CFP: Erotema – A Conference on Rhetoric & Literature

Karlstad University, Sweden, 14–16 September 2017

Rhetoric, literature – what’s the difference? For hundreds of years, no one bothered to ask – literature was simply seen as a species of rhetoric. The two subjects were taught as one well into the nineteenth century (as witness text-books like David Williams’s 1850 Composition, Literary and Rhetorical, Simplified), but in response to shifting social demands and artistic practices, the study of literature was gradually separated from the study of rhetoric. For most of the twentieth century they have been seen as contrasting rather than complementary practices, as a rule organized as distinct departments in the academy.

Today, we find ourselves in a situation in which many of the reasons literature emerged as a distinct discipline in the first place no longer seem to apply. Like the humanities in general, literary studies at present face a series of challenges, of an external as well as of an internal nature. Books such as In Defense of a Liberal Education, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities, and The Public Value of the Humanities make strikingly evident that the value of the liberal arts can no longer be taken for granted. Internal challenges meanwhile, include questions of what role literary studies can play in a global economy in which national boundaries no longer seem of principle importance, and distinctions between high and low culture long since have evaporated.

The time thus seems ripe to open the rhetorical question anew. Could rhetoric play a more central role in literary studies than it hitherto has? Do both fields stand something to gain by a closer collaboration? Might such a combination of perspectives even be a means to open up rhetoric and literary studies alike to other disciplines, such as media studies, language studies, art history and pedagogy?

Erotema: A Conference on Rhetoric and Literature proceeds on the assumption that even if questions of the above order to some of us may seem mere rhetorical questions – erotemata – they demand genuine answers. To that end, we invite papers that address old and new ways in which the relations between rhetoric and literature may be further explored.

Proposals of 300-400 words for 20-minute papers dealing with rhetoric and literature in relation to the history of:

  • literature and/or rhetoric,
  • language studies,
  • translation studies,
  • historical studies,
  • teaching,
  • subject specific teaching methodology,
  • political theory,
  • media theory,
  • genre theory,
  • gender studies,
  • postcolonial studies,
  • cultural studies,

or any other topic, should be sent to, by January 13, 2017.

We are delighted to present keynotes from:

Roy Eriksen (University of Agder, Norway) is Professor English Renaissance Literature and Culture. He is the author of The Building in the Text. Alberti to Shakespeare and Milton (2001) and the co-editor (with Toril Moi) of Rhetoric Across the Humanities (1999).

Xing Lu (DePaul University, USA) is the author of Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B. C. E.: A Comparison with Greek Rhetoric (1998), as well as Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: Impacts on Chinese Thought, Culture, and Communication (2004). Her academic interests include Chinese rhetoric, comparative rhetoric, intercultural/multicultural communication, language and culture, cultural identity, and Asian American communication.

Richard Walsh (University of York, England) is the author of The Rhetoric of Fictionality, which develops a pragmatic rhetorical perspective to articulate a fundamental critique of some basic concepts and assumptions in narratology: the narrator, story and discourse, mimesis, voice, emotional involvement, narrative creativity and fictionality itself. His research has extended to film, graphic narrative, interactive media and music.

Andrzej Warminski (University of California, USA), is professor of English and a specialist in ‘literary theory’–with the stress on the word (and the question of the) ‘literary’–from Plato to the present. His two most recent books, Material Inscriptions: Rhetorical Reading in Practice and Theory and Ideology, Rhetoric, Aesthetics: For De Man (both 2013), document his interest in the question of reading, of language, and of the rhetorical dimension of language.

Laura Wilder (SUNY), is the author of Rhetorical Strategies and Genre Conventions in Literary Studies: Teaching and Writing in the Disciplines, which underscores the centrality of rhetoric also to the teaching of literature and other academic subjects. Throughout her research, Wilder explores the ways literary scholars, like other disciplinary specialists, tacitly share a distinct set of rhetorical strategies for effective argumentation which support the production of new knowledge, highlighting the often unacknowledged role of these argumentative conventions in the undergraduate literature classroom.

Erotema is organized by KuFo, the culture studies research group at Karlstad University.

SWESSE award for best BA theses in English

In order to encourage and reward research in English, the Swedish Society for the Study of English awards a biennial prize for outstanding BA theses in English, in literature and linguistics respectively. Theses taking a didactic approach in either area will also be considered.

The rules and regulations are as follows:

Each Swedish University or other Institution of Higher Education offering courses in English at BA-level may nominate one BA-level thesis in literature and one in linguistics as their Best English Thesis of the two preceding academic years. Nominations should be preceded by a collegial decision at each department, and the student whose thesis is submitted should be informed of this.

We welcome now nominations for theses defended in 2015 and 2016. Nominations must include electronic copies of the theses nominated (as Word-files), and should be sent to the Chair of each respective awards committee, by Friday, February 10, 2017. The juries in each category will meet in March and reach a decision. The award will be presented at the National Forum for English Studies meeting in Jönköping, April 26-28, 2017.

Linguistic theses should be sent to Jean Hudson.
Literary theses should be sent to Magnus Ullén.

The decision of the awards committees cannot be appealed.

Please share this information with your students and colleagues. For further details, see the SWESSE homepage.

Celebrating 20 years of EJES

A new special issue of EJES celebrates twenty year of scholarship in English studies from across Europe.

The European Journal of English Studies, the academic journal of the European Society for the Study of English showcases cutting-edge work on Anglophone language, literature and other cultural forms produced in Europe, but open to like-minded contributions from outside the European space. EJES (pronounced ‘edges’) aims most of all to be a space where the various disciplines that make up (and unmake) ‘English Studies’ speak to each other, and where researchers from different cultural contexts and academic traditions come together and collaborate.

Inaugural BA Thesis prize winners

The inaugural SWESSE BA Thesis prizes were awarded last week at the National Forum for English Studies in Luleå. Two prize winners and two runners-up in both literature and linguistics were identified by the judges.

The Award for Best Thesis submitted in the field of English Literature was awarded to Charles Simmons for his thesis ‘Things in Blood Meridian: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Look.’ The judges commended Viktor Pepponen Jonsson for his thesis entitled ‘A Poetics of Inconsistency: William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All and New Criticism.’

The Award for Best Thesis submitted in the field of English linguistics was awarded to Anne Blauenfeldt for her thesis ‘Violent rapists and depraved paedophiles: Linguistic representation of sex offenders in the British tabloid press.’ The judges commended Olov Aronson for his thesis entitled ‘Should I Use “I”?: A corpus-based study of first-person pronouns in scientific journals of different ranking.’

Details of the judges’ decisions appear below.

Theses submitted in the field of English Literature

Charles Simmons

The 2015 SWESSE Award for BA Thesis of the Year in English Literature is granted to Charles Simmons for his lively, engaging essay on Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Simmons deploys a hermeneutic approach to the examination of the novel in order to reject Cartesian notions of fixed subject-object relations. By focusing on how things are “given an abode, come-forth, and presence”, Simmons highlights the hopefulness of the text and reconsiders the nature of ‘knowing’ that McCarthy proffers. In an illuminating reading of the novel, Simmons highlights the phenomenal world explored by McCarthy, and in his productive use of Heideggerian concepts, such as the unspoken and the Nothing, he focuses our attention on aspects of ‘seeing’ and ‘naming’ and opens up the text to the reader in new and imaginative ways.

The prize is granted on the following grounds:

  1. The language of the essay is lively, engaging and immerses the reader directly into the argument. Interest is maintained not only by the clarity of the argument, but also by the varied vocabulary and colourful metaphors.
  2. The paper is well-structured: the argument is convincing, well-paced and easy to follow. Each key point is illustrated with suitable citations, and connected to the thesis of the paper.
  3. The theoretical approach is clearly explicated and the essay demonstrates a broad knowledge base within phenomenology. The application of this approach to the literary text feels organic: the result is a deep and thorough insight into the novel.

Viktor Pepponen Jonsson

The 2015 SWESSE Highly Commended Award for a BA Thesis in the field of English Literature is granted to Viktor Pepponen Jonsson for an exceptionally engaging essay on William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All. Jonsson displays an impressive understanding of the context in which the poetry collection appears, as he relates the content and form of the poems to on-going debates within the New Critical literary debates of the day. The language of the essay is lively, engaging and immerses the reader directly into the argument. Interest is maintained not only by the clarity of the argument, but also by the varied vocabulary and colourful metaphors.

Judges Magnus Ullén, Irene Gilsenan Nordin, and Lydia Kokkola offer their congratulations to Charles and Viktor.

Theses submitted in the field of Linguistics

Anne Blauenfeldt

The 2015 SWESSE Award for BA Thesis of the Year in English Linguistics is granted to Anne Blauenfeldt for her investigation of the way rapists and paedophiles were represented in British tabloid newspapers from 2010-2013. Two corpora of roughly 70,000 words each were collected (one with articles on rapists and one on paedophiles) from the online newspaper database World Newsbank. Using a combination of corpus linguistics methods and a critical discourse analytic framework, Blauenfeldt demonstrates convincingly how the two discourses differ: paedophiles are represented as collectives of mentally disturbed and morally corrupt people, whereas rapists are represented as violent ‘animalistic’ attackers.

The prize is granted on the following grounds:

  1. The design of the study: an excellent combination of corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis, demonstrating very clearly both the similarities and the differences between the two discourses in British tabloid newspapers. Results are similar to those in previous studies, but this study makes use of a much larger corpus.
  2. Results and analysis: the two parts (‘keyness’ and ‘categories’) look at the data from two different perspectives, with similar results, which strengthens the analysis. The analyst demonstrates broad knowledge of linguistic methods, a keen eye for analyzing data, and a solid theoretical grounding.
  3. Language and structure: the presentation is easy to follow, with a good structure, clear arguments, and excellent language.

Olov Aronson

The 2015 SWESSE Highly Commended Award for a BA Thesis in the field of English Linguistics is granted to Olov Aronson for his detailed investigation of the frequency and function of first-person pronouns in academic publications within the social sciences. Overall frequencies, as well as frequencies for specific genre roles, are subjected to rigorous statistical testing. It concludes that authors published in highly ranked journals use first-person pronouns in a self-promoting way more frequently than authors in less highly ranked journals. The thesis has a clear aim, a solid methodology, and verifiable results, and it is well positioned in its field of research. The judges emphasize that the paper is exemplary in terms of structure and clarity of presentation.

Judges Jean Hudson, Solveig Granath, and Philip Shaw offer their congratulations to Olov and Anne.