Opening Address, 1981

CSSR Opening Address (1981)

Opening address of Judith Rice Henderson for our second session at the learned societies conference, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 23 May, 1981. (Excerpts from Canadian Rhetoric Newsletter, vol. 1, no. 1, 1981, edited by Josef Schmidt.)

Discours d’Ouverture (1981)

Discours d’ouverture de Judith Rice Henderson pour notre deuxième session au congrès CanFed, à l’Université de Dalhousie, Halifax, 23 mai 1981. (Excerps de Bulletin Canadien de Rhétorique, vol. 1, numéro 1, 1981, édité par Josef Schmidt.)

[…] All I have to offer you is narratio. I want to tell you the story of the Canadian Seminar of the History of Rhetoric.

When I attended the second international conference of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric at Amsterdam on June 26-29, 1979, I learned at the business meeting that by the end of 1978, the ISHR had nine Canadian members of a total of three hundred twenty-one. It occured to me that there must be more Canadian scholars than that who were interested in rhetorical studies and that a seminar at the Learned Societies Conference would both help to advertise the ISHR and give the Canadian members an opportunity to meet each other. On October 24, 1979, I wrote ISHR President James J. Murphy asking permission of the executive to organize such a seminar. Professor Murphy not only approved the suggestion but appointed me Canadian Treasurer so that the Canadian members of the Society would no longer have to pay their dues in U.S. currency to the American Treasurer. Meanwhile I had written Dr. Gilbert Dionne, director of the Learned Societies Conference at the Université du Québec à Montréal, to ask if the Conference would be willing to host an ISHR seminar.

With this committee’s approval and the date set for May 29, 1980, I sent out a “Call for Papers”. My colleague, Raymond Stephanson, helped to plan a morning seminar consisting of five papers. Robert Browne of the Université de Montréal arranged a luncheon business meeting. The Dean of the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan provided two hundred and fifty dollars for administrative expenses and an honorarium for a guest speaker, and Professor Murphy agreed on short notice to give the keynote address, “Peter Ramus’ Attack on Quintilian: Distinctiones in Quintilianum (1549)”. The other papers were: “Aequivocatio and Multivocatio: Rhetoric and Allegory” by Hijo Jan Westra (Calgary), “The Rhetorical Theory and Practice of Eustache Deschamps” by Laura Kendrick (Dalhousie), “Quelques aspects rhétorique de l’anecdote au XVIIe siècle” by Bernard Beugnot (Montréal), and “Peter Handke’s Publikumsbeschimpfung (Affront to the AUdience and the Rhetorics of Late Medieval Shrovetide Play” by Josef Schmidt (McGill). Alexander Gordon moderated the second half of the program in French, while I moderated the first half in English. Eventually the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided a 1400-dollar grant to pay the travel expenses of the participants. Thirteen scholars attended that first Canadian Seminar on the History of Rhetoric.

I had originally hoped that the Canadian members of the ISHR might meet biennially, in the years between the international conferences. When I made that suggestion at the business meeting, several members foresaw difficulties in keeping a small society alive, but when I commented that regular biennial meetings might be too ambitious, suddenly that group of rhetoricians gathered around a luncheon table in the Holiday Inn – Place Dupuis began to call enthusiastically for annual meetings. So here we are in Halifax, looking forward to what promises to be an excellent program planned by Raymond Stephanson with the assistance of Josef Schmidt. Certainly they deserve thanks for taking over the organization of the Seminar. Hans Runte (Dalhousie) also has earned our gratitude for serving as local representative.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of its members, the Canadian Seminar has been more successful than I could have hoped. Membership has climbed to thirty-six, four times the original number. In the December issue of Rhetoric Newsletter, almost a fifth (18.73%) of the new members of the ISHR listed were Canadian. The Constitution of the ISHR says, “The purpose of the Society is to promote the study of both the theory and practice of rhetoric in all periods and languages and its relationship with poetics, philosophy, politics, religion, law, and other aspects of the cultural context.” Our members include specialists in the languages and literatures of English, French, German, Greek, Latin, and – more unusual in Canada – Arabic: Issa Joseph Boullata of the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. Philosophy is represented by John Andrew Scott of Memorial University, speech communication by Mary Agnes Lynch of the College of Cape Breton. The “other aspects of the cultural context” in which our members specialize may surprise you. Last June I received a letter from Vito Signorile of the University of Windsor which began, “Dear Professor Henderson: Would you believe, Rhetoric and SOCIOLOGY? By way of Kenneth Burke? Please, accept my application for membership in your fledgling society.” Several months ago I received an application from Gregory Gordon Butler of the Department of Music at the University of British Columbia. At the biennial international conference in Madison, Wisconsin, this April, I discovered that there was more than one Canadian interested in rhetoric and music. Professor Butler chaired a seminar in which Maria Rika Maniates of the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto gave a paper entitled “Ut rhetorica musica sit?” She has now joined the CSHR too. Incidentally, Professor Alexander Gordon was a member of the program committee for the international conference, so Canada was indeed well represented there. The Canadian Seminar has become so widely known through advertisements in PMLA and other journals that I have even received applications for membership in the ISHR from scholars in South America (Argentina) and Africa (Burundi). Only one library, the University of Saskatchewan, is among our Canadian members. I hope members will begin encouraging their libraries to subscribe to ISHR publications through an institutional membership. This should become a more attractive proposal when Rhetoric Newsletter is replaced by a scholarly journal, Rhetorica.

Our prospects for the future are equally good. Plans for meetings at Ottawa in 1982 and Vancouver in 1983 are underway. Josef Schmidt has agreed to serve as program chairman for the coming year, providing continuity in the organization of the Seminar as Raymond Stephanson did this year by continuing the work of the program committee. Although this ad hoc administrative structure has been working well, the CHSR will have to establish a constitution in 1982 if we wish to qualify for membership in the Canadian Federation for the Humanities. We shall also have to clarify our relationship to the ISHR and the Learned Societies, and perhaps separating ourselves financially from the international society and holding some joint meeting with other Canadian organisations such as the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies. We need the advice of the members on these and other questions at the business meeting. Some of our attempts to establish instant ‘traditions’ have proved abortive. Last year I initiated a “tradition” of inviting a guest speaker from outside Canada to open the Seminar. This year the committee decided not to continue this “tradition” but to start a new one of inviting the past program chairman to give an “Opening Address”. Thus you have the privilege of listening to me for fifteen minutes instead of to a world-famous scholar. The structure of future Seminars should be discussed by membership as a whole.

This concludes my narratio.


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