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TitleThe History and Theory of Rhetoric an Introduction 2Ed
TagsPersuasion Plato Rhetoric Sophism Audience
File Size16.8 MB
Total Pages150
Document Text Contents
Page 1

Preface xiii

1 An Overview of Rhetoric 1
Rhetoric and Persuasion 3

Defining Rhetoric 5

Rhetorical Discourse 7
Rhetoric Is Planned 8
Rhetoric Is Adapted to an Audience 8
Rhetoric Reveals Human Motives 10
Rhetoric Is Responsive 1 1
Rhetoric Seeks Persuasion 12

Social Functions of the Art of Rhetoric 15
Rhetoric Tests Ideas 16
Rhetoric Assists Advocacy 17
Rhetoric Distributes Power 18
Rhetoric Discovers Facts 20
Rhetoric Shapes Knowledge 21
Rhetoric Builds Community 22

Conclusion 23

Questions for Review 25

Questions for Discussion 26

Terms 28

2 The Origins and Early History of Rhetoric 31
The Rise of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece 32

The Sophists 34
What the Sophists Taught 34
Why the Sophists Were Controversial 36

Three Influential Sophists 39
Gorgias 39
Protagoras 42
Isocrates 43

Page 2

Vi C O N T E N T S

Aspasia's Role in Athenian Rhetoric 45

Conclusion 47

Questions for Review 48

Questions for Discussion 48

Terms 49

Plato versus the Sophists: Rhetoric on Trial 53

Plato's Go-: Rhetoric on Trial 54
The Debate with Gorgias: Rhetoric's Nature and Uses 54
Socrates versus Polus: Rhetoric as Power 56
Socrates versus Callicles: Bad Actor, Bad Act 60
The Outcome of the Gorgius 61
Is Plato Fair to Rhetoric and the Sophists? 62

Rhetoric in Plato's Phaedras: A True Art? 63
Components of a Techne of Rhetoric 65

Conclusion 68

Questions for Review 69

Questions for Discussion 69

Terms 69

4 Aristotle on Rhetoric 72
Aristotle's Definitions of Rhetoric 73

Rhetoric and Dialectic 74
Rhetoric as Techne 75

Three Rhetorical Settings 78
Deliberative Oratory 79
Epideictic Oratory 80
Forensic Oratory 8 1

The Artistic Proofs 81
Logos: The Logic of Sound Arguments 82
Pathos: The Psychology of Emotion 82
Ethos: The Sociology of Good Character 83

C O N T E N T S %4

The Topoi, or Lines of Argument 84
Special Topics 85
Common Topics 85
Some Common Fallacies 86

Aristotle on Style 86

Conclusion 87

Questions for Review 88

Questions for Discussion 88

Tferms 89

5 Rhetoricat Rome 92
Roman Society and the Place of Rhetoric

Rhetoric and Political Power 93
Rhetoric and Roman Education 94

The Rhetorical Theory of Cicero 95
De Znventwne 96
The Canons of Rhetoric 97
Stasis and Topical Systems 98
Hennagoras and the Development of Topoi
De Orators 101
The End of Cicero's Life 105

Quintilian 106
Rhetoric and the Good Citizen 107
Educating the Citizen-Orator 107

Longinus: On the Sublime 109
The Emotive Power of Language 1 10

Rhetoric in the Later Roman Empire 112
The Second Sophistic 1 12

Conclusion 114

Questions for Review 114

Questions for Discussion 115

Terms 115

Page 75

138 C H A P T E R 6

Geoffrey's building metaphor is intended to point up the need for a mental plan
before one sets about to write a poem. Poetry is personified as a woman who comes
to dress thoughts in beautiful words:

When a plan has s o d out the subject in the s m t places of your mind, then let Pwtq
come to clothe your material with words. Inasmuch as she comes to serve, however, let her
prepare herself to be apt for the service of her mist~ss; let her be on her
head of tousled hair, or a body clothed with rags, or any minor details be &splmhg?l

Despite this apparent concern for a plan that guides writing, scholars have found
M e real attention to teaching composition in the poetry manuals. Most of the advice
offered a student focuses on minor details such as choosing the right beginning for a
sentence or developing a fitting rhetorical figure to make a passage more pleasing.

Geoffrey provided his readers advice on various means of creating vivid meta-
phors. While metaphors and their development may be familiar to modem readers,
other components of Geofky's insmdon in poetry writing are less so. For exam-
ple, one section of Poetria Nova is devoted to the discussion of the method of con-
vemb (conversion), which Ernest Gal10 defines as "a systematic method of varying
a given sentence so that one may choose its most pleasing form." Gal10 explains that
conversion required a student to "take an impomt noun in a sentence and vary its
cases," that is, its grammatical role in a sentence. Thus, "if the basic sentence is
Spledour illuminates his features," where spledour is the subject of the sentence,
one possible change is "His face dazzles with the light of spledoug" where splen-
dour is used in the genitive or possessive case. A second possible conversion is "His
face is wed to spledouc" where btsplendour" is now in the dative case as an indirect
object.82 The utility of such an approach as a teaching device is evident, but its value
as a guide to creating great poetry is questionable.

The discussion of conversion brings us back to the fact that the medieval &a-
tises on poetry often were rigid and rule-bound in their discussion of the ornaments
and other devices. One can imagine that writing petry according to "minute cap-
tious rules" might render the final product rather stiff and uninspiring. In fact, this
was the case, with some poetry of the -nth through the fifteenth centuries
taking on a "paint by numbers" quality, while some of Geoffrey's advice seems in-
tended to help students learn to create a long poem out of relatively little material.

To grant them their due, some teachers of poetry stressed m tat ion of great
Latin masters, particularly Ovid. Woods notes that

medieval smdent compositions that have come down to us illustrate how smhnb re-
worked =&rial from the literary texts that they read. Most of those that have survived
are b d on the works of Ovid, especially the Metamorphoses, whose interwoven narra-
tives pmvided medieval teachers with perfect topics for short composition a~signments*~

More advanced students could move beyond rehearsing various rhetorical devices in
their own writing, and begin "to analyse the larger structure of works."84 Thus, some

medieval poetry instruction provided students with a rigorous inwduction to both
the ruhen ts of writing and methods of critical analysis. As a method for teaching
writing, Woods concludes that "the medieval approach is pedagogically ~ound. ' '~~
Perhaps, but, as Brian V~ckers concludes, "whatever Dante, or Chaucer, or the
Gawairz poet knew about form, they did not learn from the arts of poetry."86

b e s t Gallo argues that writing style, however, may not always have been the
poet's central concern. Using Vigil's Aeneg as their prime example, some medieval
poetry instructors pointed out that Vigil crafted his great poem, not as an aesthetic
experience, but rather as an argument in suppofl of the heroism of its main character,
Aeneas. The very fact that the poem opens with an act of heroism that actually occurs
chronologically in the middle of the story makes Virgil's method similar to that of a
great orator who might place the strongest argument Erst. V ' i l is viewed as "a
master rhetorician'' who "manipulated the facts of the case so as to ampliQ the good
qualities of Aeneas and to diminish the impact of certain facts that seem to detract
h m the hero's glory. The poet's aim is that of the orator: Each is arguing a case."87

Geoffrey of Mnsauf develops such rhetorical sense in aspiring poets reading his
manual. If you wish to teach a lesson through a poem, "let the sentiment you begin
with not sink to any particular statement, but rather raise its head to a g e n d pro-
n~uncement."~~ That is, begin the poem with a proverb or some similar device that
makes a general point. Gal10 coments that "the poet can control our response to his
material by starting in a way that will lead us to see the subject matter in just the way
that he wants us to see it." This suggests that the poet is principally a rhetorician, adapt-
ing materials to an audience to achieve the greatest possible persuasive, even argumen-
tative, effect. "In short, poetry is essentially rhetorical; the poet is arguing for a certain
point of view."89 If Gallo's interpretation of Geoffrey is correct, then perhaps the criti-
cism of V~ckers and others is blunted just a bit. Poetry manuals may not always have
been intended principally to teach style following @id, which they W a e d l y did not
always do well. Perhaps their goal on occasion was to teach the effective selection and
mgement of the materials in an argumentative case, following Vigil.

Marie de France
There are a few examples extant of the work of women poets in the twelfth and thir-
teenth centuries. Marie de France, for instance, wrote widely read poetry between
the years 1160 and 1215. That she saw a connection between poetry and eloquence
is clear from her verse:

Whoever has received knowledge
and eloquence in s p e e c h ~ m God,
Should not be silent or conceal it
bgt demonstrate it ~ i l l i n g l y . ~

According to Joan M. Fernante, Marie de France's three known works are the h i s ,
the F i les , and St. Patrick's Purgatory.91 So popular were her poems in the late

Page 76

140 C H A P T E R 6

Middle Ages that they were "translated or adapted in many languages," including
"Old Norse, Middle English, Middle High German, Italian and ati in.'^^


During the Middle Ages, the thousand years between about A.D. 400 and 1400, the
rhetoric of Cicero's Re Inventions and a few other classical sources was adapted to a
variety of educational and social ends. St. Augustine stands as a vital link between
the period of Greco-Roman classical antiquity and Christian European hegemony. A
trained rhetorician himself, Augustine both employed rhetoric to defend Christianity,
and argued for Christian education in the art of rhetoric in order that Christian truths
might have effective advocates. Boethius represents a somewhat different effort to
import the insights of classical rhetoric into a new social setting through his develop-
ment of a topical system.

The three medieval rhetorical arts identified by James J. Murphy-preaching,
letter writing, and poetry writing-adapted Greco-Roman rhetoric to the social needs
of later Christian Europe. The need for maintaining records and for preserving social
hierarchies gave rise to the art of letter writing. The need to teach Christian principles
to a largely illiterate and almost entirely Christian public called for a rhetoric of
preaching. A rising interest in the aesthetic potential of written language contributed
to the adaptation of rhetorical insights from antiquity to the writing of poetry.

Scholars have only recently begun to understand the specific ways in which the
uses of classical rhetoric in medieval Europe represent, not just imitation of ancient
systems, but practical application of an available ancient set of theories and practices
to pressing cultural exigencies. However, a classical rhetoric developed to address
the practical needs of the Athenian democracy or Roman republic did not always fit
well with "medieval Christian learning," which was largely "elitist and hierarchical."
As John 0. Ward points out, medieval rhetoric "could not, therefore, adopt the prin-
cipal tenets of an art that assumed a more popular focus of learning and was initially
designed for theatres other than the schoolroom."93

But other realities of medieval life must be accounted for in understanding the
medieval tendency to find a source of inspiration in Greek and Roman rhetoric. Per-
haps the most significant of these factors is, according to Ward, the individual "con-
fronted with situations that required persuasion at a nontechnical level." Whether
that persuasion was pursued from a pulpit or in the office of an Italian civic official,
the insights of classical ihetoricians remained critical to its success.94


1. Which classical rhetorician had the greatest influence on the shape of rhetorical theory
and practice in the Middle Ages?

2. Why are the Middle Ages considered a period of fragmentation in rhetorical theory?

Rhetoric in Christian Europe 141

3. What for St. Augustine were the two functions of rhetoric within the Church?

4. What dilemmas faced Augustine of Hippo regarding rhetoric? What was Augustine's re-
sponse to these dilemmas?

5. How can Boethius be seen as perpetuating the classical tradition of writers like Cicero?

6. What were the three rhetorical arts that characterized the middle and later portions of the
Middle Ages?

7. What was the goal of preaching as a rhetorical art in the Middle Ages?

8. What social functions did the art of letter writing serve in the medieval period?

9. What particular aspect of rhetoric is stressed in the art of poetry?


1. How does Augustine's approach to rhetoric resemble Plato's? In what ways is August-
ine's relationship to sophistic rhetoric similar to Plato's?

2. In what ways was classical rhetoric used to maintain the hierarchical structure of medi-
eval Europe? From your study of classical and medieval rhetoric, does it seem to you that
rhetorical theory is often used to maintain existing social orders?

3. Excluding preaching itself, which rhetorical practices of our own time seek goals similar
to those of medieval preaching?

4. Do we pay less attention to social hierarchy than the Europeans of the later Middle Ages?
If so, what has changed in Western society? If not, how do we acknowledge and maintain
these hierarchies?


Cqtatio benevoluntatiae: Section of letter securing the goodwill of the recipient.
Conclusio: The conclusion of a letter.
Conversio: A teaching method in which the structure of a sentence was varied so as to

discover its most pleasing form.
Dictaminis (Ars): The rhetorical art of letter writing; the craft of composing official let-

ters, contracts, and other documents.
Diefatores: Teachers and practitioners of dictamen or letter writing; also any persons

skilled in rhetoric.
Differentia: Topics of Boethius divided according to major premises.
Exordia: In letter writing, methods of securing goodwill.
Modus inveniendi: In Augustine, the means of understanding scripture.
Modus proferendi: The means of expressing the ideas found in scripture.
Narratio: Body of the letter setting out the background of the problem to be addressed.

Page 149

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