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Scandinavian Studies in Rhetoric – Introduction

av Jens E. Kjeldsen


Jens E. Kjeldsen & Jan Grue introduces the anthology ”Scandinavian Studies in Rhetoric. Rhetorica Scandinavica 1997-2010”.

The Introduction

The Study of Rhetoric in Scandinavia

In the spring of 1996, Kell Jarner Rasmussen and Peter Ström-Søeberg, two former students of rhetoric at the University of Copenhagen were planning a magazine for people interested in the practice of political rhetoric. They invited Jens E. Kjeldsen to a meeting in Copenhagen. He was a former fellow student, now working as a PhD candidate in Bergen, Norway. After a brief discussion, they changed the original plans in order to meet a much more pressing need: a rhetorical research journal written in the Scandinavian languages. A year later, the first issue of Rhetorica Scan­di­navica (RhS) was published.

At that time, Scandinavian rhetoric only existed as a research field and an education programme in Copenhagen. In Sweden, a single section of rhetoric was housed at the Department of Literature at the University of Uppsala, while in Norway there were no such programmes, departments or sections. The study of rhetoric was never­theless evolving and growing in other established fields and institutions. Today, only a little more than 15 years later, rhetoric is a research field in its own right, with several departments and sections in colleges and universities all over Scandinavia. It has been a remarkable period; probably no other region in the world has matched the pace of development in these countries over the last 15–20 years.

The languages of Sweden, Denmark and Norway are mutually intelligible dialects, allowing researchers to read each other’s work. From the journal’s inception, it has been an important goal for RhS to give Scandinavian researchers an opportunity to think and write in their mother tongues. Since most international research in rhetoric is published in English, both the founders and the subsequent editors have found it important to develop a common research community, as well as a shared Scandinavian scholarly vocabulary.


After participating in the founding and the consolidation period, as well as serving as chief editor of RhS, Jens E. Kjeldsen stepped back in 2010, and Lisa Villadsen was appointed chief editor for the publication of issue 53 and onwards.
With the present publication, we would like to share some of the research published in the first 52 issues, in Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian, with a readership that is unfamiliar with these three languages. We also aim to provide some insight into the state of rhetorical education programmes and research in Scandinavia. The articles in the present book are just a few highlights from 13 years of RhS publications. They have been chosen to introduce some aspects of the study of rhetoric as it is performed in Scandinavia.

The following text will first give an account of the Journal Rhetorica Scandinavica, followed by a short introduction to rhetoric as an academic field in the Scandinavian countries, and finally a brief introduction to the articles in the present book.1

Rhetorica Scandinavica

At the time of writing, RhS has published 59 issues. Over the years, it has received contributions from a variety of authors –in addition to reprinting classic articles from the international rhetorical canon, in keeping with the goal of rekindling the rhetorical tradition in Scandinavia.

Since the mid-1990s in Norway and Sweden, and since the 1980s in Denmark, rhetoric has once again expanded its scope and its interdisciplinary ambitions. The journal is both a result and a cause of these developments, and the selection of articles in this volume is intended to demonstrate this. The fact that an exclusive or “pure” rhetorical tradition has yet to be fully established in the Scandinavian countries means that articles frequently draw on the methodologies and approaches of other schools of research, including, though not limited to, gender studies, cultural studies and media studies, not to mention the specifically Nordic tradition of research on sak­prosa (“subject-oriented prose”, cf. the section on Norwegian rhetoric).
The variety of topics and scholarly approaches is one of the journal’s defining features and a crucial part of its field-constitutive mission. From the inaugural issue, RhS has encouraged the submission of both theoretical and practical research. The submission guidelines also welcome essays, book reviews and conference reports. As a result, the first 13 years of publication represent a comprehensive archive of the growth and development of the field.

Excluding the book reviews and stubs, a total of over 225 peer-reviewed articles have been published. Of these, 30 are translations of classics in the field; the rest are original research articles and essays. The distribution between the Scandinavian languages has been remarkably even: approximately 38% Danish, 30% Swedish, and 31% Norwegian. RhS only accepts English-language contributions from authors who are unable to write in one of the Scandinavian languages; there is a small sample of such texts (see, for example, Leff 2003). The proportion has remained relatively stable throughout the years; the number of Danish-language articles has increased slightly since 2000, with the Swedish share decreasing correspondingly.
As for topics and research subjects, RhS’s primary thematic strands can be summarised as historical studies, commentaries on the rhetorical tradition, and concepts and conceptions of rhetoric. It is under the first of these headings that the most distinctively Scandinavian aspect of the journal can be seen. Recurring topics include authors (e.g. the Danish-Norwegian playwright and essayist Ludvig Holberg and the Swedish Nobel Laureate Selma Lagerlöf), the role of the Scandinavian monarchs as absolute and later constitutional rulers, and – not least – historiography.

Taken as a whole, the primarily historical articles serve as proof of a continuing tradition of Scandinavian rhetorical practice throughout the centuries in which rhetorical theory and the study of rhetoric was all but defunct. This includes the study of such historical processes as the transformation of aristocratic societies into social democracies, with its attendant changes in rhetorical culture, and a strong emphasis on gender roles and power differentials – particularly from the Swedish contributors.
As we move into the present, historical study merges with RhS’s ongoing concern with media texts and political rhetoric. Although the political cultures that are dealt with in the journal are primarily those of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, there is a strong focus on global issues, including those of the Middle East, the European Union, and the United States. The journal reflects the Scandinavian tendency to look toward larger linguistic and political communities, as well as the implicit difficulty of establishing a self-sufficient rhetorical tradition in smaller and less politically important countries.

Correspondingly, one feature of RhS is translations of articles from the rhetorical canon, with a Scandinavian contributor providing an accompanying commentary. The first of these, Lloyd F. Bitzer’s “The Rhetorical Situation” is featured in issue no. 3, and was promptly followed by Kenneth Burke’s “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s Mein Kampf”, Ernesto Grassi’s “Rhetoric & philosophy”, and Cornelius Tacitus: ”Dialogus de oratoribus”. Over the years, the translation of both ancient and modern classics amount to a significant cultural endeavour in its own right; on the pages of RhS, these articles serve as a connection to both the Classical (including Hermogenes, Plutarch, and Quintilian), European (including Vico, Mignault, Melanchton, Dumarsais, Nietzsche and Genette) and contemporary American (including Edwin Black, Richard E. Vatz and Carolyn Miller) traditions.

A clear majority of theory-driven articles focus on particular concepts and specific issues, rather than on overarching systems or approaches. There are exceptions – notably programmatic articles from the early issues, mostly written by established Danish researchers, but the majority of theory-building enterprises in RhS are local, not global. There are two compelling reasons for this: firstly, the status of rhetoric as a lost tradition, in which the rediscovery of applicable tools has been more pertinent than, for instance, the settling of the field’s epistemological status; and secondly, the great proportion of RhS contributors who have their primary training in other fields. The fact that many, if not most, articles are written by scholars with a background in – among other disciplines – history, media studies, sociology, comparative literature, linguistics, and communication science, implies that the RhS approach to rhetoric is one of pluralism and interdisciplinary pragmatism.
The interdisciplinary nature of RhS displays itself particularly clearly in the topical issues (cf., for example, Berge & Ledin 2001, Hellspong 2003, von der Lippe 2003, Mral 2008 and Skouen 2008). There are fourteen such issues, dedicated to de­con­struction (7/1998), genre (18/2001), music (21/2002), rhetorical criticism (27/2003), gender (27/2003), historiography (28/2003), didacticism (38/2006), an­thropology (40/2006), crisis communication (46/2008), science (47/2008), citizenship (48/2008), journalism (49-50/2009), rhetoric of insult (57/2011) and public debate (59/2011). The participation of musicologists, scholars of journalism, etc., has resulted in a wealth of empirical material provided through the methodologies of fields other than rhetoric, and subsequently subjected to analysis (and peer review) with a rhetorical basis.

As will be clear from the country-specific historical sections below, the inter­disciplinarity of RhS has been a virtue born of necessity. The topical issues are the most substantial evidence of the ongoing attraction of rhetorical themes and issues to writers who are not necessarily trained as rhetoricians. The journalism and anthro­pology issues in particular feature contributions from experienced practitioners in those fields. Here, rhetoric plays the part of a meta-discipline, providing room for reflection upon the norms and dynamic of other disciplines. The science and didacti­cism issues, although they feature more contributions from rhetoricians, serve a similar purpose.

This is an integral part of the growth of rhetoric in Scandinavia, and visible through­out the publication history of RhS. Rhetoric does not emerge primarily as a separate and independent discipline, but rather as a preoccupation and shared interest of many research communities, and many scholarly approaches. A reader of the journal, and indeed this volume, will be presented with the story of a ‘rhetorical turn’ in many scholarly fields, as well as the expansion of rhetoric from a relatively small part of classical studies to a multifaceted pursuit that engages with a great range of material.

Despite the overall preference for empirical studies, one of the major recurring discipline-defining topics is that of normativity. As will be seen from the articles in this volume, RhS has concerned itself with the attitude rhetoric that should adopt towards the political sphere and the role rhetoricians can and should play when analysing issues of social importance.

Overall, it should not be surprising that RhS has functioned to a great extent as a sower of academic seeds. That was, after all, the intention. As the journal has grown, rhetoric courses and programmes have multiplied across Scandinavia. As it is one of the major sources of native-language literature in the field, articles from the journal frequently find a place on curricula. Thus, RhS has had a significant impact on the study of rhetoric in the Scandinavian countries, a more expansive account of which is provided in the following section.

Rhetoric as an academic field in Scandinavia2

The academic work in rhetoric in Scandinavia after the Second World War had its beginnings in Denmark. At the University of Copenhagen rhetoric was introduced in 1958 through the Laboratory of Metrics and Public Speaking (Laboratoriet for Metrik og Foredragslære), a section under the Department of Nordic Philology. The laboratory developed into an independent education programme in rhetoric in 1970, offering rhetoric as a two-year subsidiary subject, with Jørgen Fafner (1925–2005) being appointed Professor of the department. While he was not without predecessors (Arthur Arnholtz, Knud Bruun-Rasmussen and others), it is mostly thanks to Fafner that rhetoric in Denmark became an education programme and a recognised scholarly subject. Through the 1970s and 80s the study grew steadily, and a canon of scholarly books was established – most notably Fafner’s theoretical introduction, Rhetoric – Classical and Modern (1977), and his historical account of the rhetorical tradition in Western Europe, Thought and speech (1982). A concise and widely used introduction to rhetoric as a cultural – and philosophical – phenomenon was Rhetoric (1975), written by the Danish theologian and renaissance specialist Jan Lindhardt (cf. Lindhardt 1979), as was the classicist Thure Hastrup’s The Greek and Roman Art of Eloquence from Korax to Quintilian (1976); Hastrup was also co-responsible for the translation of Cicero’s rhetorical writings in three volumes (1979–83) and translated Aristotle’s Rhetoric (1983). Another early introduction to the field was the volume Rhetoric – Theory and Practice, by Helge Hansen, Carl Ulrik Andersen and others (Hansen et al. 1977; cf. also Andersen 1977). From 1977 to 1998 the Copenhagen department published Studies in Rhetoric (Retorik studier), edited by Jørgen Fafner and Lone Rørbech, and later by Charlotte Jørgensen and Merete Onsberg. Beyond the circles of professed “rhetoricians”, mention should be made of the medievalist Jan Pinborg, whose 1963 study Quintilian and the Ancient Theory of Language offered a succinct introduction to some of the themes Pinborg explores in his pioneering scholarship on the medieval, and not least Danish, tradition in logic and philosophy of language. A younger member of the so-called Copenhagen School of Medieval Philosophy (inaugurated by Pinborg’s teacher Heinrich Roos), Karin Margareta Fredborg, has over the years contributed substantially to the study of the medieval rhetorical tradition (cf. Fredborg, 1971*, 1974*, 1976*, 1987*, 1988*, 1995*, 2003*, 2006*).

In Sweden, studies in rhetoric began in the 1960s and mostly grew out of literature studies (cf. Johannesson 1997, Öhrberg, Fischer & Mehrens, 2005); an early specimen is Rolf Hillman’s Stylistic Studies in Gustavian Epideictic Rhetoric (Hillman, 1962). With her 1969 study in Martin Luther’s Freihetstraktat, Birgit Stolt pioneered international studies in Protestant rhetoric (Stolt 1969, 1974; cf. Stolt 1980 for further titles). In the late 1970s, rhetoric became an approach for studying aspects of 16th to 18th century literature. The key figure in this new approach to literary studies was Kurt Johannesson. Johannesson, who debuted with a study in 16th-century Swedish propaganda and politics (Johannesson 1969–70), in many ways, became the founding father of the study of rhetoric in Sweden. In the early 1980s, Johannesson ran the first courses in rhetoric at the Department of Literature in Uppsala, and in 1988 he be­came the first Swedish professor of rhetoric at that university. In 1990, he published his still widely used textbook, Rhetoric – or the Art of Persuading. He was the editor of Studia Rhetorica Upsaliensia, in which the first publication was Leif Åslund’s 1992 study on Magnus Gabriel De la Gardie (Åslund, 1992). Johannesson dominated Swedish re­search in rhetoric, and in 2000 he was appointed Professor Emeritus.

Apart from a few early attempts to create interest in the rhetorical tradition, such as Johan B. Hjort’s proposal that lawyers would profit from studying Quintilian (Hjort, 1956), Norway was a late starter in the field of rhetoric studies. Translations of classics such as Cicero’s Speeches (1971, by Henning Mørland, cf. Børdahl 1996) and of Pseudo-Longinus’ On the Sublime (1968, by Knut Kleve, cf. Kleve 1980) appeared, but, apart from a number of practical and more or less historically informed handbooks on the art of “eloquence” throughout the century, it was not until 1981 that a Norwegian produced a book featuring the word “rhetoric” in its title. This book was On the Norwegian Way of Writing – Examples and Counter Examples to Illuminate Recent Norwegian Rhetoric, written by the poet, scholar and free-thinking intellectual Georg Johannesen (1931–2005). It was a follow-up to his earlier collection of essays, On the Norwegian Way of Thinking (1975), but now with special attention being paid to the rhetoric of non-literary prose (“sakprosa”, cf. below). Before this, scholars had begun reading the works of Fafner, Lindhardt (Lindhardt’s Rhetoric was later co-published in Norway (1987) and Sweden (2005)) and others. The Danish translations of classical rhetorical works were likewise an important inspiration; only later did the classics begin to appear in Norwegian, mainly due to the efforts of Hermund Slaattelid (works by Cicero and Quintilian, Tacitus’ Dialogus de oratoribus, Augustine’s De doctrina Christiana, (1993–2003) and Tormod Eide (Aristotle’s Rhetoric, 2006). Starting with Johannesen, the 1980s witnessed an increase in the volume of scholarly work being conducted in Norway, bringing it in line with the other Nordic countries.


The 1980s and 90s were decades of steady growth. The study programme in Copenhagen expanded, and became the Department of Rhetoric in 1986. In Sweden, the universities of Uppsala, Örebro and Södertörn established rhetoric education programmes. Publications, research and knowledge of rhetoric increased substantially in Norway as well, even though a formally established department or a section did not yet exist.

In Denmark, Jørgen Fafner retired in 1995, but, as Professor Emeritus, he continued to work on the subject closest to his heart: the art of versification, metrics and prosody. The ten-year project resulted in the monumental three-volume work Danish Versification (1989–2000). In 1997, Christian Kock took over the professorship in rhetoric. He continued the work on public debate and political argumentation, which had been the dominant area of research at Copenhagen since the 1980s, most notably with the 1994 publication of Rhetoric that Shifts Votes – How to Persuade in Public Debates, reprinted in 2011. In this book, Kock, together with Charlotte Jørgensen and Lone Rørbech, present an empirical study of 10 years of a televised Danish debate programme. In 1997, Anne Katrine Lund became the first PhD scholar in rhetoric at Copenhagen. At the same time, her fellow student Lisa Villadsen pursued a PhD at Northwestern University (USA), becoming the first student of rhetoric in Copenhagen to earn a PhD (Villadsen, 2000*). Later the same year, Anne Katrine Lund presented her doctoral thesis Letters in Use – Distance Communicative Genres in a Rhetorical Perspective, becoming the first PhD in rhetoric at Copenhagen University (Lund, 2000). Other works dealing with rhetoric from this period include Peder Skyum-Nielsen’s massive study into proverbs and other literary “short forms” (Skyum-Nielsen, 1992).

From 1998 to 2000, a research project examined contemporary political journalism, providing normative directions and advice for journalists on how to best pre­serve the key democratic functions of the press: to help people understand their world. The result was published in the book Understanding the World, edited by Christian Kock (2002).

Beyond the department in Copenhagen, rhetoric was still an interdisciplinary activity performed in classical studies, literature studies, Danish, and communication studies. At Aarhus University, a two-year supplementary education programme in rhetoric was established in 1990 through collaboration between departments working with classical, Scandinavian, and media studies. Other areas of research in this period included voice and actio (Onsberg, 1997, 2001), the topics (Togeby 1986, Søndergaard 1998), rhetoric and literary criticism (Nielsen, 1995*, 1999), the rhetoric of non-literary prose (e.g. Haastrup, 1996), Vico and Baroque rhetoric (Catana, 1996), and the philosophy of science (Kjørup 1994, 1996a*, 1996b, 1998). Jan Lindhardt continued his examination of rhetoric and the European cultural tradition in books such as Speech and Writing – Two cultures (1989) and Towards the middle ages; TV – the Living Image in the Open Space (1993), drawing inspiration from the media and technology theories of Walter Ong and Joshua Meyrowitz. With Søren Hindholm’s translation of the Pseudo-Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herennium (Hindsholm, 1998), the complete Ciceronian rhetorical corpus (except Partitiones oratoriae) became available in Danish.

In 1999, the classicist Pernille Harsting (Copenhagen) founded the Nordic Network for the History of Rhetoric. The purpose of the organisation was to support the development of Nordic scholarship and research collaboration in the history of rhetoric, and to further the internationalisation of Nordic research in this field. Conferences have been held in Copenhagen (2000), Helsinki (2002), Gothenburg (2004) and Kolding (2008). The organisation was closed down in 2011. Harsting also established and was general editor of the international web journal the international web journal Rhetorical Review – The Electronic Review of Books on the History of Rhetoric ( 2003-2011. Harsting’s scholarship focuses on Quintilian, Me­nan­der Rhetor and the early modern epideictic tradition (e.g. Harsting, 1991*, 1992*, 1998*, 2000*, 2002*, 2007*).

The most significant activity in Sweden in the early 1990s was probably the re­search project “Labour Movement and Language” (“Arbetarrörelsen och språket”), which started in 1989 and ran for five years. The project involved 15 researchers from different disciplines and resulted in a great number of publications, including three anthologies and a dissertation. The project examined speechmaking, political rhetoric, and agitation in the labour movement (e.g. Johannesson, 1996; Josephson, 1996; Åsard, 1996; Ståhl, 1999). Examples of analyses of modern rhetoric were provided in the book Honour and Influence (Karlberg & Mral, 1998). Working at the University of Stockholm, the Norwegian Kjell Lars Berge organised a seminar called “What is Rhetoric?” and published a short book of the talks (Berge, 1988) – two minor events in the late 1980s, which nonetheless gave a hint of the common Scandinavian research field that would come into being many years later.
At the Nordic Institute for Studies in Urban and Regional Planning (Nordiska Institutet för Samhällsplanering: Nordplan), Scandinavian researchers, such as José Luis Ramírez, explored rhetoric as a theory of action in the humanities in order to find a deeper understanding of human acts as a language practice based on experi­ence. Rhetoric was perceived as a basic humanistic science of human knowledge and practice (Ramírez 1995, 1997, 2002, 2003/4, 2004; Asmervik & Hagen 1997).

After Kurt Johannesson, the next Swedish professor in rhetoric was Brigitte Mral in 2002. Whereas the professorship of Johannesson was awarded to him personally, Mral took the first chair of rhetoric in Sweden, offered at the University of Örebro. Since 1999, Örebro has offered an education programme in rhetoric. In 2001, students could acquire a BA in rhetoric, and two years later a PhD. With her dissertation on political televised debates, Gudrun Weiner became Örebro’s first PhD in 2006.

In 2003, Lennart Hellspong became Professor of Rhetoric at Södertörn. Hellspong first came to Södertörn in 1996, when what is now Sweden’s biggest academic institution for the study of rhetoric consisted of only a handful of people. Hellspong’s 1992 textbook The Art of Speaking quickly became a household item, and is still widely used. Two years later, Birger Bergh (1935–2008) translated Rhetorica ad Herennium (Bergh, 2008); he was later to follow this up with Cicero’s De Oratore (2008–2009, with Anders Piltz). Presently a swedish translation of Aristotles’ Rhetoric is in print (Akujärvi, 2012).
In Sweden the growth of rhetoric also manifested itself in the founding of groups, organisations and networks that organised meetings, talks and lectures on rhetoric. These include Retorikkollegiet (The Rhetoric College: and Retorikcentrum (The Rhetoric Centre, 1993: Even though the University of Gothenburg has never housed a department or section of rhetoric, it has been the springboard for organisations such as Retorikcentrum, and was the home of rhetoricians such as Stina Hansson (cf. 1988, 1990, 1993), Peter Cassirer, Barbro Wallgren Hemlin, Monica Ekevall and Mats Rosengren, who taught rhetoric and conducted research in relation to literature, didactic and philosophy.
In general, the late 1990s witnessed an increase in publications, including: about rhetorical subjects such as the rhetorical breeding of a prince (Skuncke, 1993); the conflict between rhetoric and philosophy in Plato and Chaïm Perelman (Rosengren, 1997); Persuading from the Pulpit (Wallgren-Hemlin, 1997); Pauline Argumentation in 1 Corinthians (Eriksson, 1998); sepulchral rhetoric (Stenberg 1998); Rhetoric in Haquin Spegel’s Homiletics (Ekedahl, 1999); Election Rhetoric (Håkansson, 1999); and Implicitness in Modern Political Argumentation (Sigrell, 2001 [1999]). During the 1990s, Brigitte Mral explored the field of women speakers and gender rhetoric, resulting in several articles (e.g. Mral 1997, 2003), a special issue of RhS on rhetoric and gender (27/2003, with Lennart Hellspong), and the books Women Speakers – Women Rhetorics from Aspasia to Ellen Key (Mral, 2011 [1999]) and Women’s rhetoric. Argu­men­tative Strategies of Women in Public Life. Sweden & South Africa (Mral, Borg & Salazar 2009).

The 1980s and 90s saw an expansion in Norway as well. There were still no formal institutional bases, but a general sense of a rhetorical turn (cf. Meyer & Ågotnes 1994). A large number of master theses, mostly from media and literature studies, now treated rhetorical themes, particularly political rhetoric. In 1987, Georg Johannesen published Rhetorica Norvegica, a three-hundred-page introduction to the subject of rhetoric based on earlier manuals used at the Department of Nordic Languages and Literature. Although written in the style of a “modernist florilegium” (in the vein of Ezra Pound or Marshall McLuhan), and thus not easily read, the book received considerable media attention as a result of the author’s position as a modernist poet and political intellectual, and thereby contributed to making “rhetoric” in the classical and scholarly sense of the term known to not only Norwegian teachers and scholars, but also to a wider public. Georg Johannesen and his students in Bergen organised a study group, Rhetorical Forum (Retorisk Forum), which arranged lectures and meetings, and published a study series from 1996 to 1999 entitled Rhetorical Yearbook (Børdahl et al. 1991, Semen 1992, Selnes et al. 1993, Høisæter et al. 1996, Hansteen et al. 1997, Børdahl et al. 1998, Børdahl et al. 1999). In 1996, Johannesen was awarded a three-year position under the auspices of Rhetorical Forum, making him Norway’s first professor of rhetoric. Beginning in the 1970s, Johannesen was also a pioneer in establishing interest in the rhetoric of non-literary prose, focusing especially on the genres of literary history and the essay (e.g. Johannesen, 1975, 1981, 1987, 1994, 2000; cf. also Grepstad et al. 1982; Meldahl, 1986). One of his students, Bjørn Kvalsvik Nicolaysen (now Professor of Literacy studies at the University of Stavanger), explored the rhetoric of the essay genre and, more generally, relations between rhetoric, hermeneutics and cultural history in a series of essays (e.g. Nicolaysen 1983, 1985; 1993; cf. the collection of essays in Nicolaysen 1997; 1999). Another of Johannesen’s students, Ottar Grepstad (presently Director of Nynorsk kultursentrum, the Ivar Aasen Centre), published Rhetoric in Norwegian (1988), providing both theoretical observations and criticism of contemporary rhetoric. Grepstad later became a main collaborator in the first “sakprosa” project launched in the 1990s (cf. below).

Rhetoric also found its way to the social sciences through attempts to uncover the workings of political communication (Brox 1984, Heradstveit & Bjørgo 1987). A former minister of cultural affairs examined political speeches and pondered on the peculiar anti-rhetoric dominant in Norway (Langslet 1988). Thore Roksvold made use of the classical rhetorical categories in his Rhetoric for Journalists (1989).

The foundation for rhetorical studies was in many ways laid by classicists, who introduced the tradition and its theoretical apparatus. Tormod Eide’s Rhetorical Lexicon (1990) provided swift and easy access to the numerous classical terms, while Øivind Andersen’s In the Garden of Rhetoric (1995) provided a remarkably complete, lucid and scholarly introduction to ancient Greek and Roman rhetoric. Among Andersen’s sub­sequent scholarly contributions are publications on stylistics and poetry (2009, 2008*, 2003b*), as well as culture and education (2002, 2001*). Eide has published on the origins of the concept of topos (Eide, 1995*, 1997) and on various aspects of Greek rhetoric, especially Thucydides (e.g. Eide, 1981*).

In spite of the growth in interest and publications, rhetorical research was still based on interdisciplinary co-operation, seminars and publications. In Bergen, for instance, media scholar Jostein Gripsrud initiated and headed a collaborative, cross and multi-disciplinary project called Rhetoric, Knowledge, Mediation*. It involved more than 17 researchers from seven different departments, and dealt with three categories of research: (1) Rhetoric, science, knowledge; (2) The histories of media technologies, language and rhetoric; and (3) Media rhetoric and the problematics of mediation. The project ran from 1995 to 1997 (and partly 1998), organised a number of seminars and conferences, involved master students, and resulted in publications such as The Current Status of the Rhetorical Tradition* (Gripsrud, 1996), Rhetoric and Epistemology* (Gripsrud, 1997), Television and Common Knowledge (1999), and Questions of Rhetoric – Literary Studies* (Larsen & Gripsrud, 2000). At the same university, media scholar Peter Larsen further developed the study of visual rhetoric (Larsen 1994, 1997), which he first began exploring during the previous decade (Larsen, 1980). Laila Akslen situated the Baroque poets Petter Dass and Dorthe Engelbretsdatter in the rhetorical tradition, in a study with both theoretical and pedagogical aims (Akslen, 1997). The East Slavic homiletic tradition came into focus with Ingunn Lunde’s 1998 dissertation on Kirill of Turov (later published as Lunde, 2001*; cf. also Lunde 1999*, 2000d*, 2000a*, 2000b*, 2000c, 2002*, 2004a*, 2004b*). The advance of rhetorical perspectives is also amply evident in Anne Krogstad’s dissertation in social anthropology from the University of Oslo (Krogstad, 1999) in which she analyses rhetorical means for the construction of image in political communication.

The growth of rhetoric and the emergence of a common – though still scattered – research community in Scandinavia was marked by two landmark events. The first event was the founding of RhS in 1997. The publication signalled a new age for the study of rhetoric in Scandinavia and the Nordic countries. Most of the rhetoric scholars were institutionally and geographically isolated from each other, but, with four issues a year, the journal offered them a forum in which to publish their work and a scholarly meeting place. For the many researchers working in departments other than rhetoric (such as classics, communication, literature and philosophy), the journal provided an opportunity to share and develop thoughts on rhetoric. The second event was the organising of the first Nordic Conference in Rhetoric at Örebro, Sweden, in September 1999, with Brigitte Mral as the primus motor. Even though other conferences had been organised in the past, this was the first one that truly gave a sense of a common community in all of Scandinavia3. More that 80 scholars presented their research, and the following issue of RhS published articles on the status of rhetorical education programmes and scholarship in Sweden, Denmark and Norway (cf. Mral 1999, Kock 1999, Kjeldsen 1999, respectively).

Consolidation, cooperation and internationalisation

The first decade of the new millennium was a time of national consolidation, Nordic cooperation and international orientation. In Denmark the number of PhD disser­tations on rhetorical subjects increased significantly; in Sweden new professors of rhetoric were appointed; and in Norway the institutionalisation of rhetoric was established with university programmes in Oslo and Bergen. RhS raised awareness among scholars about one another’s work, more Nordic – and international – projects were initiated and scholars met at the tri-annual Nordic conferences for rhetoric. The University of Copenhagen organised the second conference in May 2003, the University of Oslo the third in May 2006, and in October 2010, 180 delegates participated in the fourth Nordic Conference in Rhetoric at Södertörn University, Stock­holm.

Scandinavian rhetoricians also turned their attention outwards, increasing their participation at international conferences. At the same time, central scholars of rhetoric and argumentation from the USA and Europe became frequent visitors to Scandinavia, often co-invited by institutions in two different countries.

In Denmark, the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Rhetoric was amalgamated with philosophy and pedagogy into a bigger department in 1992. In 2004, the department was once again merged, this time with film and media studies, to form the Department of Media, Cognition and Communication. As was previously the case, the core research areas of the rhetoric section comprised theoretical, practical and historical rhetoric, especially in the area of public speaking, debate, deliberation and argumentation. Charlotte Jørgensen, for instance, worked on normative rhetoric and argumentation (e.g. Jørgensen, 2000, 2007*, 2009*) and Lisa Villadsen on rhetorical citizenship, agency and official apologia (e.g. Villadsen 2005*, 2008a, 2008b*, 2009*, in press a*, in press b*). New strands of research and different kinds of empirical material emerged in dissertations such as Writers Who Make a Scene – Günter Walraff and Hunter S. Thompson as Models of Rhetorical Agency (Isager, 2006), on how the organization’s specialists learn to write (Dahl Clement 2008) and Online Ethos –  Web Rhetoric in Political Campaigns, Blogs and Wikis (Hoff-Clausen, 2008).

In 2005–2006, the research network Rhetorical Citizenship was created by Lisa Villadsen with assistance from Christian Kock. It formed a community of interest be­tween rhetoricians and researchers from other subjects, focussing on the rhetorical aspects of the notion of citizenship. The network was concerned with the role of democratic citizens as participants, receivers and consumers of public debate and communication. The exploration of citizenship as a rhetorical phenomenon was conducted through guest lectures, graduate-level courses, seminars and an international conference with over 100 participants from more than 12 countries.4

During the decade, Christian Kock further developed his views on rhetoric and argumentation, developing “norms for legitimate dissensus”, and arguing that the domain of rhetorical argumentation is not truth and falsity, but rather choice of action in the civic sphere (e.g. Kock 2007a*, 2007b*, 2008b, 2009*, 2010*). Following up on his background as a scholar of literature and structuralism, he also published a number of texts on poetry and metrics (2002, 2008a).

Though most of the work in Copenhagen deals with contemporary issues, the department has also contributed with significant historical research into poetry in Romanticism (Kock 2008c), music and rhetoric in Renaissance and Baroque (Barnholdt, 2002, 2005, 2010), actio and delivery in the 18th century elocutionary movement (Onsberg, 1997, 2001, 2002), and the works of Dante (Roer, in press, Roer & Høgel 2008). Outside the department, work has been carried out on, for example, 17th century visual ekfrasis (Haastrup, 2003), the late Sophistic (Harbsmeier, 2008) and the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum (Lund Jørgensen, 2008). Former students of the Copenhagen department finished their dissertations at other institutions; in 2001 Jette Barnholdt Hansen presented The Sonorous Speech (concerning rhetoric and opera) at the Department of Musicology (Aarhus), and in 2008 Maria Louise Staffe presented Court Rhetoric at the Faculty of Law (Copenhagen).

At Copenhagen Business School, a research community was created around practical introductory courses in rhetoric and a string of dissertations: The Rhetorical Strategies of Danish TV Advertising (Pynt Andersen, 2004), The Constitution of Meaning – a Meaningful Constitution* (Just Nørholm, 2004), The Rhetorical Art of Topos – From Static Place to Persuasive Activity (Gabrielsen 2008), and Corporate Blogging: Rhetorical Agency at Work (Juul Christiansen, 2010). The Business school also drew attention to itself by co-organising both speaking competitions for students and the rhetorical award “Business speaker of the year”.

In Aarhus, the existing supplementary education programme in rhetoric continued, and a practical master’s degree in rhetoric was developed as a post-graduate education programme (efteruddannelse), intended for people already working. In 2003, the Centre for Rhetoric was created and led by Marie Lund-Klujeff and Hanne Roer. While the teaching was practically and critically oriented, the research was dominated by the study of rhetorical criticism, style, and classical rhetoric (e.g. Roer 2003, and Klujeff 2004, 2008). The academic efforts of Aarhus also resulted in The Actuality of Rhetoric (Roer & Klujeff 2009), a book on rhetorical criticism with articles that were both introductions to different forms of criticism and original research contributions.
At Aalborg University, the international conference Rhetoric in Society was organised in 2006. It mainly dealt with rhetoric in political, organisational, and journa­listic discourse, and resulted in a conference volume entitled Rhetorical aspects of discourses in present-day society* (Dam et al. 2008).

In Sweden, the appointments of several new professorships in rhetoric characterised the first decade of the new millennium. Following the tenureships of Brigitte Mral (2002) and Lennart Hellspong (2003), Anders Sigrell was appointed Professor at Lund University in 2008. At the Södertörn University, both Mats Rosengren and Jens E. Kjeldsen were appointed to professorships in 2009. As a result of Kurt Johannesson (at Uppsala) becoming Professor Emeritus in 2000 and Lennart Hell­spong in 2009 (at Södertörn), Sweden now has four active professors of rhetoric.

As a rhetorical philosopher, Mats Rosengren is working on developing a doxological epistemology taking his departure point in Protagoras’ dictum about man as the measure of all things (Rosengren, 1997, 2002, 2006). Sigrell’s work is centred on implicitness in argumentation, and on progymnasmata and didactics (Sigrell, 2001, 2003, 2008, 2010), while Kjeldsen works on visual rhetoric and political communication (Kjeldsen 2003*, 2007a*, 2008a). At Örebro University, Brigitte Mral has been working on gender, new media and the rhetoric of war (Mral, 2001, 2004*, 2009). In 2007, she initiated the project Rhetorical aspects of crisis communication. The aim was to generate new perspectives on crisis communication from both modern and classical rhetorical theories (e.g. Mral, 2008). In connection with this project, Anders Sigrell edited a topical issue of RhS dealing with crisis communication (46/2008).

The production of dissertations in rhetoric continued, with the subject matter broadening through works about the rhetoric of Islamic preaching (Halldén, 2001, cf. Halldén 2006a*, 2006b), Swedish women writers during the Age of Liberty, i.e. the years 1720-1772 (Öhrberg, 2001), analyses of Japanese inauguration speeches (Moberg, 2002), the concept of virtue in poetry (Grinde, 2002), a comparison of the prophets Amos and Malachi (Fred, 2003), verbal and visual rhetoric in posters in the 2002 Swedish general election (Vigsö 2004), the preachings of Jacob Wallenberg (Rådberg, 2004), the rhetoric of C.J.L Almqvist (Viklund, 2004), the poetry of C.M. Bellmann (Ekman, 2004), political televised debates (Weiner, 2006), actio in theory and practice (Gelang, 2008; cf. Gelang & Kjeldsen 2011*), rhetorical responses to international security issues (Dahlin, 2008), and charismatic leadership of the United Nations (Lid Andersson, 2009).

At Göteborg University, Professor Stina Hansson headed the Progymnasmata project “From Aphtonius to the Writing Process” (1999-2003), involving more than a dozen scholars from different fields and institutions. The major publications from this project include the anthology Progymnasmata (Hansson, 2003), and the translation, introduction and commentary of Afthonios’ Progymnasmata by Anders Eriksson (Eriksson, 2002). Several articles about the project were published in RhS (e.g. Rådberg, 1999; Hellspong, 2001; Eriksson, 2006).

In Norway, the institutionalisation of the study and teaching of rhetoric accelerated in the new millennium. In 2002, the University of Oslo established an under­graduate programme in rhetoric and communication, with a strong discourse and conversational analysis component. A year later, a similar programme was established in Bergen. In 2007, Oslo created a full five-year master programme, and at the University of Bergen a master in rhetoric is now on its way. Even though there was no MA in rhetoric available until 2007, the number of master theses subsequently increased significantly. In communication, literature, the classics and the social sciences, master students adopted rhetorical perspectives.

Classical scholars continued their interest in rhetoric, publishing work on stylistics, poetics and the rhetorical art in general (e.g. Andersen, 2001*, 2003b*, 2008*, 2009), as well as translations of the rhetorical treatises of Cicero, Quintilian, Tacitus and Augustine (Slaattelid, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2004), Aristotle (Eide, 2006), and classical oratory from Gorgias to Cicero (Vestrheim & Østmoe, 2009).

The increased presence of the subject was also displayed in 2002, when Jens. E. Kjeldsen of the Department of Media Studies at the University of Bergen presented his dissertation on Visual Rhetoric (Kjeldsen, 2002). In the following years, Kjeldsen further developed the field of visual rhetoric by exploring visual epideictics, argumentation, and visuality in the rhetorical tradition (Kjeldsen 2000*, 2001*, 2003*, 2004, 2006*, 2007a*, 2007b, 2011, forthcoming). Together with Anders Johansen, Kjeldsen also developed a project on the history of Norwegian political speechmaking from 1814-2005, resulting in the book Words that Work (Johansen & Kjeldsen 2005) and a database of Norwegian political speeches ( In 2008, Kjeldsen be­came Norway’s first professor of rhetoric since Georg Johannesen left his chair in 1999, and he now holds professorships in rhetoric both in Bergen and Stockholm (Södertörn).

Still mainly an interdisciplinary subject, rhetoric often found academic nourishment in other fields such as law and jurisprudence, in the study of factual prose and non-fiction texts, as well as classical, media and Nordic studies. In Norway, the study of the rhetoric of law and jurisprudence began with the dissertation Law as Rhetoric by Ánde Somby (1999). In Bergen, Professor of Literature, Arild Linneberg, began working on law and literature in the late 1990s. Later, he established the Bergen-based research group “Law, Rhetoric and Literature” and the research project “The Dramaturgy of the Miscarriage of Justice”. The research has produced deconstructive criticism on miscarriages of justice (Ekeland, 2009), analyses of the relationship be­tween law and literature (Dragvoll, 2009) and essays on literature in law and the law in literature (Linneberg, 2007). In both Bergen and Oslo, jurists and law scholars began paying attention to rhetoric and started publishing more extensively on subjects such as legal rhetoric, persuasion and argumentation (Graver 2007, 2010, cf. Kristiansen & Nordhaug, 2007, cf. Kolflaath, 2004) and rhetorical foundations of Nordic jurisprudence (Blandhol, 2005, 2006). The theme of “war, law and rhetoric” was explored at an international conference in Bergen in 2003, resulting in a book of that name (Kjeldsen & Meyer, 2004). A year later, RS published a thematic issue on rhetoric and law (33/2005).

At The Norwegian School of Management in Oslo, both courses and research in rhetoric developed, which examine corporate rhetoric (Isaksson, 2005*; Svennevig 2008), gender and advertising rhetoric (von der Lippe, 2002, 2003, 2004), and organisational rhetoric (Ihlen, 2004*, 2005, 2010*, 2011*).

In Norway, the development of rhetoric as a study and education programme has been supported by the research of “sakprosa”, i.e. non-fiction or factual prose – or ‟subject-oriented prose” (e.g. Berge, 2007*; Tønnesson, 2007*). The project Norsk sakprosa (1994–1998) involved scholars and writers from a wide range of disciplines and institutions, and resulted in, among other things (projects, study series, books), Ottar Grepstad’s comprehensive The Treasury of Literature – The Theory and Rhetoric of Sakprosa (Grepstad, 1997), and the two-volume History of Norwegian Literature – Sakprosa from 1750–1995 (Børre Johnsen and Eriksen, 1998). A second research project (2000–2003) led to the establishing of the Research Centre of Norwegian Sakprosa (Forskningsmiljøet Norsk Sakprosa; and the appointment of Johan Tønnesson as Professor of ‟sakprosa” in 2005. Together with Professor of Textology Kjell Lars Berge, Tønnesson helped develop the education programme in rhetoric at the University of Oslo and the book series Sakprosa, which published several texts addressing rhetorical issues (Gjerstad 2001, Gundersen 2001, Tønnesson 2001, Andersen & Berge 2003, Breivega 2003); since 2010, the series has been avail­able as a web journal ( Recently, a professor­ship in “sakprosa” has also been established at the University of Bergen. The former Professor of Media Studies Anders Johansen now holds this position. Since the beginning of the last decade, Johansen has published widely on political rhetoric elaborating on the credibility of egalitarian rhetoric of authenticity, which characterises modern and – probably especially – Scandinavian political rhetoric (Johansen 1997*, 2002b, 2007a).

In general, the decade from 2000 to 2010 proved to be the most productive period thus far for PhD dissertations treating rhetorical issues. Researchers looked at visual rhetoric (Kjeldsen, 2002), didactic topology in Ludvig Holberg (Nyrnes, 2002), rhetoric and resources in public relations strategies* (Ihlen, 2004), the rhetoric of the poet Petter Dass (Lauvstad, 2005), norms for articles in literary science (Bakken, 2007), television documentary rhetoric (Mølster, 2007), the rhetoric of the King’s sagas (Meldahl, 2007), the rhetoric of John Dryden (Skouen, 2007*, cf. 2009a*; also 2009b*, 2006), metaphorical drawing as a visual language system (Ingebrethsen, 2008), critical analysis of rhetoric and reform strategies in the education sector (Trippestad, 2009), and law and rhetoric (Ekeland, 2009; Dragvoll, 2009).

The fabric of rhetoric

The recent history of the study of rhetoric in Scandinavia is striking in many ways. Originally, research and education programmes developed independently in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Afforded the opportunity to read each other’s work, researchers soon tied the three different beginnings together into one story. These separate strands are now increasingly being woven into a European and international fabric.

Three years after the conference Rhetoric in Society was organised in Aalborg in 2006, a second was organised in Leiden in the Netherlands. After the conference, a meeting was held to discuss the possibilities of creating a European society for the study of rhetoric. An acting planning committee was elected, and in 2011, the Rhetoric Society of Europe (RSE) finally became a reality with Jens E. Kjeldsen (Bergen, Norway) as President and Marie Lund Klujeff (Aarhus, Denmark) as Vice President. In December 2011, the RSE launched the society’s website (see:

The continuous growth and development of Scandinavian rhetorical research for more than a quarter of a century has not only connected Scandinavians with each other, but also with other rhetoricians in Europe and the rest of the world. In Scandinavia, the study of rhetoric is still growing and consolidating, and hopefully the augmented internationalisation of Scandinavian rhetoric will benefit the study and research of rhetoric in, between, and outside Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

A note on the study of rhetoric in Finland

The three Scandinavian countries plus Iceland and Finland constitute the Nordic countries. While there is no rhetorical research to speak of in Iceland, the Finns carry out both research and teaching in the field. However, because the Finnish language is very different from Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, Finnish research is usually not accessible to Scandinavians. Even though many Finns can speak and write Swedish, communication between Finns and Scandinavians usually takes place in English.
Finland did have a professor of eloquentia at the Imperial Alexander University of Finland until the year 1852, when the position was transformed into a professorship in Roman literature. Since then, however, rhetoric has mostly appeared as teaching in practical public speaking. In his survey of the state of rhetoric in Finland, Mika Hietanen (2007) writes that rhetoric and argumentation analysis have been used in humanistic research, political analysis in social science and theology, and yet rhetoric still only plays a marginal role at Finnish universities.

Nonetheless, Finnish scholars have made important contributions to the study of rhetoric and its historical traditions in recent years, including Paivi Mehtonen’s Studies in the Poetics and Rhetoric of Obscurity (Mehtonen 2003a*, cf. Mehtonen (ed.) 2001*, 2002*, 2003b*, 2006*, 2007a*; 2007b*); Sarasti-Wilenius’ Studies in Rhetorical Theory and Practice in Early Modern Finland (e.g. 2000*, 2002, 2003*; see also Merisalo and Sarasti-Wilenius (eds.) 1999); Sari Kivistö’s Analysis of Humanist Polemics (Kivistö, 2002*); Janika Päll’s Studies in Gorgianic Prose Rhythm and Greek Epideictic Rhetoric (Päll, 2007*, 2008*); and Kari Palonen’s Studies in Max Weber and Political Rhetoric (Palonen, 2002*, 2003*, 2004*, 2005*). The Nordic Network for the History of Rhetoric has involved Finnish scholars in several ways. In 2002, the network organised its second conference at the University of Helsinki, and in 2008, it published the book Rhetoric and Literature in Finland and Sweden, 1600-1900 (Harsting & Viklund, 2008).

Furthermore, the Department of Communication at the University of Jyväskylä has a Speech Communication Centre offering degrees from BA to PhD. The centre has three core areas of research: 1) Learning communication skills and developing communication competence, 2) Interpersonal communication in private and working life, and 3) Technologically mediated communication. According the centre’s website, “education in rhetoric, and particularly in pronunciation, use of the voice, and oral interpretation, merged into the so-called Finnish language movement. Education in oral interpretation and rhetoric was consolidated in almost every university in Finland in the 1950s. The title ‘speech communication’ was first used at the University of Jyväskylä in the 1980s.”5

A final note on the editors, editorial board members and publisher of Rhetorica Scandinavica

This book, as well as the many articles on rhetoric published through the years in RS, would not have been possible without the hard, conscientious – and unpaid – work of the editors of the journal since the first pages were published in 1997. Without the efforts of all these people, Scandinavian rhetoric would not have been where it is today. We would therefore like to pay our respect to each one of these by mentioning everyone in the order in which they became editors. Names marked with an asterisk (*) are the editors of the journal at the time of writing:
Kell Jarner Rasmussen, *Jens E. Kjeldsen, Nils Ekedahl (1/1997), Bella Engberg (2/1997) Peter Ström-Søeberg (5/1998), Lars Nyre (7/1998); Amund Børdahl (13/2000); Barbro Wallgren Hemlin, Anders Sigrell, *Lisa Storm Villadsen (17/2001); Rune Klevjer (21/2002); *Hanne Roer (22/2002) Christina Pontoppidan (29/2004); *Jonas Bakken (41/2007); *Marie Lund Klujeff (43/2007); *Mats Landqvist (44/2007); *Øyvind Ihlen (52/2009); *Orla Vigsö (54/2010).

Not only the editors but also the editorial board have played an important role for RS. We extend our thanks to the board members by listing them and the issue and year they became members. Names marked with an asterisk (*) are the current members of the editorial board:

*Øivind Andersen, *Kjell Lars Berge, Jørgen Fafner, *Ottar Grepstad, Jan Brage Gundersen, Georg Johannesen, *Kurt Johannesson, *Charlotte Jørgensen, *Christian Kock, *Jan Lindhardt, Georg Søndergård (1/1997); Peter Cassirer, *Brigitte Mral, Per Anders Forstorp (2/1997); *Merja Koskela, Christer Laurén (3/1997); *José Luis Ramírez (4/1997); *Lennart Hellspong (25/2003); *Peter Larsen (43/2007); *Jan Sven­nevig (45/2008); *George Hinge (57/2011); *Anders Sigrell (59/2011).

Finally, our committed publisher – from the beginning to the present – has been Retorikförlaget, in persona Peter Ström-Søeberg.

A sample of Scandinavian research in rhetoric

The articles in this book have been selected in order to represent the content and scope of RhS as accurately as possible, with special attention paid to topic and approach. Geography and chronology have also played a role, in that the editors have attempted to convey a sense of the contributors’ diversity and the journal’s development. On the whole, the selection is skewed towards articles that give a sense of the self-conception of Scandinavian rhetoric. This means that theoretical articles have been prioritised over the empirical studies that constitute the bulk of RhS articles. Over the course of the last 13 years, RhS has hosted an ongoing discussion about the normative status of rhetoric as a university subject, i.e. about the relationship to more established parts of the humanities both in terms of epistemology and scope.

On the basis that it is the most established, the discussion originates with the Danish research milieu. Christian Kock’s “The Identity of Rhetoric as a Scholarly Discipline and a University Program”6 and Jørgen Fafner’s ”The focal point of rhetoric”7 may be interpreted as the first calls for a programmatic discussion about the status of rhetoric in Scandinavia. These articles are complemented by Jose Luis Ramírez “The art of speaking – the art of saying”8. The matters under consideration include phenomena of interest to scholars of rhetoric, but also the status that rhetoric should be accorded relative to philosophy. Can rhetoric be a legitimate meta-science in the modern university, and what should its normative stance be?

The discussion is further developed, and made pan-Scandinavian, by the Norwegian Kjell Lars Berge’s “Rhetoric and the study of texts, text norms and text cultures”9 in which the relationship between rhetoric and the younger textual sciences is delineated. This is of particular importance in an academic culture where the study of texts and textual practices is widespread. In Scandinavia, perhaps particularly in Norway, rhetoric has re-emerged in close connection with the growth of discourse analysis and other forms of textual analysis based on close reading and attention to socio-political context.

Mats Rosengren’s “On doxa – the epistemology of the New Rhetoric”10 develops a different strand of the same discussion by engaging with Chaïm Perelman’s view of rhetoric as a commonsensical, context-bound philosophical tradition. The norma­tive aspects of rhetoric and the possibilities of polity-based, common action are discussed in Lennart Hellspong’s “Democratic dialogue”11. Anders Sigrell’s “The ethical entailment of our language choice”12 deals with standards for judging rhetorical practice, i.e. the conflict between ethical and efficacy criteria, while Charlotte Jørgensen’s ”Who’s to Judge What’s Good Rhetoric?”13 frames the same question in terms of audience judgements and responses. The thread from Fafner and Kock on the status of rhetoric in Scandinavia is picked up again by Jens E. Kjeldsen in “Scandinavian Research in Rhetoric”, which explores new challenges to previous definitions of the study of rhetoric14. In a different and more praxis-oriented vein, Anders Johansen discusses the art of writing in ”On thinking in writing, and with style”15, and explores the relationship between grammatical and stylistic impact on content. In Anders Eriksson’s “Education in Rhetoric: Progymnasmata as union of practice and theory”16, didacticism and the art of teaching rhetoric are primary concerns. An investigation into the rhetorical elements of film (from the inaugural issue) is provided by Peter Larsen in “From figure to figuration – on film and rhetoric”17, which exemplifies the strong link between rhetoric and media studies at the University of Bergen.

The investigations into the historythat focus on the use of key rhetorical concepts are presented by Øivind Andersen’s ”The Right Words at the Right Time”18. As a Norwegian classicist, his work shows how loci of research interests in rhetoric pre­date the establishment of any formal programme. By contrast, five articles explore the relationship between rhetoric praxis and historical context. Philip Halldén’s “Perelman Interpreted in the Shadow of al-Hurayfish”19 bases its critique of Perelman on readings of a fourteenth-century Muslim preacher. Thor Inge Rørvik’s “‘The Generation of 1814: Aspects of an extinct paradigm of breeding”20 analyses the seminal period in which Norway gained independence from the Danish-Norwegian dual monarchy. Brigitte Mral’s “A Womanization of Public Discourse?”21 discusses the roles and strategies of Swedish female orators. Lisa Storm Villadsen’s “Speaking on behalf of others: Rhetorical agency and epideictic functions in official apologia”22 situates an analysis of contemporary political speech within both the history of apologies and a theori­sation of the concept itself. Marie Lund Klujeff’s “Rhetorical Figures and Style as Argumentation”23 develops aspects of modern theories of figurative speech by analysing an exchange between two Danish practitioners of the same – an author and a rapper. Thus, we’re brought up to the present moment.

The 18 articles are intended to be a fair representation of RS’s output over time, but they are also meant to convey the central topics under scrutiny. The articles have, there­fore, been arranged chronologically, but a thematic index has also been pro­vided. The contributors were asked to provide a brief introduction to their work, ­stating how their thinking has evolved since their original publications. Minor changes and corrections have also been made.




1    In the following text all titles have been translated into English. Titles and references marked with an asterisk (*) are texts originally published in English. Full references and the original Scandinavian titles can be found in the reference section at end of the introduction. The authors would like to thank the scholars from the different institutions and countries in Scandinavia who commented on the drafts of this text, corrected mistakes and brought relevant information to our attention. We would especially like to thank Amund Børdahl at the University of Bergen for his substantial contribution.
2    The following exposition does not aim at completeness. More titles could have been cited. In the handbook/textbook literature, we have only mentioned a few of the books that were first used in higher education and introduced rhetoric to a larger audience; the same holds true for translations. For a review of Scandinavian rhetorical scholarship before 1980, cf. Stolt, 1980; Österdahl’s article “Recent rhetorical scholarship – A review and an annotated bibliography” (Österdahl, 1980) includes a section on the Nordic countries, with particular focus on Denmark. See also the RhS articles Johannesson, 1997 (Sweden); Koch, 1999 (Denmark); Mral, 1999 (Sweden); and Kjeldsen, 1999 (Norway).
3    One Nordic conference was organised in Stockholm on December 2-6, 1991, by Nordplan (Nordiska institutet för samhällsplanering). It was called ”Nordisk symposium om ’Retorik i samhällsplanering och offentlighet’” (‘Nordic Institute for Studies in Urban and Regional Planning’). One of the organisers, José Luis Ramírez, maintains that this event was the truly first Nordic conference on rhetoric.
4    The network Rhetorical Citizenship is described in a Danish article in Rhetorica Scandinavica (Villadsen, 2008a), which is a special issue about Rhetorical citizenship containing two articles that evolved from the project (Kock, 2008b, Kjeldsen, 2008a). An English description of the network can be found at
5 (accessed December 22, 2010).
6    In the original Danish: “Retorikkens identitet”, Rhetorica Scandinavica #1.
7    “Retorikkens brændpunkt”, #2.
8    “Konsten att tala – konsten att säga”, #3.
9    “Retorikken og tekstologien”, #6.
10    “Doxa och den nye retorikens kunnskapssyn”, #8.
11    “Den demokratiska dialogen”, #12.
12    “Orden förpliktar”, #14.
13    “Hvem bestemmer hvad der er god retorik?”, #15.
14    “Skandinavisk retorikvidenskab”, #20.
15    “Om å tenke seg skriftlig”, #7.
16    ”Retorikens didaktik”, #38.
17    ”Fra figur til figurering”, #1.
18    “Rette ord i rett tid”, #4.
19    ”Nyretorik og muslimsk vanitaspredikan”, #39.
20    ”Slekten fra 1814”, #5.
21    ”Motståndets retorik”, #27.
22    ”Kan man undskylde fortidens fejltrin”, #36.
23    ”Retoriske figurer som stil og argumentation”, #45.



ssirAuthors: Jens E. Kjeldsen is professor in rhetoric at Bergen University, Norway, and Södertörns Högskola, Sweden. Jan Grue is PhD Fellow at Oslo University College.

Jens E. Kjeldsen & Jan Grue (eds.): Scandinavian Studies in Rhetoric. Rhetorica Scandinavica 1997-2010, 2011.

Jens E. Kjeldsen

Jens E. Kjeldsen är professor i retorik vid Bergens universitet.
Redaktør på RetorikMagasinet 1991-1994. Redaktør på Rhetorica Scandinavica 1997-2010.
Jens E. Kjeldsen

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