The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric: A Twenty-First Century Guide

By Schaeffer, John D. | Style, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric: A Twenty-First Century Guide


Schaeffer, John D., Style


Lynée Lewis Gaillet, ed. with Winifred Bryan Horner. The Present State of Scholarship in the History of Rhetoric: A Twenty-First Century Guide. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 2010. 258 pages.

This is the third edition of this book. The first was published in 1983 and a revised version was published in 1990. All the contributors are new with two exceptions: Don Paul Abbott reprises his account of Renaissance rhetoric, and Walter J. Ong's Introduction to the first edition is reprinted here, as it was in the second, revised, edition. In a note the editors say of this introduction that "it is such a brilliant definition of rhetoric and an overview of its historical significance through the ages that there seemed little to add or change" (1). The rest of the book, however, adds a great deal to the previous versions.

The book divides the history of rhetoric into the traditional six periods: classical, medieval, Renaissance, eighteenth-century, nineteenth-century and twenty- and twenty-first centuries. Each essay discusses new editions (or recovered editions) of primary works; each discusses the role of women, and each discusses rhetoric pedagogy in the period. Some essays overlap, but each contributor also cites new works and discusses issues that are peculiar to his or her particular period.

Lois Agnew's essay on the classical period begins by listing new editions of classical texts. Of special interest are new editions of Isocrates, one in three volumes for the Loeb Classical Library and another published in the University of Texas's Oratory of Classical Greece series. In addition to these and other new editions of primary sources, Agnew also compiles an impressive list of new secondary scholarship, especially on the Sophists and on women in classical rhetoric.

Agnew proceeds to indicate new studies in non-western rhetoric of the classical period. These studies encompass Egyptian rhetoric and the rhetoric of biblical texts. Similarly she cites several works that have multiplied the historical contexts in which classical rhetoric should be understood, and she cites several more that study the role of rhetoric in ancient cultures. Finally she notes several works on rhetoric pedagogy in classical civilization and its potential for today's classrooms. Like all the chapters in the volume, this one concludes with suggestions for further research and a substantial bibliography.

Denise Stodola's survey of scholarship in medieval rhetoric is subdivided into fourteen sections. At the beginning of each section, she lists important works discussed in the 1990 edition of the book before discussing material published since 1990. This tactic establishes continuity with the previous edition and gets each section off to a running start. One important reference volume now available is the Handbook of Literary Rhetoric: A Foundation for Literary Study. This is an English translation of the second edition of Lausberg's Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik published in 1973 and until 1998 available only in German. Stodola also includes a catch-list of the major on-line resources for medieval rhetoric and associated disciplines as well as a list of new translations and editions of medieval rhetorical works.

Stodola covers the secondary scholarship in medieval rhetoric by dividing it according to genre: ars dictaminis, preaching, and poetry. The latter focuses on the continuing interest in Geoffrey of Vinsauf 's Ars poetria. Then Stodola turns to more theoretical concerns: the definition and re-definition of rhetoric in medieval contexts, rhetorical forms, and, of course, women and rhetoric. The latter concern overlaps considerably with issues of rhetoric and religion, since many of the figures currently studied are religious or mystical writers, e. g. Margery Kempe and Hildegard of Bingen. In her concluding section on areas for further research, Stodola calls for more educational biographies of major figures, updating of editions and translations, and more attention to non-western rhetoric in the medieval period, especially in the Islamic world. …

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