Brian Donovan to deliver March 30 Honors Council Lecture

BEMIDJI, Minn. (March 30, 2011) — In today’s mass-media society, people are constantly bombarded with advertising from all directions — on television, on the radio, through apps on mobile devices, on the side of the bus in the next lane over — pushing everything from instant coffee to political candidates. This advertising intends to persuade its recipients not only that life would be better if we purchased, voted, or contributed in a specific manner, but that we deserve that better life.

Brian Donovan, professor of English at Bemidji State University, will discuss how modern advertisement appears to accurately reflect Plato’s famous critique of rhetoric, and Socrates’ identification of rhetoric as one of four branches of flattery, as part of the University’s Honors Council Lecture Series.

Donovan’s lecture, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 30, in Bridgeman Hall 100 on the Bemidji State campus.

Socrates identified rhetoric as one of four mere “knacks” that unintelligently imitated true arts, aiming at the pleasant rather than the good life. Through his complex analogy, rhetoric aped jurisprudence as cookery aped medicine, sophistry aped legislation and the practice of bodily adornment aped physical training. Visually mapping these eight terms onto the vertices of a cube presents fresh objects for analysis — the cube’s three-dimensional axes, six faces and 12 edges. Donovan will discuss how analysis of these fresh objects can lead to more questions about the crucial distinctions underlying Plato’s critique. This, in turn, calls into question the underlying distinction between the pitilessly examined life and a life sweetened by social tact, and attempt to determine which is better.

Donovan has spent more than two decades on the English faculty at Bemidji State. As a publishing scholar he has specialized in the study of ancient Greek rhetoric in the original language, presented papers at conferences and published articles in “Rhetoric Society Quarterly,” “Educational Theory” and the “American Journal of Philology.” Donovan also will star as Quince in Bemidji State’s upcoming production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Donovan is delivering the fifth of six Honors Council lectures offered as part of the Spring 2011 schedule. The Honors Council Lecture Series is hosted by the Bemidji State University Honors Council. The council is the advisory group to the Honors Program comprised of 12 faculty members from all three of the University’s colleges. Student representatives also are elected to the council by their cohorts for one-year terms.

2011 Spring Honors Council Lecture Series schedule
March 30 – 7 p.m. – Brian Donovan, English, “Platonic Solid: Plato’s Gorgias – 464b-465c, as a Cube.” Bridgeman 100.
April 12 – 7 p.m. – Chris Robertson, English, “Managing Apocalypse: A Cultural History of the Mormon Cricket.” Hagg-Sauer 107.

For more information about the Honors Council Lecture Series, please contact the honors program at (218) 755-3984.

About the Honors Council
The Bemidji State University Honors Council selects participants on a competitive basis for the University’s honors program. Honors program participants have the ability and desire to engage in academic challenges extending beyond their majors and the University’s liberal education requirements. These students can participate in the Honors Program, an interdisciplinary program of study culminating in an Honors thesis or project. As members of this community, honors students collaborate with a faculty advisor and the Honors Council to plan their studies and manage the responsibilities that correspond with the program’s freedoms.