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Call for Essay Proposals ... Reframing Nineteenth-Century American Rhetorics

Call for Essay Proposals

Reframing Nineteenth-Century American Rhetorics

Edited by Patricia Bizzell and Lisa Zimmerelli


The long nineteenth century in the United States, from the Revolutionary War to the Progressive era, is a rich period for the study of rhetoric because activism was a central part of public discourse, as it is today. Indeed, perhaps partly because of the parallel and congruent lines of inquiry between that age and ours, scholarship on rhetoric in the nineteenth century has burgeoned over the last several decades. Initially, scholarly work focused on recovering materials for study and rescuing activist work from misleading stereotypes: Harriet Beecher Stowe was not merely a “crusader in crinoline,” Sojourner Truth never actually said, “Ain’t I a woman?,” and Frances Willard never swung an ax at a beer keg. 

Since the late 1990s, scholars have offered increasingly nuanced analyses of activist rhetorics in the dynamic cultural and political milieu of the long nineteenth century. For example, Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric (eds. Kathleen J. Ryan, Kathy Myers, and Rebecca Jones [2016]) includes a chapter on Frances Willard and another comparing ethical appeals made by nineteenth-century women activists with those made by twenty-first-century activists on the Internet. The opening chapter in Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition (ed. Alexis E. Ramsay et al. [2010]) situates the recovery work of composing practices in the nineteenth century to add new dimensions to purely historical accounts. Martin Camper’s Arguing over Texts: The Rhetoric of Interpretation (2017) reclaims interpretative stases to enable a more thorough exploration of arguments surrounding Lincoln’s sexuality, and Hsuan Hsu’s Geography and the Production of Space in Nineteenth-Century Literature (2010) shows how writers negotiated domestic and local place in the context of an increasingly global economic and political network. Using new theoretical models applied to rhetorics of the era, these works have challenged and reconceptualized previous assumptions and analyses. Recent scholarship has also moved beyond explicitly political venues and genres, beyond elite white, Eastern seaboard venues, and beyond textual analysis to consider the material and visual rhetorics of the era. 

In short, a conversation has begun. Today, scholars reframe some foundational assumptions of the earlier groundbreakers and extend rhetorical analysis into new venues and new media. Moreover, echoes of various nineteenth-century movements—abolitionism, temperance, labor rights, divorce law—reverberate in contemporary American debates, including Black Lives Matter, drug legalization, the minimum wage, public health care, and marriage equality. But no single collection has yet brought together new work in these newly ramified fields of exploration. Reframing Nineteenth-Century American Rhetorics seeks to showcase this new work. We invite submissions that reconsider the well-known human rights movements of the era and their leading activists—battles over abolition and African American rights, women’s rights, temperance, labor rights, immigration, and religious tolerance—as well as submissions that address the venues and genres in which these battles were fought and how these movements and activists were memorialized. 

Traditionally multidisciplinary, rhetorical analysis employs insights from literary criticism, history, political science, and other fields to achieve a textured understanding of the relations between historical contexts and activist texts in a variety of media. Reframing Nineteenth-Century American Rhetorics therefore invites submissions from scholars in rhetoric and composition studies as well as from other disciplines to reflect this variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. A rhetorical focus informed by other disciplinary insights reframes earlier considerations of this dynamic,and still relevant,era in American history. 

Questions regarding potential submissions are welcome, or you may submit an abstract of 200 to 400 words. Please send all queries and submissions by 1 March 2018 to both editors at and

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