Oratory and Political Career in the Late Roman Republic.
Henriette van der Blom

Oratory and the Political Career in the Late Roman RepublicOratory and Political Career in the Late Roman Republic is a pioneering investigation into political life in the late Roman Republic. It explores the nature and extent to which Roman politicians embraced oratorical performances as part of their political career and how such performances influenced the careers of individual orators such as Gaius Gracchus, Pompeius Magnus, and Julius Caesar. Through six case studies, this book presents a complex and multifaceted picture of how Roman politicians employed oratory to articulate their personal and political agendas, to present themselves to a public obsessed with individual achievement, and ultimately to promote their individual careers. By dealing specifically with orators other than Cicero, this study offers much-needed alternatives to our understanding of public oratory in Rome. Moreover, the assessment of the impact of public speeches on the development of political careers provides new perspectives on the hotly-debated nature of republican political culture.

Henriette van der Blom is an ancient historian and Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Birmingham. An expert in the field of Roman Republican history, politics and oratory, her research focuses on political life, the ways in which Roman politicians presented themselves to the public, and the complex role of oratory in politics. Past publications include Cicero’s Role Models. The Political Strategy of a Newcomer (Oxford University Press, 2010), and Community and Communication. Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome (ed. with Prof. Catherine Steel; Oxford University Press, 2013) as well as a string of articles on Cicero and other politicians of his age, new men in Roman politics, the use of historical exempla and invective speech, and the connections between oratory and career making at Rome. She is involved with a project to collect, translate and comment on the surviving fragments of all non-Ciceronian oratory from the Republican period, the Fragments of the Roman Republican Orators (to be published by Oxford University Press). Henriette van der Blom is also Director of the Network for Oratory and Politics.

Business Rhetoric in German Novels: From Buddenbrooks to the Global Corporation
Ernest Schonfield

business rhetoric in german novels book coverArgues on the evidence of nine major German novels that literature and business have in common a reliance on language, understood in a creative, performative, and rhetorical sense. Throughout the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first, Germany has maintained its position as one of the world's largest economies. In the literature of this period, business is often depicted as a performance that requires great linguistic skill. This book is a study of the representation of business practices in nine German-language novels - published during the period from 1901 to 2013 - that explore how language is used rhetorically in pursuit of economic and political agendas. Taken up as case studies, in chronological order, the novels are by Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Gabriele Tergit, Bertolt Brecht, Ingeborg Bachmann, Hermann Kant, Friedrich Christian Delius, Kathrin Röggla, and Philipp Schönthaler, all of whom articulate cultural imaginaries and political ideologies at key moments in recent German history. In doing so, they challenge readers to refine their own interpretive skills. By considering business rhetoric in the novels, Ernest Schonfield shows how the formulation of language remains inseparable from the exercise of economic and political power. The central message of this book is that literature and business have something essential in common: they both rely on the persuasive use of language.

The War of Words: the Language of British Elections, 1880-1914
Luke Blaxill

The War of Words by Luke Blaxhill book coverThe War of Words: the Language of British Elections, 1880-1914 is about election speeches during the ‘golden age’ of popular platform oratory in Britain. In these years, politicians responded to growing democratisation by making hundreds of platform stump speeches, uttering an estimated billion words nationwide in the course of a single campaign. The War of Words employs a "big data" methodology inspired by computational linguistics, using text-mining to analyse over five million words delivered by Conservative, Liberal and Labour candidates in the nine elections that took place in this period. It systematically and authoritatively quantifies how and how far key issues, values, traditions and personalities manifested themselves in wider party discourse. The author reassesses a number of central historical debates, arguing that historians have considerably underestimated the transformative impact of the 1883-5 reforms on rural party language, and the purchase of Joseph Chamberlain's Unauthorized Programme; that the centrality of Home Rule and Imperialism in the late 1880s and 1890s have been exaggerated; and that the New Liberalism's linguistic impact was relatively weak, failing to contain the message of the emerging Labour alternative.

The War of Words will interest scholars beyond the field of political history because of its methodological claims. In particular, it gives practical substance to recent calls (from The History Manifesto and from across the Digital Humanities) for historians to harness the power of “big data” computational methods to enable powerful revisionist historical analysis.

Luke Blaxill is an historian of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century British Politics at the University of Oxford who has published widely on political language, elections, parliamentary speeches, British political parties, ideology, and psephology. He is also very interested in the Digital Humanities, especially its potential to alter paradigms of historical analysis. He also regularly appears on TV and radio as a political commentator and historical expert. He is also author of the bestselling Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding. 

Old Delivery and Modern Demagogy. How Ancient Oratorical Style and Delivery can Help us to Understand Modern Populist Speakers
Andrea Balbo

My paper aims to find potential elements of comparison between ancient oratoria popularis and modern populist oratory. I will consider case studies drawn from Gracchan speech style and from the oratory of Donald Trump.

Andrea Balbo is Associate Professor of Latin in University of Turin (Italy) and teaches also Latin in University of Italian Switzerland (Lugano-CH)

The Rhetorical Culture of the House of Commons after 1918
Richard Toye

The article analyses the rhetorical culture of the House of Commons in the era following the extension of the franchise in 1918, a period in which parliament saw a major influx of new Labour MPs, and also the entry for the first time of small number of women. The article discusses not only the norms and expectations surrounding parliamentary speech but also the ways in which some speaking styles and techniques became controversial. In particular, the Labour Party was accused by its opponents of practising ‘rowdyism’. This allegation was part of a wider effort to undermine the party's constitutional credentials and to present it as unfit to govern. Thus, arguments about styles of arguing went the heart of broader debates over political legitimacy. To a considerable degree, Labour MPs were co‐opted over time into existing codes of behaviour. But although Conservative efforts to associate their own oratorical style with political virtue did have some success, partisan factors alone are not sufficient to explain the shifts in rhetorical culture, which changed, in part, for reasons external to the institution itself. As power moved from the legislature to the executive, and as politics became increasingly professionalized, the speaking culture of the House of Commons was affected by a longstanding evolution from a discursive to a programmatic view of statecraft. Styles and techniques of parliamentary argument were thus influenced both by the changing nature of the state and by the shifting bargain between voters and the political classes in the era of universal suffrage.

Why bad books matter: past and future directions for understanding reactionary ideology
Richard Shorten

A useful tool for learning more about the ways in which the hard Right communicates and integrates is the reactionary diatribe. This is significant in a political context where the hard Right not only is experiencing success, but the default categories of interpretation and criticism can lack bite. A fresh direction for research would link present politics back to historical practice but channel contemporary methods for rhetorical study, picking out reactionary writings as a stable object for inquiry. Therefore, this article (1) revives the category of reaction by re-picturing  it as a ‘second-order’ ideology encompassing all those right-wingers professing to stand on the ‘wrong side of History’; (2) draws lessons from some defects of ‘populism’ theories; (3) places a methodological proposal in relation to earlier theories of reaction, which are confounded most of all by reactionary contradictoriness – a feature that rhetorical analysis is far better able to accommodate, inasmuch as messy, chaotic, sometimes ugly communication is grist to its mill. Lastly, (4) the diatribe model itself is described (key properties being digression, repetition and point-dwelling), and then laid out as groundwork for further, in-depth inquiry.  In the meantime, an important truth surfaces: bad books matter.