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Summer School “the Rhetoric(S) Of Literary Studies”, 23-30 July 2017, Free University of Berlin, Germany

Publish Date: Mar 23, 2017

Deadline: Mar 26, 2017


23.–30.7.2017 | Freie Universität Berlin | Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies

Rhetoric, the power of the word, is a central concern of literary studies and of the humanities in general. What Quintilian termed the science of speaking well, constitutes a fundamental element common of all engagements with texts and linguistic objects, whether in terms of narrative or discursive structures, strategies of persuasion or representation, or cultural and historical perspectives on the use of terms and concepts. Rhetoric could be seen as justifying the existence of academic disciplines: literary studies and the humanities define themselves with reference to rhetoric, and the use of rhetorical patterns and strategies is also a natural condition of the texts and positions they produce. A focus on the linguistic form and composition of thought is a constitutive part of both literary theoretical work and that of its objects. This will be the subject of the summer school “The Rhetoric(s) of Literary Studies.”

On the first two days we would like to provide a basis for subsequent discussion via an introduction to the theory and history of rhetoric, dealing with the historical and systematic conditions of rhetoric as an area of knowledge. From here, we will investigate the (hidden) influence of rhetorical techniques and knowledge within literature, as well as other disciplines. What rhetorical means does literature employ? do the elements of rhetoric contribute to shaping artistic expression? How can we describe, in theoretical terms, the ways in which elements of rhetoric enter into poetics and aesthetics? The third day will be dedicated to the discussion of participants’ individual projects. We will provide the opportunity to discuss individual research interests on the basis of questions and concepts from the introduction. Small working groups will specify which issues of rhetoric are relevant for participants’ research projects and how their present questions can be linked to aspects of rhetoric. Moreover, there will be the opportunity to reflect critically on academic modes of writing and applied rhetoric.

In the following two-day section we will discuss in what way and with what theoretical benefit elements of rhetoric have been resurrected within twentieth-century literary theory. How do rhetorical concepts and elements return to the theory of text and literature in, for example, hermeneutic (Gadamer), semiotic (Jakobson, Barthes), structuralist, poststructuralist and deconstructive (Genette, de Man), psychoanalytic and Marxist (K. Burke) or narratological and reception-based (Booth) approaches? At the same time, we will deal with the rhetorical composition of these texts themselves. What strategies are used? Which prominent concepts, metaphors and images are developed, giving a condensed form to theoretical and methodological positions? Can we (from a historical perspective) talk of what Jürgen Link calls a “collective symbolic” with reference to particular discourses? What are the means through which we can identify the linguistic and argumentative composition of texts? On the Saturday, we mean to discuss the perspectives we have developed within the context of disciplinary politics. Here, we will ask how rhetoric can be situated within the curriculum of philology and literary studies. How should literary studies, as an academic discipline, deal with its rhetorical elements, and to what extent are they represented in research and teaching? In the afternoon we will review the work carried out during the school and go over our findings. Sunday is departure day.

The summer school is aimed at international doctoral students, postdocs and advanced master’s students in literary studies and the humanities for whose research interests questions of rhetoric are central. This workshop is hence not limited to students working in the fields of American or German studies, but also encourages students from related philological fields such as Slavic, Arabic or Japanese studies to apply. The selection of texts to be discussed will be in English and German and discussions will also be conducted in both English and German. As such, participants are expected to possess advanced reading and listening comprehension in both languages. In the second section, participants will be requested to present their own projects and questions for discussion in relation to rhetoric in small groups. Participants may present their project in English or German.

  • Dates: 23 – 30 July 2017
  • Location: Freie Universität Berlin, rooms L116 and JK 33/121
  • Organiser: Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies
  • Participating experts: Frauke Berndt (Zürich), Amy Devitt (Kansas), Karen Feldman (Berkeley), Olaf Kramer (Tübingen), Melanie Möller (Berlin), Dietmar Till (Tübingen), Anita Traninger (Berlin), et al.
  • Languages: English and German
  • Participants: max. 30
  • Costs: 150€ participation fee. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered by the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies.
  • Application deadline: 26 March 2017
  • Application in English/ German CV and cover letter including:
    • Statement on the relation of rhetoric to the applicant’s own research
    • Specification of the applicant’s own interests, as well as expectations of the summer school
  • Contact:

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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