching resource the paper provides a list of sources for researching the cultural context of Mesopotamia as well as how to involve students in learning the essentials of rhetorical analysis, considering the relationship of power and language between speaker, audience, and message.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Audience, Comparative Rhetoric, Mesopotamian Rhetorics, Methodology, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Power, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Histories, Ritual, Women’s Rhetorics

Binkley, Roberta A. “The Gendering of Prophetic Discourse: Women and Prophecy in the Ancient Near East.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 67–93. 

Roberta Binkley focuses on prophecy as a powerful rhetorical discourse in the ancient world, especially in the Near East. She addresses three important questions: “1) What women prophets are reported to have said, 2) how these women prophets authorized themselves as speakers (their tradition of oratory), and 3) what were the performative aspects in their presentations of prophecies?” (68).  Binkley brings to light the prominence of female prophets by analyzing several ancient texts from the Near and Middle East to show the evolution of the genre of prophecy with Enheduanna’s The Exaltation of Inanna, the Mari prophecies, the Oracle of Delphi, and women in the New Testament. She traces women’s integral role as leaders and authoritative religious voices in the ancient traditions. With the rise of male-dominated monotheistic religions, the tradition of prophetesses and their rhetoric has been silenced and erased over time. She discusses how this cultural and social change gave primacy to men in social, religious and political matters.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Biblical Rhetorics, Gendered Rhetorics, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Oratory, Performance, Prophecy, Religious Rhetorics, Women’s Rhetorics

Hallo, William W. “The Birth of Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley. State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 25-46. ERIC,

William Hallo draws attention to the cuneiform texts of ancient Sumer, arguing that we should be looking for the origins of rhetoric not in ancient Greece, but in ancient Mesopotamia. He recognizes that Biblical studies have long captured the rhetorical tradition of ancient Israel, but scholars of Sumer and Egypt have lagged behind. In the first part of his chapter, Hallo surveys existing work in Mesopotamian studies, beginning with his own work on the Sumerian poem, “The Exaltation of Inanna,” noting the rhetorical features of proemium, argument, and peroration as unique to the text. He covers a variety of other scholars who have researched texts and literate traditions in Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Canaanite, and Semitic, texts such as the Amarna letters and the Epic of Gilgamesh, or literate traditions such as scribal schools. 

In the second part of his chapter, Hallo recommends directions still to be taken. Among these recommendations are continuing research in the Mesopotamian rhetorical genres of archive, monument, and canon. Archives are everyday texts; monuments are royal texts; canons consist of literary works and wisdom literature. Hallo reminds us that the birthplace of rhetoric is an unsettled matter and in need of new attention.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Epics, Epistolary Rhetorics, Genres, Historiography, Mesopotamian Rhetorics, Mythology, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Poetics, Rhetorical Histories, Wisdom

Swearingen, C. Jan. “Song to Speech: The Origins of Early Epitaphia in Ancient
-Near Eastern Women’s Lamentations.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 213–26.

In this study of women’s songs and lamentations in the ancient Near East, C. Jan Swearingen notes two approaches to studying global rhetoric: (1) finding the closest counterpart in global rhetoric to classical rhetoric; and (2) “[studying] the ‘rhetoric’ of the Other in its own terms rather than in ours” (213). In “Song to Speech,” she makes use of both approaches. Swearingen examines the traces of women’s central role as singers in celebration, lamentation, death, birth, victory in war, and prophecy. She notes the turn from these songs to a male-centered funeral oration in the public space that was “of males, by males, and for males” (221). She notes the decline of women’s importance in these important life and societal moments with the rise of literacy and canonical texts. She studies various women, such as Cassandra of Troy, Miriam and Deborah of the Bible, Corinthian women prophets who were silenced by Paul in church, Sappho of Lesbos, and Aspasia. Swearingen argues that Aspasia’s speech in Plato’s Menexenus is a speech “by a woman and about rhetoric” (223) and that it functions both as a rhetorical oration and a handbook of composition. She concludes with a discussion of citizenship, whereby the roles of women (and Goddesses, such as Ge and Demeter) are again effaced in favor of the polis. 

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Methodology, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Plato, Religious Rhetorics, Women’s Rhetorics

Watts, James W. “Story–List–Sanction: A Cross-Cultural Strategy of Ancient Persuasion.” Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, State U of New York P, 2004, pp. 197–212. 

Watts focuses primarily on the practice of persuasion within Near Eastern texts. Watts suggests that Near Eastern texts sometimes combined genres, such as stories, lists and sanctions, to create more persuasive texts. He discusses inscriptions extensively, noting their audiences as being future kings and their officials. Watts argues that this strategy of combining stories, lists and sanctions was adopted irregularly in a diverse array of texts covering a broad range of cultures, periods and areas. This trifold rhetorical strategy can be seen in works pertaining to politics, academia, and legal and religious rhetoric. This strategy can also be seen in the Torah and the Bible, which influenced Western rhetoric. The story-list-sanction combination works on three levels: describing the past, dictating present behavior and encouraging the preservation of the texts (204). The combination of these three techniques acts upon one’s ideas and, in turn, their behavior. He notes that many texts also employed two of these three elements. For example, ritual texts might combine stories with lists while non narrative legal texts might combine lists with sanctions. Watts notes that Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, viewed narratives and divine sanctions (seen as “magic”) negatively. This view still influences us today, whereby philosophy is separated from religion, and academic discourse is separated from popular discourse. Watts concludes with a brief overview of medieval texts which also featured this rhetorical strategy as well current laws and political speeches. 

Tags: Argument, Genres, Magic, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Persuasion, Storytelling

Pedagogy for Global/Non-Greek Rhetorics

Clachar, Arlene. “Opposition and Accommodation: ‘An Examination of Turkish Teachers’ Attitudes toward Western Approaches to the Teaching of Writing.’” Research in the Teaching of English, vol. 35, no. 1, 2000, pp. 66–100. JSTOR,  

Arlene Clachar discusses a case study of Turkish teachers’ response to Western writing pedagogy “which prescribes students’ ability to criticize, analyze, question, and evaluate theories, data, assertions, etc.” (66). She also shares her observations on the characteristics of Turkish literary practices, which, she argues, value “appreciation over criticism, description over analysis, reproduction over questioning, and justification for differing interpretations over evaluation of them” (66). Based on Turkish teachers’ different interactional styles with their writing students, Clachar groups teachers’ attitudes towards “being literate in Western culture” into two categories: oppositional and accommodative. She claims that teachers’ accommodative attitudes seem to be grounded in “Turkey’s geopolitics” as a young republic (of around 70 years as of the date of the article) and a secular state which favors Western European connections (although with some reservation). 

Hence, while some teachers capitalize on exposing students to the conventions of Western scholarship, their oppositional attitudes toward Western writing pedagogy become apparent in their “control over the organization, distribution, and evolution of knowledge in writing conferences,” which Clachar points out as “a stance at odds with the process-centered and rhetorical approaches to the teaching of writing that the Turkish teachers had been encouraged to use” (66). Clachar observes accommodative attitudes in “jointly-produced interactions more consistent with the philosophical and instructional tenets of Western writing pedagogy” (66). 

As a result, Chachar argues several things: (1) becoming literate in Western culture also means becoming socialized into its literary value system; (2) language teaching is a political act (i.e., language pedagogy cannot be culturally neutral); and (3) Western writing approaches and materials carry cultural biases and implicitly impart attitudes related to the Euro-American culture and indirectly to the learner’s native culture. She concludes that while teachers cannot remove cultural biases from language pedagogies, for rhetorical and pedagogical diversity, teachers and researchers can critically examine cultural biases and can assess their impact, an act in which students can be engaged as well.

Tags: American Writing Pedagogy, Contrastive Rhetoric, Cultural Rhetorics, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Rhetorical Education, Rhetorical Theory, Second Language, Writing Studies 

Guler, Elif, and Iklim Goksel. “The Pedagogical Implications of Teaching Atatürk’s ‘Address to the Youth’ for Global Rhetoric and Civic Action in the U.S. Writing Classroom.” Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning, vol. 17, no. 2, 2017, pp. 69–94.

Elif Guler and Iklim Goksel propose that integrating cross-national texts into the rhetorical instruction within Western contexts can add to the pedagogical toolbox of student engagement in public argument and civic life. They discuss a classroom application based on teaching Turkey’s founding father Atatürk’s “Address to the Youth” for a more inclusive and diverse understanding of global rhetorics in the US writing classroom. The first part of the application, where students engage with the elements of context, audience, and purpose in a text from another national culture, illustrates to the students the rhetorical nature of writing that is essential to civic action—which deserves attention, particularly in the globalizing contemporary world. 

The authors find that the students experience challenges engaging with the text resulting from the contextual nature of rhetoric. The lack of contextual information then leads students to cast audience-related doubts onto the text. However, students eventually approach the cross-national text as if solving a rhetorical puzzle (with virtually no knowledge of its historical context), which gives students a new purpose of discovery in a rhetoric and writing course. In the second part of the study, students compose their own texts to protest public issues (such as college tuition hikes) which, the authors claim, prompts students’ thinking in such a way that it allows them to bring out their own rhetorical abilities. 

The authors suggest that the new language students learn from a non-Western text challenges them to write outside of the rhetorical conventions they were used to and allows them to mobilize a new discourse for inquiry and public action necessary for critical citizenship. Overall, the authors argue that their application demonstrates the value of studying cross-national rhetorical texts within the US national context.

Tags: Audience, Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Near Eastern Rhetorics, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Rhetorical Education, Writing Studies

Jensen, J. Vernon. “Teaching East Asian Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 2, 1987, pp. 135–49. JSTOR, 

J. Vernon Jensen argues that the best way to integrate Asian rhetoric into rhetorical history and theory is to build course designs around the subject. Geographically, he posits, East Asian rhetoric includes the cultures of Japan, Korea, China, and a variety of Southeast Asian countries. He primarily offers materials for readings and project concepts at the junior/senior and graduate levels, advocating for scholarship on the neglected rhetorical traditions of the East, with the emphasis on their non-confrontational modes of argumentation. 

Courses in Asian communication and rhetoric began to emerge around 1985, and among them were the University of Minnesota’s “Rhetoric of Asia” course. With the continued importance of US trade with China and the growing number of Chinese students on American campuses, Jensen makes a case for the need to offer more courses on the subject. The point of comparison, Jensen emphasizes, is integration and diversity. He suggests focusing on religious and philosophical texts, methods of public speaking and appeals to traditional values. Suggested assignments include the rhetorical analysis of speeches, reviews of scholarly articles (from the provided bibliography), a topic of interest paper for graduate students (with a presentation component), and the experience of cultural immersion through consuming a cultural artifact or participating in a cultural practice. 

Tags: Argumentation, Chinese Rhetorics, Indirection, Japanese Rhetorics, Korean Rhetorics, Oratory, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Philosophy, Religious Rhetorics 

South Asian Rhetorics

Adhikary, Nirmala Mani. “An Introduction to Sadharanikaran Model of Communication.” Bodhi: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, 2009, pp. 69–91. doi:10.3126/bodhi.v3i1.2814. 

Nirmala Adhikary refers to classical Sanskrit sources and contemporary scholarship to elaborate upon ancient Indian (Vedic/Hindu) communication theory, which, he points out, differs from the Western perspective (70). He considers the roots of sādharaṇikaraṇ theory, which is derived from the poetics (the Nāṭyaśāstra) and models this theory diagrammatically to explain the dynamics of communication from a Vedic/Hindu perspective—what transpires between interlocutors, the purpose of communicating, and the ultimate goal, mokṣa

This paper is dense with technical terminology, key concepts, theorists, and texts, so readers without knowledge of the larger Vedic conceptual context can cull search terms to explore further—Bhartṛhari, paṣyantī, Śabda-Brahman (Speech/Brahman), Nāṭyaśāstra, and rasa, for example—to pursue a fuller understanding of this rhetorical culture. Adhikary notes that sādharaṇikaraṇ is one of many possible models for Hindu communication theory. It is an important part of the picture, however unfamiliar it may at first appear. This paper is important for developing this theory, which was first introduced into the published discourse of communication studies by Yadava in 1980, and further brings sādharaṇikaraṇ to the attention of rhetoric scholars of the West. The author is himself a Hindu and a professor of communications at Kathmandu University, which lends both authenticity and expertise to this discussion. 

Tags: Indian Communication Theory, Moksha/Mokṣa, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Poetics, Rasa, Sadharanikaran/Sādharaṇikaraṇ, Vedic Rhetorics

Adhikary, Nirmala Mani. “Re-orientation, Ferment and Prospects of Communication Theory in South Asia.” China Media Research, vol. 10, no. 2, 2014, pp. 24–28.

Nirmala Adhikary points out that it is Western communication theory which is taught and studied in university communications departments across South Asia, and he argues for re-orienting the focus toward indigenous South Asian communication theory rooted in the Vedas, thus enriching the discipline. He frames the discussion in context of the growing sense of the “multicultural, multidisciplinary, and multi-paradigmatic nature of the discipline” (24). 

The discussion considers methodologies for theory building based on various ancient traditional sources and presents some theoretical models based on them, developed at four South Asian universities. Adhikary asserts that a slow but sure paradigm shift in the communications field is in progress and bodes well for looking “beyond de-Westernization and re-orienting communication theory” toward an Asiacentric theoretical framework (24). Whether this is but a hopeful vision or a true budding trend, the growing scholarship in this area should bring scholars of South Asian rhetorical culture more journal-published scholarship for theory building on authentic bases.

Tags: Asiacentric Rhetorics, Colonial Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Indian Communication Theory, Methodology, Vedic Rhetorics 

Bate, Bernard. Tamil Oratory and the Dravidian Aesthetic: Democratic Practice in South India, Columbia UP, 2009.

Bernard Bate carefully grounds this anthropological study of Tamil oratory within the Tamil literary tradition to demonstrate how in the 1950s Dravidianist politicians shifted out of the common register to use the antiquated literary style of Tamil. Based on five years of fieldwork in Madurai, India, Bate’s study includes interviews, transcripts of campaign speeches and rallies, and the translation and interpretation of ancient Tamil poetry. 

Beginning with Kenneth Burke’s definition of rhetoric as symbol-using, Bate acknowledges the influence of Western rhetoric on Tamil during the eighteenth century but argues that rhetoric as a persuasive theory of language is otherwise absent from Tamil history. Instead, Bate compares the rhetorical performances of Dravidianist politicians with early court poetry praising kings as deities to explain how these leaders attempt to project themselves as avatars or embodiments of the gods and past kings to frame democracy within a purer Tamil past. Bringing together devotional practices with modern politics, this form of Tamil Neoclassicism, Bate argues, reveals how modernity necessarily involves the production of tradition. 

Tags: Democratic Rhetorics, Fieldwork, Indian Rhetorics, Kenneth Burke, Oratory, Persuasion, Poetics, Political Rhetorics, Register, Religious Rhetorics

Bhattacharyya, Sibajiban. Development of Nyāya Philosophy and its Social Context, vol. III, Pt. 3 of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, edited by D.P. Chattopadhyaya. Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 2004.

Sibajiban Bhattacharyya offers a critical study of the origin, nature, and history of Nyāya and its development up to the eighteenth century’s navya nyāya theory, long since Gautama first recorded in writing the already long-standing oral tradition of logic and argument in his Nyāya-sūtra. Of the varying estimates of the date for Gautama, from 850 BCE to 425-500 CE, he argues for the latter (10). The author critically considers unsettled questions of its history and places Gautama’s text in dialog with all of the key commentaries that followed the primary texts, considering philosophical controversies raised and refinements offered. 

Bhattacharyya’s 575-page volume presents a substantial selection of sutras from Gautama’s text as a basis for its discussion of key concepts of the Nyāya approach. The General Introduction by the series editor, D.P. Chattopadhayaya, provides the larger historical, theoretical, and cultural context in his overview of Vedic civilization. A more comprehensive and authoritative source on Nyāya would be hard to imagine, though one might wish for a translation of Gautama’s complete Nyāya-sūtra to accompany this volume. 

Tags: Argumentation, Comparative Rhetoric, Epistemology, Logic, Nyaya/Nyāya, Oral Literacies, Rhetorical Histories 

Black, Brian. “Dialogue and Difference: Encountering the Other in Indian Religious and Philosophical Sources.” Dialogue in Early South Asian Religions: Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain Traditions, edited by Brian Black and Laurie L. Patton. Ashgate, 2015, pp. 243–58.

This concluding chapter in Brian Black’s and Laurie Patton’s collection tests Amartya Sen’s characterization of India as a place that has traditionally accommodated diversity through public dialogue by focusing on three dialogues taken from the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, Dīgha Nikāya, and the Mahābhārata. Each dialogue represents interlocutors separated by differences of either caste, religion, or gender, and Black explores how the form itself confronts two perspectives in one text. While these dialogues are stylized literary constructions, taken within the larger textual context, each represents a broader commitment to negotiate relationships between social groups and religious communities. 

Black shows how these dialogues develop distinct methods for negotiating difference. Unlike Plato’s dialectic, the structure of these arguments feature two interlocutors who develop their positions in distinct sections, with the first position reinforcing the difference between interlocutors and the second attempting to transcend these differences. This kind of juxtaposition offers dialogue as a way to create unity and transcend difference. Yet, Black emphasizes that each dialogue allows for ambiguity that is unlike aporia; ambivalence isn’t logically presented in these dialogues, rather it is an outgrowth of the social hierarchy that allows for subversion. Black ultimately demonstrates that the encounter with difference is a recurring and crucial theme within Indian religious and philosophical literature, and dialogues provide a platform to balance both the discovery of common ground and the acceptance of plurality. 

Tags: Argumentation, Dialogue, The Other, Philosophy, Pluralistic Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics

Borkowski, P. S. “Teaching Argumentation from the Nyaya-Sutras.” Pune Journal of Philosophy, 2012.

Borkowksi argues that the Nyāya method of argument should be taught in college composition courses because its goal is to arrive at the ultimate truth of an issue. Its purpose rests on the Vedic principle that Truth alone triumphs (satyam éva jayate). He explains that Nyāya has certain advantages over the Greek approach, due to the Nyāyan syllogism, a truth-based five-part argument which he describes as a holistic approach because it takes into account the three dimensions of space and how the five senses and intellect perceive things in reality instead of theoretically. The Nyāya five-part argument is not, technically, a syllogism, though some scholars have used that Western term to describe it. Borkowski’s usage of it here suggests the practical relevance of classical Indian traditions. He posits that the introduction of Nyāya into college composition classes, which are mainly preoccupied with writing and language, would better fulfill their purpose.

Tags: Argumentation, Comparative Rhetoric, Greek Rhetorics, Indian Rhetorics, Nyaya/Nyāya, Pedagogy of World Rhetorics, Truth 

Bronkhorst, Johannes. “Etymology and Magic: Yāska’s Nirukta. Plato’s Cratylus, and the Riddle of Semantic Etymologies.” Numen, vol. 48, no. 2, 2001, pp. 147–203. JSTOR,

Sanskrit scholar Johannes Bronkhorst gives a thorough introduction to the ancient discursive practice of what he calls “semantic etymologizing” (147). Distinct from modern etymology, which studies the history of a word, semantic etymology is a creative heuristic for expanding the understanding of a word or concept by connecting one word with another, usually in wordplay among similar-sounding words, which are then woven into a pithy story to illustrate the effect the concept produces. While he argues that the practice was practically universal in the pre-modern world, the author devotes his discussion to Vedic etymology described in Nirukta, which is known as the “dictionary of the Veda,” but which is at least as much process as product. 

He discusses examples of etymologizing from the Vedic literature and makes profound connections to the Vedic worldview of speech. He also shows how the use of such correlative semantics appears in other ancient cultures such as Chinese, Greek, and Sumerian (148-151). Bronkhorst’s study can therefore aid in understanding the rhetorics of virtually all cultures of the ancient world. The practice is still used in the Indian diaspora today, so the paper may be relevant to contemporary cross-cultural communication studies.

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Chinese Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Epistemology, Magic, Meaning, Nirukta, Plato,  Rhetorical Figures, Vedic Rhetorics 

Chakraborty, Amitava. “Rhetoric in South Asia.” The International Encyclopedia of Communication, edited by Wolfgang Donsbach, Blackwell Publishers, 2008.

In this lucid overview, Amitava Chakraborty asserts that comprehensive South Asian theories of argument are to be found not only in Nyāya (of which Gautama’s treatise on logic and argumentation is the seminal text), but also are propounded in other disciplines, such as medicine, law, and aesthetics. He identifies key figures and texts and notes that medical and legal treatises detail more than thirty stylistic and logical devices for technical textual composition. He moreover points out that aestheticians since 200 BCE have framed rhetorical theory in terms of rhetorical figures such as simile, which are detailed in the Nāṭyaśāstra (poetics) (200 BCE). 

Such an emphasis can easily be overlooked by Western scholars. Indeed, Chakraborty asserts that Robert T. Oliver and George A. Kennedy’s groundbreaking comparative work introducing South Asian rhetoric into Western scholarly discourse were “constrained by lack of access to primary sources.” Overviews such as Chakraborty’s, written by scholars who are cultural insiders, are especially helpful starting points for research. While this essay is, perhaps of necessity, not comprehensive (rasa theory is not mentioned), Chakraborty’s perspective offers an expanded vision of possibilities for study, even though the reference section is scant. 

Tags: Aesthetics, Ancient Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Indian Rhetorics, Metaphor, Poetics, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Nyaya/Nyāya, Rhetorical Figures, Sanskrit Stylistics, Vedic Rhetorics 

Chatterjea, Ananya. “Training in Indian Classical Dance: A Case Study.” Asian Theatre Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Spring 1996, pp. 68–91. JSTOR,

The Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata (poetics) is a seminal source text for Indian (Vedic) rhetorical theory and propounds the practices and theories which traditionally-trained classical Indian dancer Ananya Chatterjea discusses in this article. She explains how the artist learns to create rasa, the goal of art: to impart the experience of rasa, the essence, the nectar associated with the bliss of the transcendental divine. So the paper considers not only rasa theory based on the Nāṭyaśāstra, but also explains the dynamics of the traditional training involved in becoming a performance artist. Integral to the training in every aspect of the art via personal transmission and imitation of the dance guru, is the practice of meditation so that both skill and spiritual maturity may develop the consummate artist, the successful creation of rasa, and ultimately enlightenment, “realization of the ultimate truth” (78). 

Chatterjea argues that the guru-disciple relationship, based on respect and devotion, is crucial; university training in classical Indian dance falls short of attaining the goal. Finally, she considers the current state of the perennial guru-disciple tradition of training, particularly in present-day Calcutta. 

Tags: Aesthetics, Audience, Indian Rhetorics, Moksha/Mokṣa, Multimodal Rhetorics, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Performance, Rasa, Religious Rhetorics, Rhetorical Education, Spiritual Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics 

Coward, Harold G., and David J. Goa. Mantra: Hearing the Divine in India and America. 2nd ed., Columbia UP, 2004.

Harold Coward and David Goa offer a window into the Vedic worldview of speech and communication, referencing specific passages of source texts and commentaries. Their discussion renders the logic, rhetorical purposes, and worldview easily accessible, and moreover places theory in context of living cultural practice in multicultural India and in the diaspora. This book introduces the novice to some key concepts and pivotal figures, such as the levels of speech (Vaikharī, Madhyamā, and Paṣyantī) with their transcendental source (Parā), the nature of mantra (word), and the philosopher of language, grammarian-sage Bhartṛhari and his Vākyapadīya (treatise on speech/grammar). Coward and Goa thus provide the uninitiated with some conceptual and cultural context, contributing to the necessary foundation for understanding the rhetorical culture. 

Tags: Consciousness, Cosmology of Speech, Divinity of Speech, Indian Communication Theory, Levels of Speech Theory, Mantra, Philosophy, Vedic Rhetorics, Worldview   

Datta, Rudrashis, Charles R. Berger, and Richard J. Calabrese. “Philosophizing Communication: A Reading of Natyashastra.” Global Media Journal, Indian Edition, U of Calcutta, vol. 4, no. 2, Dec. 2013, pp. 1–12.

Rudrashis Datta et al describe the Nāṭyaśāstra as a “grammar” of dramaturgy and argue that this seminal Indian poetics text, which includes theory and practice of all the arts, is also “effectively, the grammar of communication . . . relevant to our understanding of communication today” (1). First, they reference contemporary communication theory to define communication as “the process by which people interactively create, sustain and manage meaning,” and also minimize uncertainty of understanding between interlocutors (2-3). The authors then present how these purposes are fulfilled through the methods of the drama detailed in the Nāṭyaśāstra for making the wisdom which is encoded in the Vedas easily accessible to popular audiences. 

The discussion also considers the techniques and dynamics of communication arts described in Nāṭyaśāstra chapters eight through sixteen, unpacking the vocabulary, sometimes using traditional etymology to convey how they work. In their discussion of rasa, Datta et al emphasize the contribution of the audience, quoting the Nāṭyaśāstra and the commentary of aesthetician Abhinavagupta (10 -11 CE) at length. Finally, they assert that Sādharaṇikaraṇ theory, derived from this śāstra, is of relevance to contemporary communication. This paper should lead the scholar to study the primary text and consider its larger context and influence on rhetorical culture.

Tags: Aesthetics, Audience, Comparative Rhetoric, Drama, Indian Communication Theory, Multimodal Rhetorics, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Performance, Philosophy, Rasa, Sadharanikaran/Sādharaṇikaraṇ, Vedic Rhetorics

Elizarenkova, Tatyana J. Language and Style of the Vedic Ṛṣis. State U of New York P, 1995.

In the course of her discussion on how the Vedas mean, their beginnings, their composition process (in detail), and their situated use and purpose, Tatyana Elizarenkova, a linguist and Sanskrit scholar, includes semantic analyses of several of the hymns of the Ṛig Veda which deal with speech and rhetorical concerns. To do this, she delves deeply into the hymns and individual word meanings and also enters into dialogue with other Sanskrit scholars to consider factors that affect appropriate interpretation. She argues, for example, that subtle differences in worldview between Vedic and Avestan Indo-European cultures must be acknowledged to interpret the hymns in an authentic light (29). 

Vedic words, we learn, are highly polysemous: In the process of her analyses she offers several meanings for important, much-used Vedic terms, all of which reflect key concepts at play, often simultaneously, in such hymns as the “Riddle Hymn” of ṛiṣi Dirgatamas (Ṛig Veda 1.164). She discusses the various poetic devices the ṛiṣis employed to express their visions of cosmic truth—myth, metaphor, polysemy, and meter, for example. She argues how all factors of the composition contribute to its meaning, not only to embellishment. Her undertaking is monumental in its depth, detail, and scope, and offers researchers a start toward mining the hymns for what they have to say about their own rhetorical culture. 

Tags: Divinity of Speech, Eloquence, Linguistics, Mantra, Meaning, Rhetorical Figures,  Sanskrit Stylistics, Vedic Rhetorics, Worldview

Gokhale, Namita, and Malashri Lal, editors. In Search of Sita: Revisiting Mythology. Penguin Books, India, 2009.

This collection of essays reveals Valmiki, author of the classical Indian epic, the Rāmāyaṇa, as astute rhetorician and eloquent writer, and focuses on his portrayal of women, represented by Sita, the quintessential heroine. The editors state their intention to “present a composite picture of Sita, a woman negotiating the public and private spaces in society—between kinship and exile, duty and assertion, loyalty and rejection” (4). 

Some of the essays reveal Sita as Goddess, the consort of God Vishnu, while others canonize her as a woman, who takes on different personas: daughter, sister, companion, friend, guide, mentor, wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, queen, and nurturing and devoted mother. Each essay in some way questions, responds, highlights, and situates the role of women from the past to the present. They also highlight how generations of women have interpreted the epic based on Hindu mythologies, perceptions, and beliefs and how women have framed them in terms of dharma and karma in everyday life. 

By revisiting the mythology of this foundational epic, the writers reveal Sita as a woman of feminine strength in her ideals and beliefs, one with a reflective personality willing to sacrifice her life for what she believes to be the truth and the right path to follow in life. In addition, many of the essays highlight her unique inner strength by presenting her years as a princess, her days of exile after her abduction, her conversations with her villainous abductor, her test by fire, her motherhood, and her intentional return into her mother Earth, which had given birth to her. 

The Rāmāyaṇa has been highly influential in Indian rhetorical culture. It is therefore a valuable resource for those researching these rhetorical cultures. Gokhale and Lal provide a useful source on the traditional view of the ideal of woman found in the Rāmāyaṇa. Readers may be surprised to see an ancient brand of feminism.  

Tags: Ancient Rhetorics, Didactic Rhetorics, Epics, Feminist Rhetorics, Mythology, Ramayana/Rāmāyaṇa, Religious Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics

Kirkwood, William G. “Shiva’s Dance at Sundown: Implications of Indian Aesthetics for Poetics and Rhetoric.” Text and Performance Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2, 1990, pp. 93–110. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/10462939009365961. 

William Kirkwood, in his consideration of the features of rasa theory that he finds most pertinent for communications and rhetoric scholars, contrasts the goals and methods of creating rasa with those of catharsis and other aspects of Aristotelian poetics. Kirkwood argues that “aesthetic rapture” that is rasa is “therapeutic” and can influence auditors’ daily lives, which makes it profoundly rhetorical. He grounds his discussion in the conceptual framework of the Upaniṣads, Bhagavad-Gītā, and the Nāṭyaśāstra. He explores how auditor, performer, and composer contribute toward the creation of rasa and how the composition process is affected by the goal to create the rasa experience. Finally, he argues that the study of this rhetoric and performance theory can enhance communication theory. He asserts that the aesthetic experience of rasa “can be valuable first steps in learning how to savor the more compelling events which daily life presents” (107).

Tags:  Aesthetics, Aristotle, Audience, Catharsis, Comparative Rhetoric, Dance, Indian Communication Theory, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Performance, Poetics, Rasa, Religious Rhetorics, Spiritual Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics

Kirkwood, William G. “Truthfulness as a Standard for Speech in Ancient India.” The Southern Communication Journal, vol. 54, no. 3, Spring 1989, pp. 213–34. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/10417948909372758. 

William Kirkwood considers truthfulness as a communication ethic in his exploration of the connection between the practice of truthfulness and mokṣa (spiritual liberation) in ancient Indian theory and practice. He explores the ways that speaking truth or falsehood are said to affect the speaker and, finally, considers how such concepts might contribute to current rhetorical and ethical studies. In this study, Kirkwood references passages from the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, the Yoga-Sūtra, and the Manusmṛti to demonstrate the nuanced meanings of truth in classical Indian philosophy, the importance of truthfulness to the Vedic worldview and culture, and its application to both private and public discourse.

Kirkwood considers contemporary interpretations of the ancient texts, unpacking other content-rich Sanskrit terms such as dharma, to argue that truth is considered not just a moral obligation, but also sadhana, a spiritual discipline, which brings the speaker powerful, fruitful speech as well as liberation, mokṣa. Kirkwood contrasts Indian and Western theory about how untruth weakens personal power. Finally, he suggests that, in light of Indian philosophical perspectives about truthfulness, communication and rhetoric scholars could fruitfully consider the epistemic nature of rhetoric and the therapeutic effects of communication. 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Ethics, Indian Communication Theory, Moksha/Mokṣa, Religious Rhetorics, Speech, Spiritual Rhetorics, Truth, Vedic Rhetorics, Worldview

Krishnan, Uma S. “Literacy Practices in Lunch Pails: Invisible Literacies of the Dabbawalas.”  Literacy in Practice: Writing in Private, Public and Working Lives, edited by Patrick Thomas and Pamela Takayoshi, Routledge, 2015. 

This article deals with the thought processes and literacy practices of an Indian ethnic group, The Mumbai Dabbawalas. Uma Krishnan explains in detail how the Dabbawalas use multiple languages, sustainable methods, and a unique coding system to conduct their business—of picking up and delivering lunch boxes all across the city of Mumbai, India. The author, by using qualitative case study methods, is able to reveal that literacies across cultures are ingrained in rhetorical and social practices. This article also explores how ethnic groups and their literacy practices have been viewed in ethnocentric ways. She posits that such indigenous groups and their literacy practices should be viewed as ideologically based and not as autonomous models. That is, that literacy is rhetorical social practice, and not merely a value-neutral, technical skill.

Tags: Cross-cultural Rhetorics, Cultural Rhetorics, Ethnography, Indian Rhetorics, Non-discursive Rhetorics, Subaltern Literacies 

Krishnaswamy, N. “Indian Rhetoric.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, Edited by Thomas O. Sloan, Oxford UP, 2001, pp. 384–87. 

Krishnaswamy starts by deconstructing the term “Indian Rhetoric,” first noting the cultural diversity of the Indian subcontinent, which has more than one strain of rhetorical culture, and then arguing that “rhetoric” means differently there than in the Greco-Roman-Western tradition. He then proves his point by discussing the “Sanskritic” traditions. 

While he finds examples of persuasion and deliberative oratory in the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, and the Bhagavad-Gītā, he goes on to discuss how the rhetorical culture is based in the poetics (the Nāṭyaśāstra of Bhārata, c. 500 BCE), from which scholars into the seventeenth century developed “the art of giving effectiveness to truth.” He lists the key concepts involved in giving power to a thing “for bringing forth the desired effect” (385), the means of which are known as alaṃkāra, and include verbal and visual means such as figures of speech and gestures. And this alaṃkāra is rhetoric (385). 

Krishnaswamy manages a coherent catalog of the important concepts and theorists, who have been called both rhetoricians and aestheticians. He argues for the latter term. He includes the Tamil-language thread of this rhetorical/aesthetic theory, and also acknowledges the lasting influence of Muslim rule, its ornate style and Perso-Arabic vocabulary, and British rule, which reduced rhetoric to written composition, a reduction that still dominates in the schools today. He points out, however, the concurrent lasting vitality of the older poetic-rhetorical traditions. 

Interestingly, Krishnaswamy refers to Nyāya (argumentation and logic) only obliquely—along with Vyākaraṇ (philosophy of grammar) and Mīmāṃsā (the exegesis approach)—for its contribution to a theory of meaning-making which informed alaṃkāra theory. Krishnaswamy’s virtual exclusion of Nyāya from his discussion underscores his assertion that this Indian notion of rhetoric differs from that of the West where debate and logic are top of mind. 

Tags: Aesthetics, Comparative Rhetoric, Exegesis, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Nyaya/Nyāya, Poetics, Rasa, Rhetorical Figures, Sanskrit Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics 

Kumar, Shashiprabha, ed. Veda as Word. Special Center for Sanskrit Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University/D.K. Printworld, 2006.

This book comprises the proceedings of a national conference by the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Distinguished Vedic scholars offer chapters which discuss in depth particular verses of the Veda and their ancillary texts—the Brāhmaṇas, the Araṇyakas, Purva Mīmāṃsā, etc.—to develop inquiries into Vedic cosmology of speech, philosophy of speech, and ritual and discursive practices related to speech (Vāk), its nature and power (Śakti). Quotes in devanagari script are transliterated and include English translations. 

Among concepts considered are the nama-rūpa (name-form) nature of mantra (word), whereby the sound/vibrational structure of a Sanskrit word is said to be that of the object it names, based on the premise that the universe is made of virtual vibrations, the fabric of transcendental consciousness, Veda; another chapter interprets the richly metaphorical hymn by ṛiṣi Vāk-Ambhṛini (Rig Veda 10.125). Her hymn of the universe as speech (Vāk) proclaims the secret of harnessing the power of speech. Another chapter considers Vedic hymns on Saraswati (also called Vāk, Speech), the goddess of learning, poetry, the arts, and speech. Another contemplates Nirukta, the “dictionary of the Veda” which offers a discursive heuristic for teasing out subtle Sanskrit meanings, using metaphor and sound to aid in understanding the verses of the Veda. 

A recurring theme in the book is a foundational concept in Indian rhetorical culture, the concept of the levels of speech (Paṣyantī, Madhyamā, and Vaikharī) with their source, transcendental consciousness (Parā). Only one fourth of the book is composed in Sanskrit, so seventy-five percent provides a valuable resource for those who would otherwise not have access. Because the book presents concepts which are foundational and tacitly present in the rhetorical culture which developed through the seventeenth century in India and is still vibrant today, this book should be useful for scholars interested in understanding Indian rhetorics. 

Tags: Consciousness, Cosmology of Speech, Divinity of Speech, Epistemology, Levels of Speech Theory, Mantra, Nirukta, Sanskrit Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics 

Lloyd, Keith. “Culture and Rhetorical Patterns: Mining the Rich Relations between Aristotle’s Enthymeme and Example and India’s Nyaya Method.” Rhetorica, vol. 29, no. 1, 2011, pp. 76–105. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rh.2011.29.1.76.

Though rhetors have long recognized the rhetorical patterns used by Westerners may differ from those of other cultures, according to Keith Lloyd, few scholars of rhetoric know about Nyāya, India’s rhetorical methodology. This essay relates rhetorical patterns in Aristotle’s enthymeme and paradeigma to Nyāya’s, pratijña (claim/promise), hetu (reason), and dṛṣṭānta (example). Though superficially similar, the Greek approach invokes interlocking statements based in a general statement, while the Indian approach uses a dominant analogical image to connect claim and reason. The essay focuses on François Bernier’s Travels in the Mughal Empire 1656-1668 to illustrate the danger of relying upon Aristotelian assumptions to approach rhetorical patterns from Non-Western cultures and traditions. Modern rhetors, using comparative rhetoric, can learn from Bernier’s mistakes by learning new terms and adapting to methods of reasoning found in other times, places, and cultures.

Tags: Analogy, Aristotle, Comparative Rhetoric, Enthymeme, Indian Rhetorics, Nyāya, Syllogism  

Lloyd, Keith. “The Impulse to Rhetoric in India: Rhetorical and Deliberative Practices and Their Relation to the Histories of Rhetoric and Democracy.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 21, no. 3, 2018, pp. 223–46. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/15362426.2018.1526544. 

Keith Lloyd notes that even Patricia Bizzell, author of the widely used and cited anthology The Rhetorical Tradition, admits that this tradition should include “multiple histories” and “figures and texts never before included” (29). In addition, rhetorical scholar Susan Miller would add that we need also to question linking of that tradition to a history of democracy in which rhetoric and democracy are linked from the time of Athens to the modern period. Lloyd expands our notions of both the rhetorical tradition and democracy by focusing on ancient Hindu methods of deliberation and their possible historical relationship to the gaṇa/saṁgha, the so-called Ancient Indian “republics,” some of which lasted for a thousand years. 

These two strands of Southeast Asian thought and practice reveal “a similar, but unique, impulse to rhetoric beyond the Athenian/Western context” (223). This study shows that neither democracy nor rhetoric are exclusive developments of Greek culture. The essay concludes with some reflection on what can be learned from both the existence and the demise of the Ancient Indian republics, in terms of the “struggle for democracy worldwide.” 

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Deliberative Rhetorics, Democratic Rhetorics, Nyaya/Nyāya, Rhetorical Histories

Lloyd, Keith.  “Learning from India’s Nyaya Rhetoric: Debating Analogically through Vada’s Fruitful Dialogue.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 43, no. 3, 2013, pp. 285–99. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/02773945.2013.792698.

In this article, Keith Lloyd notes that “over 2,500 years, philosophers in India refined a truth-centered and rhetorically egalitarian method of analogical debate: Nyāya vada, and its five-part expression, the ‘Nyāya method’’’ (285). Though Nyāya philosophers believe that its methods emerged in a history of scholarly debate, Lloyd finds that most examples of Indian debate lie within “mythical-religious dialogues” (285). Nyāya philosophers developed the theory, but do not focus on examples from social contexts. Lloyd also notes that even scholars of comparative rhetoric focus on associating practices with Greek terminologies, again missing social context. 

In response, Lloyd offers examples of “informal debates in ancient literary-historical dialogues” as well as contemporary arguments to highlight Nyāya’s significance as an effective mode of communication. He traces Nyāya’s “rhetorical journey from discussions of scholars and kings, to academic formulization, to popular dialogic expression” (285). Lloyd concludes that Nyāya offers “a clear alternative to Western confrontational rhetoric,” and adds that its very existence in social context and textual theory “undermines assumptions about ‘‘rhetoric’’ being uniquely Greek in origin, underscoring the need for comparative rhetorics” (285).

Tags: Analogy, Ancient Rhetorics, Comparative Rhetoric, Debate, Dialogue, Nyaya/Nyāya, Truth

Lloyd, Keith. “Rethinking Rhetoric from an Indian Perspective: Implications in the Nyaya Sutra.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 26, no. 4, 2007, pp. 365–84. JSTOR,

According to Keith Lloyd, just before and during the time of Sophists and Aristotle, Hindus began to similarly codify rhetorical practices unique to their Indian environment. The result was a theoretical and pragmatic text on argument, the Nyāya Sūtra, which became the cornerstone of Nyāya philosophy, one of six ancient orthodox schools of Hindu thought. The method is obviously rhetorical in intent, though more focused on revelation of shared perspectives rather than persuading audiences to one view or another. It’s five-part method of dialogic presentation has been overlooked by scholars of rhetoric because of its relation to Nyāya philosophy as a whole. Lloyd proposes that Nyāya be included in the field of rhetorical studies. Beginning with its historical development, the essay places the five-part Nyāya method in rhetorical context by comparing it to the traditional logical syllogism, and relating it to the contemporary perspectives of Stephen Toulmin, Kenneth Burke, and Chaïm Perelman

This paper, published by the International Rhetoric and Communication Society and China Central Normal University, Wuhan, China, is printed in both Chinese and English. 

Tags: Argument, Aristotle, Comparative Rhetoric, Debate, Deliberative Rhetorics, Kenneth Burke, Logic, Nyaya/Nyāya

Lloyd, Keith. “The Rhetoric of Performance in India: The Confluence of Nyaya Vada (logic) and Sadharanikaran (performance) in Past and Present Discourses.” Foreign Language and Literature Research, vol. 2, 2015, pp. 88–99. 

Because there has been little progress since Robert Oliver and George Kennedy focused attention on rhetorical practices in India, Keith Lloyd introduces two indigenous Hindu traditions, Nyāya and Sādharaṇikaraṇ, in order to begin to explore non-Western concepts of rhetorical delivery. Nyāya philosophers developed a five-part “method” (Matilal) that describes arguments in terms of claims, reasons, and analogies. Within a similar time frame, Bhārata muni developed a Hindu theory of dramatic performance which came to be called Sādharaṇikaraṇ. The goal of Sādharaṇikaraṇ is to convey—through movement, gesture, costume, and stage design—moments of insight and emotion, leading the recipient to enter into a state of communion or “ananda” with the actor as well as with other audience members. Lloyd contrasts the two approaches with Aristotle’s concepts of rhetorical delivery and dramatic catharsis, noting that the Hindu approaches are more communal and lead to a more complex reaction—a sharing of common humanity through engaging a dramatic performance. The essay offers a view of delivery based in a non-Western perspective.

Tags: Aesthetics, Analogy, Aristotle, Comparative Rhetoric, Delivery, Drama, Indian Rhetorics, Multimodal Rhetorics, Nyaya/Nyāya, Performance, Persuasion, Sadharanikaran/Sādharaṇikaraṇ

Lloyd, Keith. “A Rhetorical Tradition Lost in Translation: Implications for Rhetoric in the Ancient Indian Nyāya Sutras.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 10, 2007, pp. 19–42. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/15362426.2007.10557274. 

According to Keith Lloyd, rhetorical scholars are little aware of the ancient Sanskrit Nyāya Sūtra because most scholars assume that India is more “mystical than logical, because Nyāya has been misinterpreted through Greek logic and terminologies, and because of Nyāya’s epistemology and soteriology. Lloyd applies Roy Perrett’s four Western “approaches” to India; what Perrett calls “magisterial blindness” and “exoticist assumptions” limits our knowledge of Nyāya and delays its “inclusion in rhetorical studies.” Lloyd uses two other approaches Perrett highlights, “curatorial” and “interlocutory,” as well as noting Nyāya’s relation to Aristotle’s enthymeme and example, to reveal Nyāya’s rhetoricity. However, its emphasis on collaboration and the fruitfulness of argument pushes it beyond Greco-Roman rhetoric, and adds the most dimension to our understanding of the history and nature of rhetoric from a global perspective. 

Tags: Aristotle, Comparative Rhetoric, Enthymeme, Indian Rhetorics, Nyaya/Nyāya

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Flow of Consciousness: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on Literature and Language 1971 to 1976, edited by Rhoda F. Orme-Johnson and Susan K. Andersen,  Consciousness-Based Books/Maharishi U of Management P, 2010.

In this collection of lectures focusing on speech, language, literature, and communication, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi elaborates in depth on points that should be of particular value for scholars of ancient Indian rhetoric. He uses analogy and traditional etymological analysis in his discussions to bring to light the meanings and functions of untranslatable Sanskrit terms and concepts and their implications for the promotion of fruitful communication and harmony in individual, social, and cosmic life, goals which, as Oliver has pointed out, have driven and shaped this ancient rhetorical culture. 

The rhetorical paradigm implicit here clearly differs from that which underpins Western rhetorical theory. In his analysis, the author gives insight into principles of literature, language, and communication expressed in the Vedic literature, which is a repository of knowledge on the rhetorical culture that flowered from ancient Vedic civilization and is still influential today. The verses of the Veda notoriously resist easy translation, due in part to their elliptical, polysemous, and richly metaphorical style. This source is helpful for understanding what the Vedic literature says about its own rhetorical paradigm so that related cultural practices may be studied on their own terms.

The author highlights the foundational Vedic principle that the state of yoga, when awareness is open to the transcendental source of speech, is essential for fully accomplishing the goal of speech. Finally, he explains the means of attaining this state of consciousness, which has been identified as integral to traditional  education in rhetorical concerns (and all fields of study) in ancient India. Among key Vedic concepts considered are Vedic cosmology of speech, the transcendental source of speech (Parā), the basis of eloquence, the levels of speech  (Vaikharī, Madhyamā, and Paṣyantī), and the unity of name and form (nama-rupa) in the fabric of consciousness/the universe.

Tags: Consciousness, Cosmology of Speech, Levels of Speech Theory, Moksha/Mokṣa, Vedic Rhetorics

Malhotra, Rajiv. Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. HarperCollins/India Today, 2011.

Rajiv Malhotra asserts that Indian culture—philosophy, worldview, rhetoric, etc.—needs to be understood on its own terms, but continues to be appropriated, colonized, and its image transformed through a Western lens. He explains a traditional argumentation strategy called purva-paksha (reversing the gaze), by which one must first argue the position of the opponent, not only to be better prepared to refute that position in debate while seeing one’s own shortcomings, but also to “maintain flexibility of perspective and honesty rather than seek victory egotistically” (48). Throughout the book, Malhotra reverses the gaze on the West, exposing modernist/postmodernist frames imposed upon Indian culture while educating the reader on a wealth of indigenous rhetorical practices, philosophies, and perspectives. 

Robert T. Oliver (1971) wrote in Communication in Ancient India and China that rhetorical concerns permeate Indian culture, and this is evident throughout Malhotra’s discussion. He discusses, for example, the rhetorical function and nature of traditional performances and texts of the Rāmāyaṇa and its widespread influence across South Asia and Southeast Asia. He argues against Sanskrit scholar Sheldon Pollock’s framing of the Rāmāyaṇa’s rhetorical purpose as a political ploy. This book is useful for scholars who take the methodological stance that a rhetorical culture should be studied on its own terms, and it gives ample cultural context and comparison of perspectives to help the scholar to approach sources critically and better discriminate among them.

Tags: Colonial Rhetorics, Debate, Hindu Rhetorics, Historiography, Indian Rhetorics, Moksha/Mokṣa, Othering, Pluralism, Ramayana/Rāmāyaṇa, Rasa, Religious Rhetorics, Truth, Vedic Rhetorics, Vernacular Rhetorics, Worldview

Melfi, Anne. “Foundations in Vedic Rhetorical Culture: Approaching Mokṣa Analogically.” The Routledge Handbook of Comparative World Rhetorics: Studies in the History, Application, and Teaching of Rhetoric Beyond Traditional Greco-Roman Contexts, edited by Keith Lloyd, Routledge, 2021, pp. 134-43. doi: 10.4324/9780367809768-15.

Melfi offers an introductory overview of Vedic rhetorical culture through the lens of the Vedic worldview on language and communication, their nature and rhetorical purpose as she finds them proclaimed in the Rig Veda and elaborated in later canonical texts on theory and practice, particularly seminal treatises on certain rhetorical modes: The Nyaya Sutra (on logic and debate), the Natyashastra (on poetics and the arts), and Nirukta (the discursive art of meaning making). Melfi thus espouses a comparatist methodological orientation first advocated by Robert Oliver and later championed by LuMing Mao, Sue Hum and Arabella Lyon, Keith Lloyd, Carol Lipson and Roberta Binkley, and others: to study rhetorical cultures on their own terms. She points out the disadvantage of using a postmodernist/modernist lens, since it rejects universal truth and the transcendent, both central to the Vedic worldview, which has “produced a very different notion of rhetoric” (Melfi 134); she asserts that “contrastive comparisons of Vedic and Western theory will be more fruitful than seeking similarities which can too often mislead” (139).

A diagram illustrates the main principle which, Melfi asserts, drives the Vedic cosmology of speech/the universe. Depicted are the four levels of speech, from the transcendental source of speech at the depths of the mind to the most expressed level, audible speech, which issue forth the unmanifest source. Pictured parallel is the physical universe emerging from the unmanifest unified field of all the laws of nature which, vibrating, create and govern the universe much as string theory of modern physics describes the universe, though not calling that primordial source “consciousness” as the Vedic literature does; it is Shabda-Brahman (speech-Brahman) (135), “consciousness, that by which one can know and communicate. Therefore, having one’s awareness open to the source of speech – the state of yoga – is essential for fully achieving the purposes of communication, both earthly and cosmic (Rig Veda 1.164.39; 10.71; [. . .]),” a state of life that develops through meditation (Melfi 136).

This prime imperative poses a conundrum that shaped the rhetorical culture, Melfi points out: The Vedic literature states that “Speech is Brahman . . . but speech cannot express Brahman,” so in order to express the ineffable to those yet seeking, “enlightened sages . . . leverage[d] the limits of discursive language to teach the nature of reality – through analogy, metaphor, symbolism, and other analogical means” (136). In debate, for example, one argues by analogy to discern the truth of an unknown and, ultimately, attain freedom from illusion, moksha, final liberation (137). The arts employ figurative language, symbol, and all available means to ignite in the audience a taste (rasa) of and for the sublime reality, Brahman, teaching by giving experience as well as by sharing the content of the drama, poem, or art (138-39). From an Indian perspective, “rhetoric” is held to be virtually synonymous with the art of figuration (alamkara), the use of metaphor and other analogical devices to bring truth compellingly to light (137).

What Keith Lloyd earlier began in his study on analogical thinking in Nyaya and Sadharanikaran in “The Rhetoric of Performance,” Melfi in this chapter further develops and places in context of the larger paradigm in which they flowered so the culture may be further grasped and studied on its own terms. Finally, she notes that while scholarship on tradition-based Indian communication and rhetoric theory is increasing in South Asian universities, American theory still dominates there (139). She suggests that the current climate in American discourse of truthiness and post-truth calls for a reopening of the debate begun in Plato’s Gorgias on the place of truth in rhetoric and asserts that the truth-driven Vedic rhetorical paradigm warrants study (140). 

Tags: Aesthetics, Analogy, Audience, Consciousness, Cosmology of Speech, Debate, Deliberative Rhetorics, Didactic Rhetorics, Divinity of Speech, Drama, Heart, Indian Communication Theory, Levels of Speech Theory, Logic, Metaphor, Methodology, Moksha/Mokṣa, Natyashastra/Nāṭyaśāstra, Nyaya/Nyāya, Performance, Ramayana/Rāmāyaṇa, Rasa, Rhetorical Figures, Sadharanikaran/Sādharaṇikaraṇ, Vedic Rhetorics 

Metzger, David. “Indian Rhetoric (Sanskrit).” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, edited by Theresa Enos, Garland, 1996, pp. 346–47. 

David Metzger first briefly frames this rhetoric as the study of language for discerning what constitutes “knowledge” and includes Nyāya (argument and logic), Vyākaraṇ (philosophy of grammar) and Mīmāṃsā (exegesis). Then he points out that, for Sanskrit scholars, rhetoric is alaṃkāra, the study of figuration and style. Most of his discussion centers on the development and nature of alaṃkāra. He names major theorists and some of their varying views on figures and objective reality. “In the Alamkara School,” he writes, “Emotion (rasa) is inseparable from the figures required for its expression” (346). He does not discuss rasa theory, but does briefly discuss style theory, which he points out has always been distinct from alaṃkāra theory. 

Tags: Aesthetics, Emotion, Epistemology, Exegesis, Nyaya/Nyāya, Rasa, Rhetorical Figures, Sanskrit Rhetorics, Sanskrit Stylistics, Vedic Rhetorics 

Mifsud, Mari Lee. “Storytelling as Soul-Tuning: The Ancient Rhetoric of Valmiki’s Ramayana.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 223–39.

Mari Lee Mifsud argues that the tradition of telling and performing the story of the Rāmāyaṇa (the travels of Rama, a divine avatar) is a rhetorical act, as it involves invention, performance, memory, and delivery, four of the rhetorical canons of the Western paradigm. But she orients her discussion toward the concerns of the Hindu rhetorical culture itself, referencing secondary sources and the Rāmāyaṇa. Participation in this didactic storytelling, she argues, is for “soul tuning,” not for persuasion. She posits that the story dramatizes deliberative scenarios to foster critical awareness so that participants may develop attunement to dharma, cosmic order, divine harmony. She contrasts Hindu and ancient Greek perspectives, arguing against the use of Greek standards as a lens for her study while acknowledging the challenge posed by abandoning the vocabulary of rhetoric forged by the Greeks. 

Mifsud points out that her “local entrance into the tradition” (230) as a cultural outsider must color and constrain her study. Indeed, there is no mention of rasa theory or its rhetorical process, though her mention that “soul tuning” is the larger rhetorical purpose makes a nod in that general direction. Nor does she reference the Nāṭyaśāstra, which details the practical and theoretical basis of the art. But she does establish the situated vernacular vitality of the practice, and the Rāmāyaṇa, across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia since antiquity.

Tags: Comparative Rhetoric, Delivery, Didactic Rhetorics, Harmony, Hindu Rhetorics, Methodology, Performance, Ramayana/Rāmāyaṇa, Storytelling, Vedic Rhetorics, Vernacular Rhetorics

Misra, Vidya Niwas. “Sanskrit Rhetoric and Poetic.” Mahfil, vol. 7, no. 3/4Sanskrit Issue, Fall/Winter 1971, pp. 1–18. 

Vidya Misra begins by explaining the importance of the Sanskrit word “Vak” (speech) and how this term has “multiple and interrelated meanings” indicating activity, knowledge and the power of speech (1). The word has layers of meaning, from human to divine levels of speech and interpretation. He makes his point by referring to many other words, such as dhvani (sounds) and vyanjana (consonants), along with examples from ancient epics and texts to show that the Indian philosophers have handled abstraction more rigorously than the Greeks. 

Misra argues that Sanskrit rhetoric not only allows for more abstract thinking in linguistic terms, but also for interpretation through the “form of myth, legend . . . ” and in many ways, forms “. . . the basis for almost every Indian art form from painting to drama” (3). Art, then, becomes not only a part of the rhetoric of addressing what the author wants his audience to see, but also what he wants them to experience as a communion and not as a means of communication. He argues that Sanskrit writers’ usage of subtle conventions of language and refined approaches to expressing the subject matter leads the audience to reach a special state where, in “the state of rasa, no subject or object can be said to exist. . . . Logic, then, is insufficient to account for the creative experience of reality in its wholeness” (4). 

Misra concludes that Sanskrit rhetoric and poetic should be viewed as a body of discourse with “its own laws and meaning”; it should not be viewed as a “historical process,” but more as a “living phenomenon, rich, complex and at the very center of the human condition” (12).  

Tags: Aesthetics, Divinity of Speech, Drama, Indian Communication Theory, Levels of Speech Theory, Meaning, Multimodal Rhetorics, Mythology, Poetics, Rasa, Sanskrit Rhetorics, Vedic Rhetorics

Pandey, Iswari. South Asian in the Mid-South: Migrations of Literacies. U of Pittsburgh P, 2015. 

Right at the outset, Iswari Pandey draws the reader’s attention to the issues facing post-9/11 America and the heightened, racially-motivated discourses which ensued between the dominant culture and immigrant communities. In this context, he shows how these developments shaped some of the local and transnational immigrant discourses. Using many immigrant families and participants from both Hindu and Muslim communities, he describes how these minorities use “word-work” to build and foster relationships within and outside of their immediate communities.

Pandey also uses the term “word-work” to describe how these immigrants migrate traditional literacies from their country of origin to America and thereby develop their own cultural identities, passing them along to their children and their community schools, often termed “Sunday Schools.” The author further examines how these communities “respond to, reinscribe, and challenge the rhetoric of globalization” (207) and why they are pertinent in the present century in terms of developing theories and pedagogies associated with literacy, writing, and rhetoric.

Tags: Diasporic Rhetorics, Hybridity, Identity, Indian Rhetorics, Intercultural Communication, Transnational Rhetorics 

Prasad, G.J.V. Writing India, Writing English: Literature, Language, Location. Taylor & Francis Group, 2011.

G.J.V. Prasad begins by raising the question that many anthropologists, linguists, and ethnographers have struggled to answer: Is it truly possible to represent local realities in a foreign language and especially in the language of the colonizers? Are writers in English shaping their narratives to suit the western audiences or is it truly possible to represent a nation and its core nationalities through English translation?

Addressing this question allows the author to develop his two-pronged argument: first, only through translations—cultural, analytical, literal and symbolic—are we able to address, understand, reinterpret, and shift our focus to how India has been translated into English from the past to the present; second, only through critical and cultural translation are we able to view the shortcomings in the way English literature has represented local narratives and literature. In this book, Prasad establishes the symbiotic relationship that exists between India and English, in terms of how English as a language has opened India to the Western audience and how India has translated English to carve her own space in the field of rhetoric and global English. 

Tags: Cultural Rhetorics, English Language, Indian Rhetorics, Post-colonial Rhetorics, Representation, Translation

Sen, Amartya. The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. Penguin Books, 2005.

In this collection of essays, Amartya Sen questions the stereotypes generated and propagated through the Western world view of India—its history, culture, traditions and norms. His basic argument, as the title suggests, is that contemporary India owes its democracy and way of thinking not to colonization or western thought, but to its past, its rich ancient traditions and philosophy, which are rooted in democratic and academic thinking, intellectual pluralism, and ways of approaching life—in general and in philosophical, religious, scientific, and mathematical terms).

Tags:  Democratic Rhetorics, Hindu Rhetorics, Historiography, Identity, Indian Rhetorics, Pluralistic Rhetorics, Representation, Vedic Rhetorics, Worldview 

Stroud, Scott R. “Argument in Classical Indian Philosophy: The Case of Śankara’s Advaita Vedānta.” Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta Binkley, Parlor P, 2009, pp. 240–64.

Scott Stroud’s essay gives insight into how ancient Indian philosophy uses logical, argument and countering objections through “experience” reasoning. Śaṅkara’s philosophical approach also allows readers to understand the non-dualistic nature of the individual soul and God’s spirit (the Atman-Paramatma relationship) and the importance of self-realization in Indian rhetorical culture.

Stroud begins by explaining how religious debates were conducted in public in 788 CE and how this “intense atmosphere” allowed for “interesting rhetorical tactics” to develop and propagate one’s philosophical outlook (240), as in the case of Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedānta philosophy. Stroud notes that during that time, when Buddhism, Jainism and other religions were on the rise and getting established, Hinduism was losing ground in India. But Śaṅkara’s philosophical approach and travel across India from the South to the North was instrumental in the survival of Hinduism and in establishing knowledge centers. 

Stroud argues that Śaṅkara was successful in his message due to his usage of many powerful rhetorical tools, such as tropes, linguistic means, “recurring analogies and examples,” first-person address, and experiential arguments that allowed him to establish a rapport with his audience (240). Stroud also suggests that Śaṅkara’s effective rhetoric combined with reference to the ancient scriptures—the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, and the Puraṇas—allowed him to explain the metaphysical nature of the world and the important role of the individual in it.

Tags: Analogy, Debate, Logic, Philosophy, Sanskrit Rhetorics, Shankara/Śaṅkara, Vedic Rhetorics 

Stroud, Scott R. “Multivalent Narratives: Extending the Narrative Paradigm with Insights from Ancient Indian Philosophical Texts.” Western Journal of Communication, vol. 66, no. 3, 2002, pp. 369–93. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/10570310209374742.

Scott Stroud’s main focus in this article is to explore and enhance the reader’s understanding of the Eastern narrative. He discusses how ancient Indian rhetoric, a subcategory of the Eastern rhetoric, can add to the already-theorized Western narrative paradigms. Stroud suggests that many Western scholars, including Walter Fisher (1987), judge narratives on the basis of “good” or “bad,” which is itself based on the writer’s self-reference and his/her richness of experience, values, and beliefs. He argues that these theories are sometimes narrow in their outlook.

Stroud posits that it is necessary for the Western audience to assimilate Eastern narratives, as they offer “extremely unfamiliar ideas and values” (4). He uses the Avadhoota Gita and the Devi Gita as examples of multivalent narratives, to reveal ideas, values, and nuances that exist in these narratives. His analysis thus provides richness and novelty to our understanding of rhetoric in Eastern narratives.

Tags:  Comparative Rhetoric, Indian Rhetorics, Methodology, Philosophy, Worldview

Stroud, Scott R. “The Pluralistic Style and the Demands of Intercultural Rhetoric: Swami Vivekananda at the World’s Parliament of Religions.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 21, no. 3, 2018, pp. 247–70. Taylor & Francis, doi:10.1080/15362426.2018.1526545. 

In this article, Scott Stroud asks, “How can one embody the respect and diversity that a pluralistic orientation brings to rhetorical activity, yet still do justice to the assertive and engaged characteristic of communication aimed at persuading one’s conversational other” (248)? He attempts to answer this question by unraveling a successful case of intercultural rhetoric, the pluralistic rhetorical style of a Hindu monk from India: Swami Vivekananda, who came to the United States in 1893 for the World’s Parliament of Religions and became the nationally known face of Hinduism. By considering the rhetoric of Vivekananda’s advocacy for the Hindu religion, a religion that an American audience perceived as inferior to Christianity, Stroud illustrates a way to negotiate conflicting religious claims in the public sphere. 

Stroud also lays out an effective example of “a pluralist style of rhetorical engagement” to shed new light on the controversies regarding ‘invitational rhetoric’ as an approach that is inherently hostile towards open disagreement with opposing viewpoints. Stroud argues that Vivekananda addressed those audiences who judged Hinduism to be inferior to Christianity with a kind of rhetoric that capitalized on pluralism—a rhetoric which restored the value of Vivekananda’s form of Hinduism while respecting other religions. Through strategies like a ‘path rhetoric,’ Vivekananda built his arguments upon his unique reading of Hindu religious-philosophical traditions. 

For Stroud, Vivekananda’s rhetoric serves both as an example of Hindu rhetoric in a modern intercultural context, the US, and provides insights on how to negotiate invitational rhetoric’s totalizing view of persuasion-centered discourse as pure rhetorical aggression. Stroud suggests that pluralistic rhetorical style shows us the possibility of successfully pairing an assertive engagement with respect and value for one’s audience. 

Tags: Hindu Rhetorics, Indian Rhetorics, Intercultural Rhetorics, Persuasion, Pluralistic Rhetorics, Religious Rhetorics 

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