About This Journal

Harlot ceased publication in 2016.

The Mission

Harlot (2008-2016) is a digital magazine and web forum that was dedicated to provoking playful and serious conversations about rhetoric—from reality television to public monuments, religion to pop music, and everything in between. Harlot's mission was to publish pieces that were relevant, interesting, and provocative to a wide range of audiences, not just academics or specialists in one field.

As a netroots campaign in rhetorical literacy, Harlot promoted critical response to the endless streams of subtly persuasive communication that surrounded us every day. We at Harlot believed rhetorical analysis and production can help us to better understand and more effectively and ethically influence our communities and world. And so we offered a space for your relevant, accessible criticism and collaborative meaning-making.

The Invitation

Harlot invited adventurous critics, artists, and thinkers to examine the real social, personal, cultural and political powers of rhetoric in innovative and creative ways. In addition to traditional (albeit not conventionally academic) articles, we allowed and encouraged multimedia texts that exploited the rich rhetorical potential of hypertext, still images, animation, video, and audio. Whatever the form, we invited authors to share their brilliant insights, favorite rants, and pet theories . . . for play with a purpose.

The Origin

The roots of Harlot can be traced to spring 2007 when during a rather heated conversation in a grad seminar on contemporary rhetorical theory we noticed a serious disconnect between the theory and the practice of critical rhetorical studies: Civic-minded criticism and theory has limited impact when published only in academic forms and venues. Harlot emerged as one solution to this counterproductive situation and in response to a clear need for increased public criticism of popular persuasion. We believe these concerns demand analysis and action beyond the borders of the academic institution, just as a critical approach to rhetoric calls for attention to a diverse range of contemporary texts and audience.

Transcending disciplinary and discursive boundaries, the Harlot project is based on the bold assumption that critical rhetorical studies have something important to contribute to public consciousness and civic deliberation — and that nonacademic audiences, as active participants in rhetorical discourses, have much to offer rhetorical studies. Our goal is inclusivity and promiscuity in terms of participation, subject matter, and styles and genres of communication and critique.

The Name

Our choice of title began as a joking reference to traditional disparagement of rhetoric as “the harlot of the arts” — a reference to rhetoric's tendency to, well, get around and be, um, employed by all. Then a little digging into the roots of the word revealed associations of the harlot with a gender-neutral trickster, a figure of the fringe celebrated (and reviled) for messing with comfortable norms and assumptions. Through our promiscuous methods and media, Harlot reflects this combination of subversive fun and serious business.

The Form

Our purpose at Harlot was to provide a venue for asking critical questions, not offering easy answers. The site was a platform and jumping-pad for provocative and playful discussions and conversations. Where else to do that, but the interwebs? A place where we can weave a network of endlessly generated, open-ended debates. A place full of artistic, analytic, creative, and rhetorical potential. With that in mind, a variety of interactive spaces are at your disposal and we encouraged readers to join one or all of these conversations.

  • Reader-reviewed pieces: These featured articles, in whatever form creators chose (art, text, video, hypertext, etc., etc.), come to you after a careful review by the Harlot Consortium. Of course, in classic Harlot style, all submissions were reviewed by both academic and non-academically affiliated readers. We keep hoping a jets vs. sharks rivalry might unwittingly unfold (just to spice things up), but alas, they're all prodigiously intelligent and tended to come to a remarkably firm agreement on most pieces. They also provided invaluable feedback and responses to help creators revise their pieces toward publication.
  • Shorts: Shorts provided ongoing, open discussions of topics (ranging from celebrity rags to political gaffes) without the constraints of a quarterly publishing timeline. Posts by various contributors usually appeared at least once a week. In the event of flu, existential crisis, or Armageddon, this may have been pushed back.

The Team

This project has been made possible with countless hours of collaborative work with colleagues, friends, and partners.
Editors: Sheila Bock, Kelly Bradbury, Kate Comer, Kaitlin Dyer, Tim Jensen, Paul Muhlhauser
Logo Design: James Thornburg
Original Web Design: Daniel Carter

Comment Policy

We encouraged a variety of opinions and voices at Harlot, but we also had a few guidelines to help ensure this space remained a healthy and productive environment.

  1. Treat each other with respect and courtesy. Please do not refer to other Harlot users in derogatory, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate terms.
  2. No spam. Please respond with comments or links that are relevant to the creator's work and Harlot's mission to encourage smart and useful dialogue.
By commenting, the user agrees to and is bound by these rules. We reserved the right to remove or edit any comments that violate this policy and ban consistent abusers by disabling their accounts or banning their IP addresses. This policy may change at Harlot's discretion.