Speech Criticism, the Development of Standards for Rhetorical Appraisal

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

Chapter 14
THE STRUCTURE OF ORAL DISCOURSE

Interrelated Character of Disposition

Theophrastus is reported as saying that an "unbridled horse ought to be trusted sooner than a badly arranged discourse." Believing that good organization is essential in a speech, the classical rhetoricians designated it the second part of rhetoric. They called it dispositio, and in the broad sense it dealt with the selection, orderly arrangement, and proportion of the parts of an address.

Disposition is almost inextricably interwoven with the data of invention. 14 This fact is even more patent to the critic than to the creator of the speech. The critic seeks to understand an event during or, in a large number of cases, after the occurrence of the speech. And why a speaker arranged his material in a certain way cannot be fully determined until it is known why he chose certain arguments, or why he developed them as he did. Consequently, any distinctions that we may draw between finding and organizing arguments must candidly be accepted as semiarbitrary, as serving the ends of academic convenience almost as much as of theoretical accuracy.

Invention and disposition have often been linked in the manner previously suggested. John F. Genung looked upon the original aspects of discovery in invention as too individual to fall within the scope of ordinary textbook treatment. So he asserted that real invention did not begin

. . . until to the original conception there is applied a process of organization, that is, of verifying, sifting, and selecting for ulterior disposal. It is in the various stages of organization, of working up thought to a completed form and effect, that invention centres. 14

The mutual dependence of finding and arranging material is thus clearly indicated. And the distinction between originative and organizing invention is accordingly specified.

Two additional opinions from homileticians corroborate Genung's view. John A. Broadus held that arrangement reacted directly upon invention. "One has not really studied a subject when he has

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