Ancient Rhetorics and Digital Networks

Edited by Michele Kennerly and Damien Smith Pfister


An examination of two seemingly incongruous areas of study: classical models of argumentation and modern modes of digital communication

What can ancient rhetorical theory possibly tell us about the role of new digital media technologies in contemporary public culture? Some central issues we currently deal with—making sense of information abundance, persuading others in our social network, navigating new media ecologies, and shaping broader cultural currents—also pressed upon the ancients.

Ancient Rhetorics and Digital Networks makes this connection explicit, reexamining key figures, texts, concepts, and sensibilities from ancient rhetoric in light of the glow of digital networks, or, ordered conversely, surveying the angles and tangles of digital networks from viewpoints afforded by ancient rhetoric. By providing an orientation grounded in ancient rhetorics, this collection simultaneously historicizes contemporary developments and reenergizes ancient rhetorical vocabularies.

Contributors engage with a variety of digital phenomena including remix, big data, identity and anonymity, memes and virals, visual images, decorum, and networking. Taken together, the essays in Ancient Rhetorics and Digital Networks help us to understand and navigate some of the fundamental communicative issues we deal with today.


MicheleKennerly is an assistant professor and the director of effective speech at Penn State University. She is the author of Editorial Bodies: Perfection and Rejection in Ancient Rhetoric and Poetics.

Damien Smith Pfister is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Networked Media, Networked Rhetorics: Attention and Deliberation in the Early Blogosphere.


“Ancient Rhetorics and Digital Networks is a strong edited collection that makes a unique contribution to two different areas within the field of rhetoric that are merging quickly into a tight intersection.”

—Jenny Rice, author of Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis




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