The Rhetoric of Festivals

Prof. Dorothea van Zyl
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How does one sell the concept of authors and books to people in a developing country who do not regard literacy, reading and cultural activities as a priority? One way is to descend from the ivory tower and to start organizing a Word festival or Wordfest. Approximately 1 000 people attended the first Wordfest of the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa in March 2000. In 2005 the number has increased to 21 000 and more than 80 productions were organized. A percentage of 74% to 84% of all tickets have been sold during the past three years.

The Wordfest is a non-profitable art festival, subsidised by donations, which aims to establish a shared South African literary tradition, to stimulate a reading culture and to increase public support for both established and upcoming writers. In addition to the annual Wordfest the ongoing educational Words Open Worlds (WOW) project reached more than 8 000 learners from previously disadvantaged communities in 2005. With this community project, the Wordfest wants to widen the horizons of the youth, stimulating an interest in reading, a love of literature and participation in tertiary education (a very low percentage of these pupils pursue their studies at universities).

The Wordfest and WOW project could be regarded as a (creative) culmination point of research undertaken in especially rhetorical analysis; i.e. an inquiry into the strategies used to promote persuasion.While rhetoric has been part of the history of mankind for nearly 26 centuries, it is increasingly being considered as extremely relevant for our time – providing a key to the way in which people think, argue and persuade one another in order to effect change.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Festival Organization, Persuasive Strategies, Wordfest of the University of Stellenbosch
Stream: Art in Communities, Arts Education, Festivals
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Prof. Dorothea van Zyl

Professor, Department of Afrikaans and Dutch 
Director Wordfest, University of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa

Prof. Dorothea van Zyl has studied and lectured Afrikaans and Dutch literature at various universities in South Africa and the Netherlands, since 1984 at the University of Stellenbosch. She also obtained a licentiate in singing and wrote a dissertation on the rhetorical analysis of Afrikaans novels, as well as approximately 40 articles and chapters in books. Her research on rhetoric fuelled research in the fields of communication and media studies, theatre and film, on which she has also been lecturing for the past decade. The rhetorical analysis of persuasive strategies in a variety of media can be regarded as the single most constant factor in her research undertaken over the past years. A creative and practical culmination point of the research has been the conceptualisation and organisation of the annual Wordfest of the University of Stellenbosch, with the aim of promoting writers and books. What started as a one night festival was soon extended to include a large number of participants and involve a growing network of sponsors, cultural societies, the media, community leaders, schools, the public, colleagues and students.

Ref: A06P0435