Speech Criticism, the Development of Standards for Rhetorical Appraisal

By Lester Thonssen; A. Craig Baird | Go to book overview
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Chapter 7


The most ambitious attempts at rhetorical criticism, excepting only Cicero Brutus, are products of the past hundred years. In this period, the criticism of speeches has become a more dignified and intellectually challenging art because the subject matter of speech has again become a highly respected curricular discipline in our schools and colleges. It would seem, therefore, that the criticism of rhetoric ebbs and flows with the tides of academic acceptance. It is subject, moreover, to the influence of fads and fashions in thinking, just as are literary criticism and the related arts. In short, it reflects the spirit of the age and the character of its educational philosophy. The past century, it seems clear, has favored the revival of rhetoric. Sharpening of critical faculties in this field, accordingly, is an objective eagerly sought and already in process of realization.

The Master of the Nineteenth Century

The Theoretical Basis of Goodrich's Criticism. --No name in the history of rhetorical criticism has been more favorably received during the recent revival of interest in this field than that of Chauncey Goodrich, Professor of Rhetoric at Yale from 1817 to 1839. For many years Goodrich taught rhetoric to sophomores at Yale and also conducted a combined section in rhetorical theory and criticism for seniors, the latter course including an intensive study of the Demosthenean orations and the masterpieces of English public address. In addition to these duties, he spent considerable time in lexicographical work, revising and editing Webster Dictionary. In 1852, he published Select British Eloquence. Although he planned at a later time to bring out a comparable volume on American oratory, the pressure of other duties prevented his finishing the project.

Goodrich was both a theorist and a critic of oratory. Some of the notes recently discovered by John Hoshor, and now in the possession of the Yale University Library, throw considerable light upon


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Speech Criticism, the Development of Standards for Rhetorical Appraisal


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