A.43: Historical Publics, Rhetorical Figures

Reviewed by: Christine Photinos, National University, San Diego, CA (cphotinos@nu.edu)

Speakers: Erika Strandjord, Concordia College, "Paradox as a Rhetorical Strategy and Ethical Approach to Living in the World"
Louise Zamparutti, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, "Mary Baker Eddy: Platonic Rhetoric, Counterpublicity, and Religious Identity Construction"

The speakers allowed a few extra minutes for attendees to make their way to the meeting room, as many people were delayed by congestion in the registration area following the Thursday morning plenary. The session then began with Louise Zamparutti’s presentation, "Mary Baker Eddy: Platonic Rhetoric, Counterpublicity, and Religious Identity Construction."

Zamparutti set up the central concerns of her talk and provided a brief overview of Mary Baker Eddy’s life and work. Eddy founded the Christian Science church in the latter half of the nineteenth century. This was a time when middle- and upper-class women were largely relegated to the private sphere, yet she succeeded in launching a major religious movement. 

How did she do this? What accounts for the success and endurance of the religion that she founded? Zamparutti, in addressing these questions, focused on the counterpublic that Eddy assembled across boundaries of socioeconomic class, gender, and geography. In analyzing the means by which Eddy convened this counterpublic, Zamparutti focused especially on how Eddy merged divergent systems of thought, most notably in the very name of the religion she founded: Christian Science.

The second speaker was Erika Strandjord. In her talk, titled "Paradox as a Rhetorical Strategy and Ethical Approach to Living in the World," Strandjord illustrated her developing ideas on paradox using Martin Luther's (1903) 1520 treatise On the Freedom of a Christian. She provided a survey of rhetorical theory on paradox and explained that her own interest in paradox derives from its capacity to hold up contraries in a way that invites further exploration. She used a recent, widely-disseminated social media artifact to distinguish between invitational, exploratory uses of paradox and paradox that offers undemanding relativism and promotes complacency rather than further inquiry.

A particular highlight of this panel was the concluding Q&A session, in which both presenters spoke about connections between their research projects and their pedagogy.


Luther, M. (1903). Christian liberty. Philadelphia, PA: Lutheran Publication Society.

Created by cheryl. Last Modification: Monday 15 of January, 2018 22:43:28 UTC by cheryl.