You are here


Transformations of classical rhetoric in the Renaissance

The Society for Early Modern Classical Reception (SEMCR) invites proposals for papers to be delivered at the 2022 meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in San Francisco, CA. For its seventh annual panel, SEMCR invites abstracts on transformations of classical rhetoric in the Renaissance.

Since the pioneering work of Brian Vickers, Lisa Jardine, and Peter Mack, among others, studies of classical rhetoric in the Renaissance have often focused on the reception of ancient “manuals” (e.g., Cicero, Quintilian, the Rhetorica ad Herennium) and the creation of new rhetorical handbooks and commonplacing techniques. Other scholars, including Quentin Skinner and Lorna Hutson, have explored the adoption of classical rhetoric on the Elizabethan stage and the affinities with more conventional sites of classical oratory such as law courts and political and philosophical treatises. During the early modern period, however, modalities of communication and the arts evolved and diversified in ways unknown to the ancients: while the deliberate circulation of speeches in manuscript beyond the immediate occasion of delivery, as in the case of Bruni’s Panegyric to Florence, may have been familiar enough to Cicero, he could not conceive of the transformation of a letter collection from manuscript to print and the consequent scaling up not only of the potential readership but also of the epistolographical market within which such collections now competed. Then there are the media in which Renaissance creators and audiences had no direct classical models to guide them as they experimented with rhetorical forms: new artistic genres, such as opera, invited a re-evaluation of the rhetorical principles that would best serve a hybrid medium and its emergent audiences. Against this background, Katrin Ettenhuber has called for a “consideration of the material dimensions of rhetorical theory and practice.”

We, therefore, invite proposals on any topic addressing this theme, including but not limited to the following: How did new Renaissance media and modalities of communication affect the reception of classical theories of rhetoric? Did the new contexts favour certain ancient models while moving away from others? To what extent did early moderns consider the role of ancient media in understanding classical rhetoric? Were there particular individuals, communities, or genres that were especially attuned to the relationship between new media and technologies and classical rhetoric? How might a reassessment of the Renaissance reception affect our understanding of the place of classical rhetoric today?

We are committed to creating a congenial and collaborative forum for the infusion of new ideas into classics, and hence welcome abstracts that are exploratory in nature as well as abstracts of latter-stage research. Above all, we aim to show how the field of early modern classical reception can bear on a wide range of literary and cultural study, and to dispel the notion of an intimidating barrier to entry.

Abstracts of no more than 400 words, suitable for a 15-20 minute presentation, should be sent as an email attachment to All persons who submit abstracts must be SCS members in good standing.  The abstracts will be judged anonymously: please do not identify yourself in any way on the abstract page. Proposals must be received by Monday, March 15, 2021.

© 2020, Society for Classical Studies Privacy Policy