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Rhetoric (from Greek ῥήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral language and written language; however, this definition of rhetoric has been contested since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in Universities. In this sense, there is a great divide between classical rhetoric (with the aforementioned definition) and contemporary practices of rhetoric.

Classical rhetoric can be defined as the art, technique or practice of persuasion. Historically, Classical Rhetoric has its inception in a school of Pre-Socratic philosophers known as Sophists. It is later taught as one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar) in Western culture. In ancient and medieval times, grammar concerned itself with correct, accurate, pleasing, and effective language use through the study and criticism of literary models, dialectic concerned itself with the testing and invention of new knowledge through a process of question and answer, and rhetoric concerned itself with persuasion in public and political settings such as assemblies and courts of law. As such, rhetoric is said to flourish in open and democratic societies with rights of free speech, free assembly, and political enfranchisement for some portion of the population.

Contemporary Studies of Rhetoric often have diverse practices and meanings.The concept of rhetoric has shifted widely during its 2500-year history. Rhetoricians have recently argued that the classical understanding of rhetoric is problematic because persuasion depends on communication, which in turn depends on meaning. This emphasis on meaning, and how it is constructed and conveyed, draws on a large body of theory (see literary theory and Critical Theory), philosophy (see Post-structuralism and Hermeneutics), and problems in social science methodology (see Reflexivity). In many cases it is argued that rhetoric is a form of metaphilosophy. So while rhetoric has traditionally been thought of being involved in such arenas as politics, law, public relations, lobbying, marketing and advertising, the study of rhetoric has recently entered into diverse fields such as science, journalism, history, literature and even cartography or architecture.

It has also spawned its own method of inquiry known as Discourse Analysis (see below).


[edit] Negative Connotation

The terms "rhetoric" and "sophistry" are also used today in a pejorative or dismissive sense, when someone wants to refer to demagogic politicians, distinguish between "empty" words and action, or between true or accurate information and misinformation, propaganda, or "spin." Another current use of the word rhetoric is to denigrate specific forms of verbal reasoning as irrelevant, fallacious, inflammatory, or spurious. Nonetheless, rhetoric, as the art of persuasion, continues to play an important function in contemporary public life.

[edit] History of Classical Rhetoric

[edit] Introduction

The scholarly literature on the 2500-year history and theory of rhetoric in Western culture is far too voluminous to be listed at the end of this entry. Useful reference works include George Kennedy's Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, Thomas O. Sloane, ed., Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (Oxford University Press, 2001); Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric: A Foundation for Literary Study (1960; 2nd ed. 1973; English trans, Brill, 1998); Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (University of California Press, 1968; 2nd ed. 1991). For overview surveys of the scholarly literature, see Winifred Bryan Horner, ed., The Present State of Scholarship in Historical and Contemporary Rhetoric (University of Missouri Press, 1983; rev. ed. 1990); and Theresa Enos and Stuart C. Brown, eds., Defining the New Rhetorics (Sage, 1993).

[edit] Ancient Greece

Western thinking about rhetoric grew out of the public and political life of Ancient Greece, much of which revolved around the use of oratory as the medium through which political and judicial decisions were made, and through which philosophical ideas were developed and disseminated. For modern students today, it can be difficult to remember that the wide use and availability of written texts is a phenomenon that was just coming into vogue in Classical Greece. In Classical times, many of the great thinkers and political leaders performed their works before an audience, usually in the context of a competition or contest for fame, political influence, and cultural capital; in fact, many of them are known only through the texts that their students, followers, or detractors wrote down. As has already been noted, rhetor was the Greek term for orator: A rhetor was a citizen who regularly addressed juries and political assemblies and who was thus understood to have gained some knowledge about public speaking in the process, though in general facility with language was often referred to as logôn techne, "skill with arguments" or "verbal artistry." See, Mogens Herman Hansen The Athenian Democracy in the Age of Demosthenes (Blackwell, 1991); Josiah Ober Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens (Princeton UP, 1989); Jeffrey Walker, Rhetoric and Poetics in Antiquity (Oxford UP, 2000).

Rhetoric thus evolved as an important art, one that provided the orator with the forms, means, and strategies of persuading an audience of the correctness of the orator's arguments. Today the term rhetoric can be used at times to refer only to the form of argumentation, often with the pejorative connotation that rhetoric is a means of obscuring the truth. Classical philosophers believed quite the contrary: the skilled use of rhetoric was essential to the discovery of truths, because it provided the means of ordering and clarifying arguments.

[edit] The Sophists

Organized thought about rhetoric began in ancient Greece. Possibly, the first study about the power of language may be attributed to the philosopher Empedocles (d. ca. 444 BC), whose theories on human knowledge would provide a basis for many future rhetoricians. The first written manual is attributed to Corax and his pupil Tisias. Their work, as well as that of many of the early rhetoricians, grew out of the courts of law; Tisias, for example, is believed to have written judicial speeches that others delivered in the courts. Rhetoric was popularized in the 5th century BC by itinerant teachers known as sophists, the best known of whom were Protagoras (c.481-420 BC), Gorgias (c.483-376 BC), and Isocrates (436-338 BC). The Sophists were a disparate group who travelled from city to city making public displays to attract students who were then charged a fee for their education. Their central focus was on logos or what we might broadly refer to as discourse. They defined parts of speech, analyzed poetry, parsed close synonyms, invented argumentation strategies, and debated the nature of reality. They claimed to make their students "better," or, in other words, to teach virtue. They thus claimed that human "excellence" was not an accident of fate or a prerogative of noble birth, but an art or "techne" that could be taught and learned. Several sophists also questioned received wisdom about the gods and about the inherent supremacy of Greek culture, taken for granted by Greeks of their time. They argued, for example, that cultural practices were a function of convention or nomos rather than blood or birth or phusis, and further that the morality or immorality of any action could not be judged outside of the cultural context within which it occurred. The well-known phrase, "Man is the measure of all things" arises from this belief. One of their most famous, and infamous, doctrines has to do with probability and counter arguments. They taught that every argument could be countered with an opposing argument, that an argument's effectiveness derived from how "likely" it appeared to the audience (its probability of seeming true), and that any probability argument could be countered with an inverted probability argument. Thus, if it seemed likely that a strong, poor man were guilty of robbing a rich, weak man, the strong poor man could argue, on the contrary, that this very likelihood (that he would be a suspect) makes it unlikely that he committed the crime. Aristophanes famously parodies the clever inversions that sophists were known for in his play The Clouds.

The word "sophistry" has negative connotations today, but in ancient Greece sophists were popular and well-paid professionals, widely respected for their abilities but also widely criticized for their excesses.

See Jacqueline de Romilly, The Great Sophists in Periclean Athens (French orig. 1988; English trans. Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1992).

[edit] Isocrates

Isocrates (436-338 BC), like the sophists, taught public speaking as a means of human improvement, but he worked to distinguish himself from the Sophists, whom he saw as claiming far more than they could deliver. He suggested that while an art of virtue or excellence did exist, it was only one piece, and the least, in a process of self-improvement that relied much more heavily on native talent and desire, constant practice, and the imitation of good models. Isocrates believed that practice in speaking publicly about noble themes and important questions would function to improve the character of both speaker and audience while also offering the best service to a state. He thus wrote his speeches as "models" for his students to imitate in the same way that poets might imitate Homer or Hesiod. His was the first permanent school in Athens and it is likely that Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum were founded in part as a response to Isocrates. Though he left no handbooks, his speeches ("Antidosis" and "Against the Sophists" are most relevant to students of rhetoric) became models of oratory (he was one of the canonical "Ten Attic Orators") and he had a marked influence on Cicero and Quintilian, and through them, on the entire educational system of the west.

Plato outlined the difference between true and false rhetoric.
Plato outlined the difference between true and false rhetoric.

[edit] Plato

Plato (427-347 BC) has famously outlined the differences between true and false rhetoric in a number of dialogues, but especially the Gorgias and the Phaedrus. Both dialogues are complex and difficult, but in both Plato disputes the Sophistic notion that an art of persuasion, the art of the Sophists which he calls "rhetoric" (after the public speaker or rhêtôr) can exist independent of the art of dialectic. Plato claims that since Sophists appeal only to what seems likely or probable, rather than to what is true, they are not at all making their students and audiences "better," but simply flattering them with what they want to hear. While Plato's condemnation of rhetoric is clear in the Gorgias, in the Phaedrus he seems to suggest the possibility of a true art of rhetoric based upon the knowledge produced by dialectic, and he relies on such a dialectically informed rhetoric to appeal to the main character, Phaedrus, to take up philosophy. Plato's animosity against the Sophists derives not only from their inflated claims to teach virtue and their reliance on appearances, but from the fact that his teacher, Socrates, was accused of being a sophist and ultimately sentenced to death for his teaching. In his dialogues, Plato attempts to distinguish the rhetoric common to Socratic questioning from Sophistry.

[edit] Aristotle

Plato's student Aristotle (384-322 BC) famously set forth an extended treatise on rhetoric that still repays careful study today.

In the first sentence of The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle says that "rhetoric is the counterpart [literally, the antistrophe] of dialectic." As the "antistrophe" of a Greek ode responds to and is patterned after the structure of the "strophe" (they form two sections of the whole and are sung by two parts of the chorus), so the art of rhetoric follows and is structurally patterned after the art of dialectic because both are arts of discourse production. Thus, while dialectical methods are necessary to find truth in theoretical matters, rhetorical methods are required in practical matters such as adjudicating somebody's guilt or innocence when charged in a court of law, or adjudicating a prudent course of action to be taken in a deliberative assembly. For Plato and Aristotle, dialectic involves persuasion, so when Aristotle says that rhetoric is the antistrophe of dialectic, he means that rhetoric as he uses the term has a domain or scope of application that is parallel to but different from the domain or scope of application of dialectic. In Nietzsche Humanist (1998: 129), Claude Pavur explains that "[t]he Greek prefix 'anti' does not merely designate opposition, but it can also mean 'in place of.'" When Aristotle characterizes rhetoric as the antistrophe of dialectic, he no doubt means that rhetoric is used in place of dialectic when we are discussing civic issues in a court of law or in a legislative assembly. The domain of rhetoric is civic affairs and practical decision making in civic affairs, not theoretical considerations of operational definitions of terms and clarification of thought -- these, for him, are in the domain of dialectic.

Aristotle's treatise on rhetoric is an attempt to systematically describe civic rhetoric as a human art or skill (techne). His definition of rhetoric as a mode of discovery seems to limit the art to the inventional process, and Aristotle heavily emphasizes the logical aspect of this process. But the treatise in fact also discusses not only elements of style and (briefly) delivery, but also emotional appeals (pathos) and characterological appeals (ethos). He thus identifies three steps or "offices" of rhetoric--invention, arrangement, and style--and three different types of rhetorical proof:

  • ethos: how the character and credibility of a speaker influence an audience to consider him to be believable.
    • This could be any position in which the speaker--from being a college professor of the subject, to being an acquaintance of person who experienced the matter in question--knows about the topic.
  • pathos: the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience's judgment.
    • This can be done through metaphor, amplification, storytelling, or presenting the topic in a way that evokes strong emotions in the audience.
  • logos: the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument.
    • Inductive reasoning uses examples (historical, mythical, or hypothetical) to draw conclusions.
    • Deductive or "enthymematic" reasoning uses generally accepted propositions to derive specific conclusions. The term logic evolved from logos. Aristotle emphasized enthymematic reasoning as central to the process of rhetorical invention, though later rhetorical theorists placed much less emphasis on it.

Aristotle also identifies three different types or genres of civic rhetoric: forensic (also known as judicial, was concerned with determining truth or falsity of events that took place in the past), deliberative (also known as political, was concerned with determining whether or not particular actions should or should not be taken in the future), and epideictic (also known as ceremonial, was concerned with praise and blame, demonstrating beauty and skill in the present).

One of the most fruitful of Aristotelian doctrines was the idea of topics (also referred to as common topics or commonplaces). Though the term had a wide range of application (as a memory technique or compositional exercise, for example) it most often referred to the "seats of argument"--the list of categories of thought or modes of reasoning--that a speaker could use in order to generate arguments or proofs. The topics were thus a heuristic or inventional tool designed to help speakers categorize and thus better retain and apply frequently used types of argument. For example, since we often see effects as "like" their causes, one way to invent an argument (about a future effect) is by discussing the cause (which it will be "like"). This and other rhetorical topics derive from Aristotle's belief that there are certain predictable ways in which humans (particularly non-specialists) draw conclusions from premises. Based upon and adapted from his dialectical Topics, the rhetorical topics became a central feature of later rhetorical theorizing, most famously in Cicero's work of that name.

See Eugene Garver, Aristotle's Rhetoric: An Art of Character (University of Chicago Press,1994).

[edit] Roman rhetoricians

The Romans, for whom oration also became an important part of public life, saw much value in Greek rhetoric, hiring Greek rhetoricians to teach in their schools and as private tutors, and imitating and adapting Greek rhetorical works in Latin and with Roman examples. Roman rhetoric thus largely extends upon and develops its Greek roots, though it tends to prefer practical advice to the theoretical speculations of Greek rhetoricians. Cicero (106-43 BC) and Quintilian (35-100 AD) were chief among Roman rhetoricians, and their work is an extension of sophistic, Isocratean, Platonic and Aristotelian rhetorical theory.

Latin rhetoric was developed out of the Rhodian schools of rhetoric. In the second century BC, Rhodes became an important educational center, particularly of rhetoric, and the sons of noble Roman families studied there.

Although not widely read in Roman times, the Rhetorica ad Herennium (sometimes attributed to Cicero, but probably not his work) is a notable early work on Latin rhetoric. Its author was probably a Latin rhetorician in Rhodes, and for the first time we see a systematic treatment of Latin elocutio. The Ad Herennium provides a glimpse into the early development of Latin rhetoric, and in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it achieved wide publication as one of the basic school texts on rhetoric.

Whether or not he wrote the Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero, along with Quintilian (the most influential Roman teacher of rhetoric), is considered one of the most important Roman rhetoricians. His works include the early and very influential De Inventione (On Invention, often read alongside the Ad Herennium as the two basic texts of rhetorical theory throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance), De Oratore (a fuller statement of rhetorical principles in dialague form), Topics (a rhetorical treatment of common topics, highly influential through the Renaissance), Brutus (a discussion of famous orators)and Orator (a defense of Cicero's style). Cicero also left a large body of speeches and letters which would establish the outlines of Latin eloquence and style for generations to come. It was the rediscovery of Cicero's speeches (such as the defence of Archias) and letters (to Atticus) by Italians like Petrach that, in part, ignited the cultural innovations that we know as the Rennaisance.

Quintilian's career began as a pleader in the courts of law; his reputation grew so great that Vespasian created a chair of rhetoric for him in Rome. The culmination of his life's work was the Institutio oratoria (or Institutes of Oratory), a lengthy treatise on the training of the orator in which he discusses the training of the "perfect" orator from birth to old age and, in the process, reviews the doctrines and opinions of many influential rhetoricians who preceeded him.

In the Institutes, Quintilian organizes rhetorical study through the stages of education that an aspiring orator would undergo, beginning with the selection of a nurse. Aspects of elementary education (training in reading and writing, grammar, and literary criticism) are followed by preliminary rhetorical exercises in composition (the progymnasmata) that include maxims and fables, narratives and comparisons, and finally full legal or political speeches. The delivery of speeches within the context of education or for entertainment purposes became widespread and popular under the term "declamation." Rhetorical training proper was categorized under five canons that would persist for centuries in academic circles:

  • Inventio (invention) is the process that leads to the development and refinement of an argument.
  • Once arguments are developed, dispositio (disposition, or arrangement) is used to determine how it should be organized for greatest effect, usually beginning with the exordium.
  • Once the speech content is known and the structure is determined, the next steps involve elocutio (style) and pronuntiatio (presentation).
  • Memoria (memory) comes to play as the speaker recalls each of these elements during the speech.
  • Actio (delivery) is the final step as the speech is presented in a gracious and pleasing way to the audience - the Grand Style.

This work was available only in fragments in medieval times, but the discovery of a complete copy at Abbey of St. Gall in 1416 led to its emergence as one of the most influential works on rhetoric during the Renaissance.

Quintilian's work attempts to describe not just the art of rhetoric, but the formation of the perfect orator as a politically active, virtuous, publically minded citizen. His emphasis on the real life application of rhetorical training was in part nostalgia for the days when rhetoric was an important political tool, and in part a reaction against the growing tendency in Roman schools toward standardization of themes and techniques and increasing separation between school exercises and actual legal practice, a tendency equally powerful today in public schools and law schools alike. At the same time that rhetoric was becoming divorced from political decision making, rhetoric rose as a culturally vibrant and important mode of entertainment and cultural criticism in a movement known as the "second sophistic," a development which gave rise to the charge (made by Quintilian and others) that teachers were emphasizing ornamentation over substance in rhetoric. Quintilian's masterful work was not enough to curb this movement, but his dismayed response cemented the scholarly opinion that 2nd Century C.E. rhetoric fell into decadence and political irrelevance, despite its wide popularity and cultural importance.

Although he is not commonly regarded as a rhetorician, St. Augustine (354-430) was trained in rhetoric and was at one time a teacher of Latin rhetoric. After his conversion to Christianity, he became interested in using these "pagan" arts for spreading his religion. This new use of rhetoric is explored in the Fourth Book of his De Doctrina Christiana, which laid the foundation of what would become homiletics, the rhetoric of the sermon.

A valuable collection of studies can be found in Stanley E. Porter, ed., Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period 330 B.C. - A.D. 400 (Brill, 1997).

[edit] Rhetoric from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

After the Roman Empire, the study of rhetoric continued to be central to the study of the verbal arts; but the study of the verbal arts went into decline for several centuries, followed eventually by a gradual rise in formal education, culminating in the rise of medieval universities. But rhetoric transmuted during this period in the arts of letter writing (ars dictaminis) and writing sermons (ars praedicandi). As part of the trivium, rhetoric was secondary to the study of logic, and its study was highly scholastic: students were given repetitive exercises in the creation of discourses on historical subjects (suasoriae) or on classic legal questions (controversiae).

In his 1943 Cambridge University doctoral dissertation in English, Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) surveys the verbal arts from approximately the time of Cicero down to the time of Thomas Nashe (1567-1600?).[1] His dissertation is still noteworthy for undertaking to study the history of the verbal arts together as the trivium, even though the developments that he surveys have been studied in greater detail since he undertook his study. As noted below, McLuhan became one of the most widely publicized thinkers in the 20th century, so it is important to note his scholarly roots in the study of the history of rhetoric and dialectic.

[edit] Sixteenth century

Walter J. Ong's encyclopedia article "Humanism" in the 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia provides a well-informed survey of Renaissance humanism, which defined itself broadly as disfavoring medieval scholastic logic and dialectic and as favoring instead the study of classical Latin style and grammar and philology and rhetoric. (Reprinted in Ong's Faith and Contexts (Scholars Press, 1999; 4: 69-91.)

Desiderius Erasmus was an exponent of classical rhetoric
Desiderius Erasmus was an exponent of classical rhetoric

One influential figure in the rebirth of interest in classical rhetoric was Erasmus (c.1466-1536). His work, De Duplici Copia Verborum et Rerum (1512), was widely published (it went through more than 150 editions throughout Europe) and became one of the basic school texts on the subject. Its treatment of rhetoric is less comprehensive than the classic works of antiquity, but provides a traditional treatment of res-verba (matter and form): its first book treats the subject of elocutio, showing the student how to use schemes and tropes; the second book covers inventio. Much of the emphasis is on abundance of variation (copia means "plenty" or "abundance", as in copious or cornucopia), so both books focus on ways to introduce the maximum amount of variety into discourse. For instance, in one section of the De Copia, Erasmus presents two hundred variations of the sentence "Semper, dum vivam, tui meminero". Another of his works, the extremely popular The Praise of Folly also had considerable influence on the teaching of rhetoric in the later sixteenth century. Its orations in favour of qualities such as madness spawned a type of exercise popular in Elizabethan grammar schools, later called adoxography, which required pupils to compose passages in praise of useless things.

Juan Luis Vives (1492 - 1540) also helped shape the study of rhetoric in England. A Spaniard, he was appointed in 1523 to the Lectureship of Rhetoric at Oxford by Cardinal Wolsey, and was entrusted by Henry VIII to be one of the tutors of Mary. Vives fell into disfavor when Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon and left England in 1528. His best-known work was a book on education, De Disciplinis, published in 1531, and his writings on rhetoric included Rhetoricae, sive De Ratione Dicendi, Libri Tres (1533), De Consultatione (1533), and a rhetoric on letter writing, De Conscribendis Epistolas (1536).

It is likely that many well-known English writers would have been exposed to the works of Erasmus and Vives (as well as those of the Classical rhetoricians) in their schooling, which was conducted in Latin (not English) and often included some study of Greek and placed considerable emphasis on rhetoric. See, for example, T.W. Baldwin's William Shakspere's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, 2 vols. (University of Illinois Press, 1944).

The mid-1500s saw the rise of vernacular rhetorics — those written in English rather than in the Classical languages; adoption of works in English was slow, however, due to the strong orientation toward Latin and Greek. A successful early text was Thomas Wilson's The Arte of Rhetorique (1553), which presents a traditional treatment of rhetoric. For instance, Wilson presents the five canons of rhetoric (Invention, Disposition, Elocutio, Memoria, and Utterance or Actio). Other notable works included Angel Day's The English Secretorie (1586, 1592), George Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie (1589), and Richard Rainholde's Foundacion of Rhetorike (1563).

During this same period, a movement began that would change the organization of the school curriculum in Protestant and especially Puritan circles and lead to rhetoric losing its central place. A French scholar, Petrus Ramus (1515-1572), dissatisfied with what he saw as the overly broad and redundant organization of the trivium, proposed a new curriculum. In his scheme of things, the five components of rhetoric no longer lived under the common heading of rhetoric. Instead, invention and disposition were determined to fall exclusively under the heading of dialectic, while style, delivery, and memory were all that remained for rhetoric. See Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason (Harvard University Press, 1958; reissued by the University of Chicago Press, 2004, with a new foreword by Adrian Johns).

John Milton, English poet and rhetorician
John Milton, English poet and rhetorician

One of Ramus' followers, Audomarus Talaeus (Omer Talon) published his rhetoric, Institutiones Oratoriae, in 1544. This work provided a simple presentation of rhetoric that emphasized the treatment of style, and became so popular that it was mentioned in John Brinsley's (1612) Ludus literarius; or The Grammar Schoole as being the "most used in the best schooles." Many other Ramist rhetorics followed in the next half-century, and by the 1600s, their approach became the primary method of teaching rhetoric in Protestant and especially Puritan circles. See Walter J. Ong, Ramus and Talon Inventory (Harvard University Press, 1958); Joseph S. Freedman, Philosophy and the Arts in Central Europe, 1500-1700: Teaching and Texts at Schools and Universities (Ashgate, 1999). John Milton (1608-1674) wrote a textbook in logic or dialectic in Latin based on Ramus' work, which has now been translated into English by Walter J. Ong and Charles J. Ermatinger in The Complete Prose Works of John Milton (Yale University Press, 1982; 8: 206-407), with a lengthy introduction by Ong (144-205). The introduction is reprinted in Ong's Faith and Contexts (Scholars Press, 1999; 4: 111-41).

But Ramism did not strongly influence the established Catholic schools and universities or the new Catholic schools and universities founded by members of the religious order known as the Society of Jesus, as can be seen in the Jesuit document known as the Ratio Studiorum that Claude Pavur, S.J., has recently translated into English, with the Latin text in the parallel column on each page (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005). The influence of Cicero and Quintilian permeates the Ratio Studiorum.

[edit] Seventeenth century

In New England and at Harvard College (founded 1636), Ramus and his followers dominated, as Perry Miller shows in The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Harvard University Press, 1939). However, in England, several writers influenced the course of rhetoric during the seventeenth century, many of them carrying forward the dichotomy that had been set forth by Ramus and his followers during the preceding decades. Of greater importance is that this century saw the development of a modern, vernacular style that looked to English, rather than to Greek, Latin, or French models.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), although not a rhetorician, contributed to the field in his writings. One of the concerns of the age was to find a suitable style for the discussion of scientific topics, which needed above all a clear exposition of facts and arguments, rather than the ornate style favored at the time. Bacon in his The Advancement of Learning criticized those who are preoccupied with style rather than "the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment." On matters of style, he proposed that the style conform to the subject matter and to the audience, that simple words be employed whenever possible, and that the style should be agreeable. See Lisa Jardine, Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse (Cambridge University Press, 1975).

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) also wrote on rhetoric. Along with a shortened translation of Aristotle's Rhetoric, Hobbes also produced a number of other works on the subject. Sharply contrarian on many subjects, Hobbes, like Bacon, also promoted a simpler and more natural style that used figures of speech sparingly.

Perhaps the most influential development in English style came out of the work of the Royal Society (founded in 1660), which in 1664 set up a committee to improve the English language. Among the committee's members were John Evelyn (1620-1706), Thomas Sprat (1635-1713), and John Dryden (1631-1700). Sprat regarded "fine speaking" as a disease, and thought that a proper style should "reject all amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style" and instead "return back to a primitive purity and shortness" (History of the Royal Society, 1667).

While the work of this committee never went beyond planning, John Dryden is often credited with creating and exemplifying a new and modern English style. His central tenet was that the style should be proper "to the occasion, the subject, and the persons." As such, he advocated the use of English words whenever possible instead of foreign ones, as well as vernacular, rather than Latinate, syntax. His own prose (and his poetry) became exemplars of this new style.

[edit] Modern Rhetoric

[edit] History of Modern Rhetoric

Walter Jost has examined Rhetorical Thought in John Henry Newman (1989). (John Henry Newman lived from 1801-1890.)

The Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984), who was deeply influenced by Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), worked out what he styles the generalized empirical method in Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957) and elsewhere. In a review article originally published in the Quarterly Journal of Speech (1985: 476-88), John Angus Campbell has characterized Lonergan's generalized empirical method as his rhetoric, an astute observation that has not yet been widely noted. Even so, Lonergan's generalized empirical method holds enormous potential for taking the theory of rhetoric to the next level of significance. (Campbell's essay is reprinted in Communication and Lonergan (Sheed & Ward, 1991: 3-22).

At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a revival of rhetorical study manifested in the establishment of departments of rhetoric and speech at academic institutions, as well as the formation of national and international professional organizations. Theorists generally agree that a significant reason for the revival of the study of rhetoric was the renewed importance of language and persuasion in the increasingly mediated environment of the twentieth century (see Linguistic turn). The rise of advertising and of mass media such as photography, telegraphy, radio, and film brought rhetoric more prominently into people's lives.

For example, when McLuhan was working on his 1943 Cambridge University doctoral dissertation on the verbal arts and Nashe, mentioned above, he was also preparing the materials that were eventually published as the book The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of Industrial Man (Vanguard Press, 1951). This book is a compilation of exhibits of ads and other materials from popular culture with short essays about them by McLuhan. The essays involve rhetorical analyses of the ways in which the material in an item aims to persuade, and commentary on the persuasive strategies in each item.

After studying the persuasive strategies involved in such an array of items in popular culture, McLuhan shifted the focus of his rhetorical analysis and began to consider how communication media themselves have an impact on us as persuasive, in a manner of speaking. In other words, the communication media as such embody and carry a persuasive dimension. McLuhan uses hyperbole to express this insight when he says "the medium is the message." This shift in focus from his 1951 book led to his two most widely known books, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (University of Toronto Press, 1962) and Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw-Hill, 1964). These two books led McLuhan to become one of the most publicized thinkers in the 20th century. No other scholar of the history and theory of rhetoric was as widely publicized in the 20th century as McLuhan.

McLuhan read Lonergan's Insight, mentioned above, in 1957 (see Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987: 251). Lonergan's book is an elaborate guidebook to cultivate one's inwardness and on attending to and reflecting on one's inward consciousness. McLuhan's 1962 and 1964 books represent an inward turn to attending to one's consciousness that is far more pronounced than anything found in his 1951 book or in his 1943 dissertation. By contrast, many other thinkers in the study of rhetoric are more outward oriented toward sociological considerations and symbolic interaction.

McLuhan's famous dictum "the medium is the message" can be paraphrased with terminology from Lonergan. At the empirical level of consciousness, the medium is the message, whereas at the intelligent and rational levels of consciousness, the content is the message. McLuhan is thus ordering us to pay attention to the empirical level of consciousness.

[edit] Contemporary Study of Rhetoric

Rhetorical theory today is as much influenced by the research results and research methods of the behavioral sciences and by theories of literary criticism as by ancient rhetorical theory. Early rhetorical theorists attempted to turn the study of rhetoric into a social science that allowed predictive analyses of human behavior. Interdisciplinary scholars of symbol systems, such as Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), Hugh Duncan, and most notably Kenneth Burke (1897-1993), influenced a new generation of rhetorical scholars who drew from various disciplines to more fully comprehend the phenomenon of human communication in all its aspects. While ancient rhetorical scholarship had focused primarily on rhetoric as speech, contemporary rhetorical theorists are interested in the panoply of human symbolic behavior—both the spoken and written word as well as music, film, radio, television, etc. Thus Kenneth Burke, who defined the human being as the "symbol-using animal," defined rhetoric as "the use of symbols to induce cooperation in those who by nature respond to symbols." Current rhetorical theory also draws heavily from cultural studies, performance studies, and design studies. Topics of interest to contemporary scholars include the relationships between rhetoric and gender, studies of non-traditional or alternative rhetorics, and rhetorics of science, technology, and new media.

[edit] Rhetoricians

Other notable 20th-century authors in the study of the history and theory of rhetoric include Herbert Wichelns, Edwin Black, Ernest Wrage, Wayne C. Booth, Cleanth Brooks, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Barbara Biesecker, Dana L. Cloud, Celeste M. Condit, Edward P.J. Corbett, Sharon Crowley [Towards A Civil Discourse], James Darsey, Thomas Farrell, Lloyd Bitzer, James Aune, Charles Arthur Willard, Paul de Man, Raymie McKerrow, Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar, G. Thomas Goodnight, Robert Hariman, Ernesto Grassi [Rhetoric as Philosophy ], Susan Jarrett, James Kinneavy, Ernesto Laclau, Richard A. Lanham, Michael Leff, Andrea Lunsford, John Lyne, Steve Mailloux, Michael Calvin McGee, Martin Medhurst, Marie Hochmuth Nichols, Lucy Olbrechts-Tyteca, Chaim Perelman, I.A. Richards, Edward Schiappa, Stephen Toulmin, Mark Turner, Victor J. Vitanza, Robert Penn Warren, Walter Ong, Eric Havelock, Gunther Kress, and Richard M. Weaver.

[edit] Rhetoric in the Academy

Contemporary scholars in rhetoric come from diverse academic backgrounds, and are often housed in departments of English, Communication Studies, Rhetoric, Education, or Speech Communication. Rhetorical scholars meet at conferences such as the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the National Communication Association conference, and the Rhetoric Society of America conference. They publish research in journals including the Quarterly Journal of Speech, College Composition and Communication, the Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, and Philosophy and Rhetoric.

[edit] Discourse Analysis

What is most important to understand about rhetoric, however, is that it is not only a method for training effective communicators (rhetors); as a discipline for advanced study, it is a method for understanding on a theoretical as well as a practical level how humans use language ( "discourse") to alter or shape our understanding of reality. It is this latter use that is often used in describing Discourse Analysis. Discourse Analysis is generally thought of being the a priori to engaging in research or scholarship. Rather than providing a particular method, Discourse Analysis can be characterized as a way of approaching and thinking about a problem. In this sense, Discourse Analysis is neither a qualitative nor a quantitative research method, but a manner of questioning the basic assumptions of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Discourse Analysis does not provide a tangible answer to problems based on scientific research, but it enables access to the ontological and epistemological assumptions behind a project, a statement, a method of research, or - to provide an example from the field of Library and Information Science - a system of classification. In other words, Discourse Analysis will enable to reveal the hidden motivations behind a text or behind the choice of a particular method of research to interpret that text. Expressed in today's more trendy vocabulary, Critical or Discourse Analysis is nothing more than a deconstructive reading and interpretation of a problem or text (while keeping in mind that postmodern theories conceive of every interpretation of reality and, therefore, of reality itself as a text. Every text is conditioned and inscribes itself within a given discourse, thus the term Discourse Analysis). Discourse Analysis will, thus, not provide absolute answers to a specific problem, but enable us to understand the conditions behind a specific "problem" and make us realize that the essence of that "problem", and its resolution, lie in its assumptions; the very assumptions that enable the existence of that "problem". By enabling us to make these assumption explicit, Discourse Analysis aims at allowing us to view the "problem" from a higher stance and to gain a comprehensive view of the "problem" and ourselves in relation to that "problem". Discourse Analysis is meant to provide a higher awareness of the hidden motivations in others and ourselves and, therefore, enable us to solve concrete problems - not by providing unequivocal answers, but by making us ask ontological and epistemological questions.

(Also see Critical discourse analysis)

[edit] Eastern Rhetoric

Indian and Chinese Rhetoric

[edit] See also

Civic humanism; Academic freedom; Artes Liberales; Visual rhetoric; Critical thinking; Fallacies; Intellectual dishonesty; Dialogue; Historical revisionism (political); Persuasion; Political rhetoric; Propaganda; Political dissent; Newspeak; Persuasion technology; Demagogy; Sophism; Public speaking; Elocution; Orator; Oratory; Casuistry; Rhetorical criticism; Rhetorical reason; Third Persona.

[edit] Related theory

Homiletics; Theories of communication; Literary theory; Language and thought; Linguistics; Technical communication; Critical Theory; Hermeneutics; Post-structuralism; Phenomenology

[edit] Examples of rhetoric

List of speeches


[edit] Miscellaneous'

Monroe's motivated sequence

[edit] Rhetorical remedies

Literary topos; Logical fallacies; Rhetorical figure; Rhetorical device; Ad captandum; Allusion; Anaptyxis; Ambiguity; Aphesis; Aphorism; Apologue; Aposiopesis; Archaism; Atticism; Brachyology; Cacophony; Circumlocution; Climax; Conceit; Eloquence; Enthymeme; Ethos; Euphemism; Figure of speech; Formal equivalence; Hendiadys; Hysteron-proteron; Idiom; Innuendo; Ipsedixitism; Kenning; List of pejorative political slogans; Merism; Mnemonic; Negation; Overdetermination; Parable; Paraphrase; Paraprosdokian; Pericope; Period; Perissologia; Praeteritio; Proverb; Rhetoric of science; Soundbite; Synchysis; Synesis; Synonymia; Tautology; Tertium comparationis; Trope; Truism; Word play.

[edit] Related devices

Literary technique, Category:Poetic form

[edit] References

[edit] Primary texts

The locus classicus for Greek and Latin primary texts on rhetoric is the Loeb Classical Library of the Harvard University Press, published with an English translation on the facing page. For other translations, see the references in each author's Wikipedia entry.

Available online texts include:

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ McLuhan's dissertation is scheduled to be published in a critical edition by Gingko Press in April of 2006 with the title The Classical Trivium: The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of His Time.

[edit] External links

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