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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

Former Northwestern dean named Watson Visiting Collaborator at SU

David Zarefsky to analyze role of public speech, argument, and debate during war and conflict

Feb. 10, 2011, by Rob Enslin

David Zarefsky
David Zarefsky

David Zarefsky, an expert in rhetorical history and criticism, is the next Jeanette K. Watson Visiting Collaborator in The Syracuse University Humanities Center, in conjunction with The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor. As part of his appointment, the former dean of Northwestern University’s School of Communication will deliver two public lectures on the Syracuse Symposium theme of “Conflict: Peace and War.”

Zarefsky’s first presentation, “Lincoln on War and Peace,” is Wednesday, Feb. 23. It is followed by “Lyndon Johnson on War and Peace” on Wednesday, April 27. Both events begin at 6 p.m., and take place in the Killian Room (500) of the Hall of Languages. For more information, call 315-443-7192.

“Dr. Zarefsky is one of the world’s leading scholars of speech communication,” says Gregg Lambert, Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of The SU Humanities Center. “In addition to being a dynamic speaker, he is an expert on the role of public speech, argument, and debate in times of conflict and war. His research argues that rhetorical strategies have the power to sway public sentiment.”

During his visits, Zarerfsky will engage students and faculty in workshops and seminars. He also will participate in “Rhetorical Frames for War” (CRS 862), a Syracuse Symposium Seminar led by Kendall Philips, professor of communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

At Northwestern, Zarefsky teaches courses in the history and criticism of U.S. public discourse, with special focus on the pre-Civil War period and on the 1960s. He also teaches courses in argumentation and in presidential rhetoric.

Zarefsky is the author of six books and more than 70 scholarly articles about American public discourse (historical and contemporary), argumentation, rhetorical criticism, and public speaking. He is presently working on two book-length projects: one about President Johnson's speech, in which he announced his withdrawal from the 1968 Presidential race, and the other on the Texas annexation controversy of the 1840s, as it affected the slavery debate.

Zarefsky has held multiple appointments at Northwestern, including the Owen L. Coon Professor of Communication Studies. Also, he has served as president of the Rhetoric Society of America, National Communication Association, and Central States Communication Association.

Founded in 2008, The SU Humanities Center fosters public engagement in the humanities, as well as scholarship in and across various fields of humanistic inquiry. The center is administered by The College of Arts and Sciences, and is home to Syracuse Symposium; The Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor, an Andrew W. Mellon initiative involving SU, Cornell University, and the University of Rochester; the Watson Visiting Collaborator; the Mini Seminar series; and other major research initiatives, fellowships and public programming.

“The Watson Visiting Collaborator contributes to the research agendas of The SU Humanities Center and of Syracuse University,” says Lambert. “As a result, the appointment is interdisciplinary in nature, and speaks to our institutional vision of ‘Scholarship in Action.’”

The next Watson Visiting Collaborator is David Liebman, saxophonist for Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, who comes to Syracuse on Saturday, April 16, for a special concert with the CNY Jazz Orchestra. His visit includes an afternoon panel discussion on the role of jazz in Jewish music and culture.

Renowned theater artist and director Ping Chong served as Watson Visiting Collaborator last fall.