In Defence of Rhetoric

In Defence of Rhetoric

In Defence of Rhetoric

In Defence of Rhetoric

Synopsis

A spirited effort to restore the importance of rhetoric, this book examines its early development in the classical era, its triumph during the Renaissance, and its subsequent decline. While acknowledging rhetoric's general loss of prestige, the author asserts its value in modern times as an indispensable vehicle for style and thought in the work of Joyce, Orwell, Jarrell, and others, and concludes by surveying rhetoric's fragmentation and misapplication in the current critical theories of such thinkers as Jakobson and de Man.

Excerpt

The goal of this book is to remove the misapprehensions and prejudices that still affect our appreciation of rhetoric. For many years scholars have been telling us about the great importance of rhetoric as a key to understanding the past, its history, literature, art, architecture, music--such distinguished writers as E. R. Curtius, Henri Marrou, Erwin Panofsky, Sir Ernst Gombrich, C. S. Lewis. Their encouragements to study rhetoric as a communicational system used for over two thousand years to shape literary and artistic creation, and the critical processes by which the arts were judged, have been matched by the work of other more specialized students of rhetoric, amply represented in the bibliography and notes to this book. Yet neither group has managed to overcome the prejudices, or lack of response affecting people who otherwise take a wide and keen interest in history, literature, and the arts. Some people are aware of the importance of rhetoric, but have never bothered to find out how it works, and are content to let someone else do it for them. In the memorable words of Wilhelm Busch describing the common response to a strongly-smelling cheese, 'Bedenk: Man liebt den Käse wohl, indessen / Man deckt ihn zu' ['Consider: We like cheese well enough, but we still cover it up'].

Rhetoric is not merely put at a discreet distance, however, it is actively distrusted, and attacked. By an ever-present irony, the first written accounts of Greek rhetoric to survive come from rhetoric's most influential enemy, Plato, attacks which anyone truly concerned to rehabilitate rhetoric cannot simply pass by. I have long felt that the account of rhetoric, and politics, in the Gorgias was a violent travesty of both disciplines, but not until I sat down to write the studies that form Chapters 2 and 3 (in part) of this book did I realize just how systematically Plato distorted both evidence and argument to build up his case. Most of those who study Plato do so because he is a great philosopher, and either ignore rhetoric altogether (as the indexes or contents pages to most modern studies will show), or endorse his view of it. To show how much misrepresentation . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.