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Rhetoric, Spatial Theory, and the Built Environment

Workshop Leaders:

Dave Tell, The University of Kansas
Greg Dickinson, Colorado State University

Rhetorics of space and place have become a recognized subfield in rhetorical studies. The development of this subfield has been premised on the increasingly urgent conviction that the material environment, its arrangement, and the affective attachments it produces function as powerful arguments within contemporary cultural politics. Broadly understood, this subfield has encompassed (among other areas) the study of maps, urban design, urbanism, gentrification, architecture, landscape, preservation, rural rhetorics, suburbia, localization, regionalism, globalization, networks, transportation, environmental rhetorics, and eco-criticism. Uniting these diverse topics is a systematic exploration of how rhetoric mediates the relationships among actual places (both their material arrangement and their affective charge) and cultural politics. We invite scholars who are working/teaching/writing/thinking in the vibrant subfields of spatial rhetorics to join us for the Workshop.

This workshop is an advanced introduction to the intersection of rhetoric and spatial theory. We welcome scholars of all stripes—beginner to veteran—who are invested (or even just interested) in the area. If you are a novice, we hope you will leave this Workshop with enough background and momentum to pursue your own project. If you are a long-time scholar in the area, we hope you will leave the workshop with new questions, a broadened perspective, and a renewed enthusiasm. To meet the needs of both audiences, the Workshop will approach the intersection of rhetoric and spatial theory in three ways.

  1. Theory. We will discuss leading theoretical essays, circulated in advance, and intended to foreground the stakes of scholarship in this subfield. Theoretical topics will focus on: space and rhetoric, space and materiality, space and modernity, space and affect, space and cultural politics.
  2. Criticism. Using extant scholarship, we will discuss specific places and specific environments. We will use these readings to expand our understanding how rhetorical scholars can engage space, materiality, affect, and gender.
  3. Practice. This will be a workshop in the strict sense of the term. We will devote collective time to the projects of each participant.

The workshop will meet in four sessions over three days. The leaders will moderate each session and ensure that each session includes all three approaches: theory, criticism, and practice.

Participants will be asked to do readings in advance of the workshop and circulate a short description of their own project.

Questions should be directed to Dave Tell, davetell@ku.edu


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