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Announcing the Detailed Theme for 2025 ISHR Conference in Copenhagen

Greetings, ISHR members,

As you may have noticed, ISHR soon will return its biennial conference to odd years: the meeting after Vancouver will be in 2025 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This tight turnaround requires careful sequencing on the part of the organizers, especially current Vice President of ISHR, Dr. Hanne Roer. As evidence of her forward thinking, we share with you the detailed conference theme for the 2025 Copenhagen conference. Please note that the submission portal will not open until August 2024 and that the submission period will be considerably shorter than usual.

Appreciative of your attention,

Michele Kennerly, ISHR Secretary General

The Twenty-Fifth Biennial Conference of the
International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR) 
University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark
July 22-25, 2025 

The idea of humanity in the history of rhetoric.

Rhetorical historiography centered on the Greco-Roman tradition is in many ways a product of the 19th century, implicating a universalist notion of the human being – in traditional and rather conservative terms, “the idea of Man.” The modern ideas of the human being going back to the renaissance and, in particular, the age of enlightenment has been fundamental to the idea of the humanities. In Greek and Roman rhetoric the speaking subject is a man, virile being the highest praise that can be bestowed on an orator. Isocrates’ paideia, as well as Cicero’s and Quintilian’s notions of the perfect orator are idealistic, presupposing an idea of a free (male) subject. The Greek-Roman powerful rhetor is in charge of his destiny, whereas the Christian orator is constantly faced with mortality, implicating a dualistic notion of man.

A monolithic notion of the afterlife (Nachleben) of rhetoric conceived as the reception of Greco-Roman rhetoric not only ignores different rhetorical traditions on a global level, it also obscures differences in the various local traditions in Western countries, not to speak of the rest of the world. Attempts have been made to break up this monolithic version of the history of rhetoric, such as George Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetoric (1997), followed by new research into, e.g., Chinese and Indian rhetoric. Scholars have also been critical of traditional historiography, because it focuses on continuity rather than transformations and conflicts. 

Feminists have succeeded in partly rewriting history, adding hitherto unknown/neglected genres and works to this tradition. Scholars studying the rhetorical cultures of different groups in society have also challenged fundamental ideas in rhetorical historiography. While classical terminology has been widely used in schools and universities in Europe and the US, various countries and regions have turned this into very different practices. Even in the Nordic countries, the history of rhetoric is not one story, but several different narratives that are important for understanding national identity.

Suggestions for topics: 

  • Notions of the human in rhetorical texts (e.g., Greek and Roman texts differ from renaissance and enlightenment notions; the rhetoric of person and intention in medicine and law)
  • Notions of humanity in Christian rhetoric (e.g., Augustine’s pessimistic views on man)
  • The traditions of Christian rhetoric versus that of Greco-Roman rhetoric: overlaps or conflict?
  • Similarities and differences between ideas of the human in Protestant and Catholic rhetoric
  • The conflict between universalist 18th-century “notions of Man” and the ancient rhetorical tradition
  • Rhetorical anthropology in modern theory
  • Interplay between rhetorical and philosophic notions of the human being/humanity
  • The “universality” of the Greco-Roman terminology
  • Modern reception studies: what are the central notions and presuppositions?
  • Has the “Geisteswissenschaft” of the 19th century survived in rhetorical historiography (the ghost of the Geist)?
  • Rhetorical traditions different from the Greco-Roman tradition (e.g., Africa, China, India, Arabic texts)
  • Western rhetoric versus local realities (e.g., missionary rhetoric)
  • Historical interplays between vernacular and institutional rhetoric (e.g., the history of education and writing studies)
  • Rewritings/transformations of the rhetorical canon (e.g., feminist, postcolonial revisions)
  • Does the “history of rhetoric” have to mean the “history of rhetorical theory” – or should we pay more attention to rhetorical practice?
  • How does new technology change the study of rhetorical historiography (e.g., digital archives, online resources and conferences)?
  • Similarities and differences in neighboring countries/regions (such as the differences between the Nordic countries, despite having “imported” Greek-Roman rhetoric at the same time.

The Copenhagen meeting is being planned for in-person exchanges, both in conference sessions and in informal get-togethers. Facilitation of remote participation is not anticipated. 

Please direct your questions to Hanne Roer ( 

Deadline for Proposals

The deadline for the submission of proposals is 15 September 2024.

The submission portal will open August 2024.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent out in January 2025. For participants who require an earlier acceptance date in order to secure funding, we will try to accommodate their requests if they are made with appropriate documentation.

Hanne Roer, Vice President of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric

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