This symposium will be hosted at the University of Notre Dame – McKenna Conference Center, March 15-16, 2019.

With questions of persuasion currently at center-stage in public discourse, this symposium addresses persuasion as it was theorized and practiced in 18th- and 19th-century European literature and culture—precisely the context in which codified rhetorical systems are widely understood to have declined.

The symposium’s gambit is that the “death” of rhetoric did not spell the death of persuasion. Rather, a range of practices and theoretical reflections on persuasion outlived and even counteracted the weakening of rhetoric’s discursive grip. Poetry, philosophy, pedagogy, and politics, for instance, drew (and continue to draw) on models of persuasion that are self-aware and yet deliberately avoid or even resist established systems. Eighteenth-century novelist Lawrence Sterne gestures toward this tendency when, in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandythe narrator remarks wryly of his father that, though the man had never read a major work on rhetoric, “he was born an orator; … Persuasion hung upon his lips.” Persuasion after Rhetoric will explore the flourishing of such persuasive talents alongside highly innovative theories and techniques.

Keynote speaker:
Frances Ferguson (English, University of Chicago)
Philology Turned to Persuasion: The Rise of ConstitutionsSpeakers:

Maeve Adams (English, Manhattan College)
Contestatory Publics: Persuasion as Resistance

Ian Balfour (English, York University)
Extreme Austen, or Hyperbole

Mark Canuel (English, University of Illinois at Chicago)
Hazlitt, Progress, and the Arts

Sean Franzel (German and Russian, University of Missouri)
Persuasion after the Revolution

Brian McGrath (English, Clemson University)
The Tone Police

Jan Mieszkowski (German and Comparative Literature, Reed College)
Plants and Politics

Emma Planinc (Program of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame)
To ‘Persuade without Convincing’: Rousseau as the Legislator of Nature

Adam Potkay (English, William & Mary)
Rhetoric and Philosophy: Tropes, Dialogue, Self-Division

Yasmin Solomonescu (English, University of Notre Dame)
Reasoning is not Believing

Daniel Stout (English, University of Mississippi)
Assemblage, Persuasion, Conviction

Stefan Uhlig (Comparative Literature, University of California, Davis)
Smith’s and Blair’s Indiscipline

Ross Wilson (English, University of Cambridge)
Every Thing is Faultless: Hazlitt on Judgement and Understanding

Sarah Zimmerman (English, Fordham University)
The Lecturer’s Argument


Please direct queries to Yasmin Solomonescu at or  574-631-4144.