Viral Rhetorics: Panel 4, Truth, Lying and the Postfactual

15 February 2021, 11.00 AM - 15 February 2021, 12.45 PM

Online: please see below for link registration.

Viral Rhetorics


A series of online panel discussions on the role and functioning of rhetoric today 14-15 January 2021 (via Zoom).


Viral Rhetorics is a series of panel discussions with academic specialists from a range of disciplines with a shared interest in rhetoric in all its forms. The panels are part of a new GW4 research community based in the South West: Rhetoric in Society. 


Rhetoric has always been at the heart of debates over the relationship between democracy and the public sphere. The unprecedented global public health crisis of COVID-19 has only underscored the vital importance of processes of communication, persuasion, and the sharing of expertise, at a time of intense digital connectivity in which ideas can circulate in a more viral-like way than ever before.


Organised by a new GW4 research community based in the South West, Rhetoric in Society, Viral Rhetorics is a forum for scholars from a range of disciplines to share comparative perspectives and approaches to problems of contemporary relevance. Panel discussions are open to all, though we are particularly keen to welcome participants from GW4 institutions and from the South West more generally, as well as from all career stages and pathways, especially postgraduate research students and postdoctoral researchers. ‚Äč 


Panel Format: Each session will begin with panellists briefly presenting a text, image, or artefact relating to the panel theme. These will be circulated to all registered participants in January.


15 February, 11:00-12:45 

Chair: Dr Paul Earlie, Bristol



Dr Paul Earlie (Lecturer in French, University of Bristol)

Dr Chris Heffer (Reader, School of English, Communication and Philosophy, Cardiff University)

Dr Maria Vaccarella (Lecturer in English, University of Bristol)


In recent years, discourse in the public sphere has increasingly relied upon a new vocabulary. Terms such as ‘alternative facts’, ‘fake news’, ‘post-truth’, and the ‘postfactual’ saturate debates at all levels and in all spheres, from politics to history, education to law, media to cultural studies. This workshop explores what the theory and practice of rhetoric can contribute to understanding this apparent shift in attitude towards truthfulness, mendacity, expertise, and evidence in public discourse. Does our current 'postfactual’ age represent a rupture with previous debates on truth and lying in the public sphere, or is it continuous with earlier polemics? To what extent has a rapidly changing media environment shaped and influenced this contemporary situation? And can the study of rhetoric, broadly construed, provide any tools for addressing some of these challenges? 


To register for this session, click here.


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