Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period : 330 B.C.-A.D. 400

By Stanley E. Porter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
THE GENRES OF RHETORIC

George A. Kennedy

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

Literary and rhetorical genres originate in social contexts where a distinctive form is developed to perform a distinctive function. In the earliest attempt to define rhetoric, Plato makes Socrates say and Gorgias agree (Org. 454e5 -6) that rhetoric causes persuasion in the law courts and other assemblies. This concept of two general contexts and thus two genres of public address can be found occasionally throughout the classical period. For example, it probably appeared at the beginning of the original text of Anaximenes' rhetorical handbook, written in the third quarter of the fourth century and known to us in its later form as the Rhetoric for Alexander, for Quintilian (Inst. 3:4:9) attributes to Anaximenes a general division into judicial and deliberative oratory. By the early fourth century BC a number of Greek terms had come into use to describe different kinds of public address and are commonly found. They include:

or accusation; or defense; or exhortation; or dissuasion; EYKCO(j.iov, or praise; or speech at a festival; and or funeral oration. The Rhetoric for Alexander (Rh. Al. 1421 b8—10) identifies seven or species of political speech: exhortation, dissuasion, eulogy, vituperation, accusation, defense, and investigation. In our version of the text, edited under Aristotelian influence, these have been grouped under three yevti, or genres: demegoric (deliberative), epideictic, and dicanic (judicial).

In the third chapter of his lectures On Rhetoric Aristotle sought to classify the kinds of civic discourse on a logical basis, referring to them first as gene, or genres (Rh. I:2:1358a33), then as species (of the genos rhetoric) (Rh. I:3:1358a36). The genre is determined by the audience. The hearer of a speech, Aristotle says, is either a spectator or a judge, and in the latter case a judge either of past or future

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