Rhetoric and Writing
Many people use the terms rhetoric and composition interchangeably, but they aren't quite the same. During the classical period of Greece and Rome, rhetoric dealt primarily with oral language. Teachers in Athens, for example, helped their students become better speakers for the law courts and the governing assembly.
Rhetoric was initially tied to democracy, but as social circumstances changed and democracy gave way to empire, rhetoric also changed. For example, Athens was a democracy, whereas Rome was not, and the nature of rhetoric was quite different in the two cities. In Athens, rhetoric was used in the courts as well as in the governing assembly, which was characterized by free debate. In Rome, rhetoric was limited largely to the law courts, but eventually, it assumed a modest role there.
Christianity brought another change to rhetoric as the new religion sought to establish its doctrine as well as its popularity. Three to four hundred years after Christ's Crucifixion, Christianity was criticized for its lack of literary tradition that characterized the pagan sects. It was also torn by internal disputes over what was or was not official doctrine. St. Augustine ( A.D. 354-430), who was trained in rhetoric, applied rhetorical analysis to the Bible to show that it was equal if not superior to pagan writing. In addition, his own compelling writing served as a bridge to link the rhetorical traditions of classical pagan culture to Christianity, providing a model that later writers attempted to emulate. An important result of St. Augustine's efforts was that the primary focus of rhetoric shifted from speech to writing.
This shift did not end the oral tradition immediately. It remained strong through the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and into the 19th century because Western education continued to follow the model developed in ancient Greece and Rome, a model that valued oral composition. Nevertheless, the shift in focus from speaking to writing already had occurred. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, several factors- such as the belles-lettres movement and an emphasis on specialization
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Publication information: Book title: Preparing to Teach Writing:Research, Theory, and Practice. Edition: 2nd. Contributors: James D. Williams - Author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 1.