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Janet Atwill



Professor Janet M. Atwill is a scholar of rhetoric in antiquity and a teacher of rhetoric and critical theory.  She is the author of Rhetoric Reclaimed: Aristotle and the Liberal Arts Tradition (Cornell UP), co-editor of The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition, Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention, and co-author of two textbooks on rhetoric and a writing. She is presently completing Rhetoric and the Display of Art, which examines the role of material culture in the discourses of orators of the Roman Empire. Her publications include articles in College English, Rhetoric Review, Pre/Text, Advances in the History of Rhetoric, Rhetorica, and PMLA.


Professor Atwill has been awarded fellowships by the Dumbarton Oaks-Harvard University Research Center in Byzantine Studies (Washington, DC), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and the Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry at the University of Iowa.


Her service to the profession has included: President of the American Society for the History of Rhetoric, Chair of the Executive Committee of the MLA Division of History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition, and Board of Directors of the Rhetoric Society of America. She has served on a number of editorial boards and is a referee for academic presses and journals.


Professor Atwill approaches rhetoric and its history in a global and critical context. Her recent work makes the case that diversity in histories of rhetoric requires extricating the canon from the narratives of Western civilization that depict a cultural and ethnic homogeneity that never existed. Research for her present book has taken her to Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, and Berlin, Germany.


M.A., University of Missouri, Kansas City
Ph.D., Purdue University, summa cum laude, 1990

  • Areas of specialization: rhetoric in antiquity, critical theory
  • Languages: French, classical Greek


Scholarly Books


  • Rhetoric and the Display of Art in the East Roman Empire, in progress.  Examines relationships between rhetoric and material culture in the Greek East.
  • The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition, edited with Richard Graff and Art Walzer. Buffalo: SUNY P, 2005.
  • Perspectives on Rhetorical Invention, edited with Janice Lauer. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2002.
  • Rhetoric Reclaimed:  Aristotle and the Liberal Arts Tradition. Ithaca & London: Cornell UP, 1998 rpt, 2009

Composition Textbooks

  • Writing: College Handbook, 5th ed., with James Heffernan and John Lincoln (W.W. Norton, 2001)
  • Four Worlds of Writing: and Action in Context, with Janice Lauer, Andrea Lunsford, et al. (New York: Addison, Wesley, Longman, 2000).

Book Chapters

  • “Octalog: A Retrospective.” with Lois Agnew, et al. in Landmark Essays on Historiographies of Rhetoric. Ed. Victor Vitanza. Routledge, 2016, pp. 237-57.

  • “The Rhetoric of Provenance in Antique Rhodes.” ProvenanceHistory of Art & Ownership. Eds. Gail Feigenbaum & Inge Reist. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010.

  • “Rhetoric and Civic Virtue.” The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition. Albany: SUNY P, 2005 75-92.
  •  “Aristotle.” Classical Rhetorics and Rhetoricians. Eds. Michelle Ballif and Michael Moran. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005. 51-64.
  • “Refiguring Rhetoric as an Art:  Aristotle’s Concept of Techné,” with Janice Lauer. Discourse Studies in Honor of James L. Kinneavy. Ed. Rosalind Gabin. Potomac, MD: Scripta Humanistica, 1995. 25-40.
  • “Instituting the Art of Rhetoric: Theory, Practice, and Productive Knowledge in Interpretations of Aristotle’s Rhetoric.” New Perspectives on the Histories of the Rhetorical Tradition. Ed. Takis Poulakos. Boulder: Westview, 1993. 91-117.
  • “Contingencies of Historical Representation.” Writing Histories of Rhetoric. Ed. Victor Vitanza. Carbondale: U of Illinois P, 1993. 98-111.
  •  “Rhetoric and Cultural Explanation: A Discussion with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,” with Phillip Sipiora. (Inter)views: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Rhetoric and Literacy. Ed. Gary Olson and Irene Gale.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, (1991): 243-254.


  • "Identity and Difference in Aelius Aristides' 'Regarding Sarapis." with Josie Portz. Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 22, no. 2, 2019, pp. 179-193.

  • "Memory, Materiality, and Provenance in Dio Chrysostom’s ‘Rhodian Oration.’” PMLA, vol. 129, no. 3, 2014, pp. 456-63.

  • The Octalogic Imagination.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 30, no. 3, 2011, pp. 249-50.

  • “Bodies and Art.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 36: 1 (2006): 165-170.
  • “Art and Disciplinarity.” Enculturation 5.2 (2004): 5_2/atwill.html.
  • “Rhetoric and Institutional Critique: Uncertainty in the Postmodern Academy.” JAC  22.3 (2002), 640-45.
  • “Changing the Puzzle.” Rhetoric Review. 16.1 (1997): 23-25.
  • “Aristotle.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric.  Ed. Theresa Enos.  New York: 1996.  26-30.
  • Techné.” Encyclopedia of Rhetoric.  Ed. Theresa Enos.  New York: Garland Publishing, 1996. 719.
  • “The Uses of Deception: Epistemological and Axiological Measurement from Hesiod to Aristotle.”  Pre/Text 14.1-2 (1993): 344-72.
  •  “Rhetoric and Cultural Explanation: A Discussion with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,” with Phillip Sipiora. JAC 10.2 (1990): 292-304.

Professional Service

  • Editorial Referee, Special Issue on Demagoguery, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 2019

  • Invited reviewer for NEH applications 2016-17

  • Chair, Executive Committee, MLA Division of History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition, 2008

  • Executive Committee, MLA Division of History and Theory of Rhetoric and Composition, 2005-09
  • Chair, MLA Allied Organizations, Rhetoric Society of America, 2007 to 2008
  • Board of Directors, Rhetoric Society of America 2006 to 2010
  • Chair, Book, Dissertation, & Professional Distinction Awards, Rhetoric Society of America,2006-09
  • President, American Society for the History of Rhetoric, 2004 to 2005
  • Editorial Board: Philosophy and Rhetoric, Advances in the History of Rhetoric Editorial
  • Reader: Advances in the History of Rhetoric, College English, Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society QuarterlyRhetorica, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Oxford University Press, University of South Carolina Press, Southern Illinois University Press

Awards, Honors & Grants

  • Dumbarton Oaks-Harvard University Summer Fellowship in Byzantine Studies, 2014

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2006-07
  • Visiting Fellow, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies and Project on the Rhetoric of Inquiry, University of Iowa, 2006
  • Lindsey Young Distinguished Professorship
  • Chancellor’s Senior Research Award, 2006
  • Hodges Summer Research Grant, University of Tennessee. 1992, 1993, 1999, 2000
  • Graduate School Research Grant, University of Tennessee. Summer 1991, 1994, 1998, 2009

Invited Lectures

  • “Material Cultures in Antiquity.” University of Maryland, July 2014.
  • “Rhetoric & the Display of Art.” University of Maryland, January 2010.
  • “Civic Virtue and the Province of Rhetoric.” Plenary Session, Rhetoric Society of America, May 2010
  • “Stoicism and the Classical Rhetorical Tradition.” Keynote speaker, American Society for the History of Rhetoric, May 2010
  • Senior Scholar Discussion Leader, Research Network, Rhetoric Society of America, May 2010
  • “Rhetoric, Tolerance, and Diversity in Istanbul’s Hippodrome.” Istanbul University, April 2010
  • “Rhetoric as a Stochastic Art.” University of Tennessee Centripetal Lecture, 20 January 2008
  • “Art & Error in Aelius Aristides.” University of Tennessee Humanities Institute, 19 September 2007
  • “Interpreting Aristotle.” University of Iowa, October 2006
  • Techné & Histories of Rhetoric.” University of Iowa, 21 April 2006
  • “Bodies and Art.” Symposium on Classical Rhetoric. University of Pittsburgh, 1 April 2005
  • “Names and Practices of Honor.” Plenary Speaker, Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric. 16 March 2005
  • “Classical Rhetoric and the Teaching of Writing.” Department of English, University of South Florida, 5 June 2002
  • “Questioning the Possible: Civic Rhetoric and the Ancient Concept of Art.” Department of English, Temple University, 29 Oct. 2001
  •  “Finding New Publics in the History of Rhetoric: Or How Reading Isocrates Got Me in (More) Hot Water.” Plenary Speaker, Research Network Forum, Conference on College Composition and Communication. Chicago. 1 April 1998
  • “Arts of Virtue, Sedition, and Advantage: Rhetoric and the Paradigm of Techné.” Purdue University, 27 April 1993

Contact Information

  • 510 McClung Tower
  • Phone: (865) 974-6939
  • Fax: Fax: (865) 974-6926
  • E-mail:

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