A History of the Rhetoric Society of Europe

The origins of the Rhetoric Society of Europe dates back to the first Rhetoric in Society conference in Aalborg University (Denmark) in 2006.

The conference aimed at exploring the relations between rhetoric, argumentation and discourse and the approaches of these disciplines for the analysis of different kinds of empirical material, from public relations texts and advertisements to political discourse, mediated discourse and scientific texts.

Rhetoric in Society was organized within the areas of Rhetoric in Political Discourse, Rhetoric in Organizational Discourse, and Rhetoric in Journalistic Discourse. The choice of keynote speakers expressed the wish to examine the interplay and relation of rhetoric and disciplines such as discourse analysis, text linguistics, cognition and communication and information theory. The programme presented Max Atkinson (Atkinson Communication), Maurice Charland (Concordia University) and John Wilson (University of Ulster). When Atkinson was forced to cancel his engagement in the conference, Anne Marie Bülow-Møller (Copenhagen Business School) kindly stepped in.

In Aalborg more than 40 paper presentations were performed. Three years later, in Leiden, the number of presentations had jumped to more than 90. The conference aimed at presenting and discussing different approaches to rhetoric and sought contributions within a wide range of subjects, from modern applications of classical approaches, rhetorical criticism, argumentations studies, and communications studies to journalism studies and new media studies.

The four core themes of the conference were rhetoric in Journalism and New Media, in Political Discourse, in Organizational Discourse, and in Legal Discourse. The keynote speakers were Ineke Sluiter (University of Leiden), Joel Best (University of Delaware) and Daniel J. O’Keefe (Northwestern University).

At this second conference a meeting was held to discuss the possibilities of creating a European society for the study of rhetoric. An acting planning committee was elected. Jens E. Kjeldsen (University of Bergen) was elected chair, Michael Burke (Middelburg) was elected secretary, and Michael Hoppmann (Northeastern University) was elected as the third member.

The first plans for the Rhetoric Society of Europe were presented at the third conference in Antwerp, January 2011. Here as well it was an aim to present and discuss different approaches to rhetoric, and the contributions favoured interdisciplinary research The core themes were the same as in Leiden, but also included education, visual communication, organizational discourse, as well as theoretical, historical and (inter)cultural perspectives on rhetoric. The keynote speakers were Christopher Tindale (Windsor University) Gunther Kress (University of London) and Jef Verschueren (University of Antwerp).

The number of presentations had now gone further up to 159, and the conference included a plenary talk by Michel Meyer and a plenary discussion on the role of Rhetoricians in Society. At this plenary the plans for the Rhetoric Society of Europe were presented. Marie Lund Klujeff (Aarhus University) was now a member of the acting committee, and Aarhus University had become involved in the planning of a website for the organization, allowing Esben Bjerggard Nielsen (Aarhus University) to function as developer and webmaster.

During the year of 2011 the work on establishing the society intensified and Hilde van Belle (Lessius University, Antwerp) and Maria Załęska (University of Warsaw) were included in the acting committee. The committee collected information about European rhetoricians and their research interests, and performed surveys of relevant study programmes, journals, conferences and societies in order to create lists and overviews of relevant information. A draft for a constitution was written and exploratory work on the development of a European Journal was carried out.

Towards the end of 2011 the acting committee took the role of Executive Board for the society and Lise-Lotte Holmgren (Aalborg University) and Ivanka Mavrodieva (Sofia University) were included as members. In November 2011 the executive committee elected Lise-Lotte Holmgren as treasurer and Michael Burke as secretary, Marie Lund Klujeff was elected vice president and Jens E. Kjeldsen president of RSE. December 15, 2011, the website for Rhetoric Society of Europe was launched.

In January 2013 the fourth Rhetoric in Society conference took place at University of Copenhagen. The conference theme was “Contemporary Rhetorical Citizenship: Purposes, Practices, and Perspectives”. This conference also hosted the first general assembly for the Rhetoric Society of Europe, formally establishing the society.

Since then the society has worked to advance the field of rhetoric in European academia. In August 2018 the Rhetoric Society of Europe was recognized as a non-profit organization according to Belgian law: Rhetoric Society of Europe VZW (0701.633.959).

Rhetoric in Society Conferences:

Aalborg 2006, November 21-24
Organized by Centre for Discourse Studies, Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies.
Organizing committee: Lotte Dam, Lise-Lotte Holmgreen, Jeanne Strunck

Leiden 2009, January 21-23
Organized by the Speech Communication Department and the Department for Journalism and New Media of the Humanities Faculty of Leiden University.
Organizing committee: Ton van Haaften, Henrike Jansen, Jaap de Jong, Willem Koetsenruijter

Antwerp 2011, January 26-28
Organized by Lessius University College, Antwerp
Organizing committee: Hilde Van Belle (chair), Paul Gillaerts, Baldwin Van Gorp, Dorien Van de Mieroop, Michael Opgenhaffen, Bart Philipsen, Ronald Soetaert, Kris Rutten

Copenhagen 2013, January 15-18
Organized by Section of Rhetoric at the University of Copenhagen
Organizing committee: Mette Bengtsson, Mark Herron, Christian Kock, Rasmus Rønlev, Lisa S. Villadsen.

Warsaw 2015, June 24-26
Organized by The Polish Rhetorical Society and Warsaw University
Organizer: Maria Załęska

Norwich 2017, July 3-5
Organized by the University of East Anglia
Organizer: Alan Finlayson

Ghent 2019, September 11-13
Organized by the Rhetoric Society of Europe in collaboration with the Department of Educational Studies at Ghent University
Organizer: Kris Rutten