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1 Introduction Michelle Ballif Althoughthereclamationoftheancient rhetoricaltraditionwasofinterest to scholars of rhetoric, composition, and communication during much of the latter half of the twentieth century, this interest transformed into a central preoccupation during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, producing a plethora of publications on the history of rhetoric. More specifically, the scholarship of this time generated an intense and engaged conversation amongst scholars in which they dialogued and theorized about the historiography of such reclamation work. That is, they asked: What does it mean to write histories of rhetoric? What methods are to be used? For what purposes are such histories to be composed? And what are the ideological motivations for writing such histories? More publications ensued, all working to theorize—or metatheorize— not only what it might mean to write histories of rhetoric, but what it might mean to rewrite histories of rhetoric by regendering them or by revising them. During the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, such conversations were prominent and ubiquitous—in the journals and at our conventions. In the field of communication, for example, in a number of publications, John Poulakos and Ed Schiappa argued back and forth over what a history of rhetoric could be, when the very term “sophistic rhetoric” was contested; likewise, Barbara Biesecker and Karlyn Kohrs Campbell battled over what a history of rhetoric might be when woman, as a (rhetorical) subject, was interrogated . And in rhetoric and composition, in the spring of 1988, a number of scholars—eight to be exact—joined a panel discussion entitled “The Politics of Historiography,” which was attended by hundreds of participants of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. The presentation —with further reflection—was published in Rhetoric Review, as the infamous “Octalog,” a discussion that is ranked as Rhetoric Review’s most highly requested reprint. Indeed, so vociferous (and often heatedly so) was Michelle Ballif 2 this particular scholarly conversation that during this period, as Arthur E. Walzer and David Beard note, publications “engaging historiographical debates outnumbered articles in traditional history in rhetoric-centered journals” (17). In the fall of 1989, hailing an audience from both communication studies and rhetoric and composition, Victor J. Vitanza hosted a richly productive conference that centered on theoretical and methodological issues attendant to the practice of writing histories of rhetoric, resulting in the publication in 1994 of Writing Histories of Rhetoric, a collection of essays composed by a select number of conference attendees. This present collection is an attempt to rewrite, retheorize that volume, specifically by querying: Where did all the theory go? That is, what happened to the impassioned fervor generated in the 1980s and 1990s regarding the theorization of theories of writing histories of rhetoric? The fervor/fever is documentable: one need only review the number of publications on the topic and review Sharon Crowley’s “history” of the period (“Let Me Get This Straight”) in the aforementioned Vitanza collection to understand that to write histories of rhetoric demanded a theoretical investigation into the metatheory of historiography. After this fertile period of theorization, the writing of histories—of rhetoric , of composition, of communication—exploded: archives were stormed, archaeological sites probed, originary figures investigated in ethnographic detail. And volumes and volumes and volumes of histories were subsequently and continue to be produced. Open the pages of the recently published The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric, edited by Lynée Lewis Gaillet with Winifred Bryan Horner, and be prepared to be awed by the number and quality of histories of rhetorics that have been generated since the original 1990 edition of that work. Yet the impassioned discussion and the metatheorization that engendered these past two decades of historiographical productivity have largely fallen silent, as historians have gone about their business of doing history, writing history without articulating a fervored sense of exigency about theorizing the doing of history, the writing of history. To be sure, these published histories of rhetoric, these disciplinary histories of composition and communication, these histories of rhetorical and pedagogical practices, have greatly enriched our discipline, and I share the hope with others in our field that this rich historiographical production continues. Yet perhaps I am suggesting it is (un)time to focus, once again, specifically on the theory of historiography: to ask difficult questions about the purposes and methodologies of writing histories of rhetorics, broadly defined. This collection, then, aims to provoke Introduction 3 us to question what it means, what it should mean, what it could mean to...


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