In Memoriam: C. Jan Swearingen, rhetoric scholar

C. Jan Swearingen, an international scholar of rhetoric and writing studies, one of our society’s members and our 2016 CSSR/SCÉR keynote speaker, passed away on Thursday, June 1, 2017.

Dr. Swearingen was a professor at Texas A&M University and served as a president of the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA). Many rhetoricians were also familiar with her through the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR).

Dr. Swearingen’s 2016 keynote address to CSSR delegates in Calgary was on the topic of  “Ren Wen Baguwen: Understanding Chinese Rhetorical Pedagogy in Contemporary Contexts.” Memories of her are still fresh to many 2016 conference delegates, especially colleagues who accompanied her on a day-trip to the Rockies, and those who shared with her a dinner at my home.

It seems appropriate at this time to re-circulate the brief biography that was included with her 2016 CSSR Keynote presentation abstract:

Dr. Swearingen is Professor of English Emerita at Texas A&M University, and has served on the faculty in rhetoric at the University of Michigan, the University of Arizona, and The University of Texas at Arlington.
Her first book, Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literacy and Western Lies, was awarded Honourable Mention by the W. Ross Winterowd Award for the 1991 best book in Rhetoric and Composition Theory by the Conference on College Composition and Communication.

She has held fellowships at the University of Cape Town Centre for Rhetoric Studies, the University of Edinburgh Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, and from the National Endowment for the Humanities for her study, “Rhetoric, Religion, and the Transformation of Liberty in Colonial Virginia 1740-1776.”

Her most recent work has focused on cross-cultural studies in rhetoric, particularly Chinese-Western rhetorics and rhetorical education past and present. Her forthcoming book, co-authored with Hui Wu, is a critical translation and commentary on Guiguzi, the “Master of Ghost Valley,” one of China’s earliest and little known teachers of rhetoric.

In 2009 Professor Swearingen was selected as a keynote speaker at the First International World Congress of Rhetoric in QuFu, China. She served as President of the Rhetoric Society of America in 1998-2000, and continues to promote the study of non-Western rhetorics in RSA and several other professional organizations.


I and CSSR members send our condolences to her family and close friends. Jan, we will remember you.

Tania S. Smith,
President, Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric (CSSR) / Société Canadienne pour l’Étude de la Rhétorique (SCÉR)

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