About Us

People have been talking about rhetoric since Ancient Greece. Aristotle called rhetoric “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Over the years, there has been much debate about what exactly that might mean. Today, we often think of political speeches, and rhetoric has come to mean meaningless, deceptive, or flowery speech in popular usage.

But that’s far from the whole story. The study of rhetoric is, broadly, the study of how we talk about things. We believe that language shapes the ways we think about things and how we behave. That’s why it’s so important to think critically about the words and symbols we use to communicate our ideas and beliefs.

Our goal is to question, to explain, to understand, and sometimes to call for a change in public discourse. To do so, we won’t just be looking at speeches per se. Rhetoric includes all kinds of communication — spoken, written, visual, performed, embodied. Because we believe rhetoric is central to social engagement, you’ll often find us writing about current events, political controversies, and popular culture.

Rhetorically Speaking is a project of graduate students and faculty in the Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture program in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

We’re striving to make this a space for jargon-free conversation. We believe that rhetoric affects us all, so we hope to extend this conversation beyond the confines of the university. From professional scholars to armchair philosophers to engaged citizens, all are welcome in this venture.

Want to get in touch with us? Contact us at rhetoricallyspeaking@commarts.wisc.edu.