Lecture Series Features Discussion of Rhetoric, War

March 1, 2018 at 4:11 pm

The March installment of the University of South Carolina Upstate’s Communication Studies Lecture Series will feature a lecture on “The Force of the Greater Missile: Rhetorical Projectiles and the Mother of All Bombs” from 3:30-5 p.m. March 8 in Room 117 of the College of Arts and Sciences Building at 385 Hodge Drive on the Spartanburg campus.

The lecture will be presented by Dr. Jessy Ohl, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Alabama. Ohl’s research focuses on the relationship between rhetorical theory, political communication and democracy. Most recently, his research has taken up the question of 21 century war and its implications for democratic deliberation.

Dr. Emily Kofoed, assistant professor of communication studies at USC Upstate, said Ohl’s visit marks the first time a visiting rhetorician will present to the students.

“I wanted to bring a rhetorician to campus who I think is an engaging speaker and is doing interesting work, and Jessy is that person,” Kofoed said. “For him, the term ‘rhetorical projectile’ — he’s using that as a play on words, both as rhetoric — speech as a weapon — and also the way weapons themselves have rhetorical force.

“It’s trying to understand the double meaning of rhetoric itself: so, using speech, argumentation, persuasion in a way that can harm people or defend people,” she continued, “but also, the way weapons themselves get used to persuade.”

As an example, Kofoed cited the rising use of drones by the U.S. military, and said much of Ohl’s work includes “drone imagery – drone strikes; drone footage, pictures of drones, and how the drones themselves become a piece of the U.S.’s rhetoric in global geopolitics.”

The lecture is free and open to the public, according to Kofoed.

“If anyone is interested in persuasion, and if anyone is interested in war, geopolitics, political speech, political persuasion, then I think this would be interesting,” she said.

Beyond people with those specific interests, Kofoed said that understanding rhetoric is becoming more important as social media plays a larger role in life.

“I think rhetoric has application for everybody, because we often narrowly construct persuasion in our mind as a psychological process, when it’s the combination of our interaction with symbols in the world and our non-verbal communication,” she explained.

“So rhetoric – thinking about the world through a rhetorical lens allows us to broaden that perspective and not just see the ways we influence one another as relating to persuasion, but as something greater.”

The Communication Studies Lecture Series is partially funded by the Division of Student Affairs through the Academic Program Support Initiative. It brings to USC Upstate two scholars in the field of communications to campus to present lectures on their specific areas of emphasis.