Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources

Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources

Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources

Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources

Synopsis

This reference provides critical overviews and bibliographic information for all major and many minor British and American rhetoricians of the eighteenth century.

Excerpt

I became interested in eighteenth-century rhetoric while a graduate student in English at the University of New Mexico during the 1970s. At the time, I wanted to write my dissertation on the application of the century's rhetorical theory to Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France; however, nobody in the department felt qualified to direct a dissertation in rhetoric, and I turned to other topics. After finishing my Ph.D. in 1978, I took a postdoctoral fellowship in composition theory at the University of Kansas and spent the next ten years teaching composition and technical writing and researching issues related to writing and writing theory. I never lost interest in eighteenth-century rhetoric, though, and when I began teaching eighteenth-century British literature at the University of Georgia, I combined my interests in the century and rhetorical theory. The result is this book.

The period has not received the scholarly attention it deserves. In fact, many of the minor figures have received little scholarly attention to date (a situation that this book attempts to remedy). This fact is not surprising considering that literary scholars working in the eighteenth century have been historically more concerned with traditional literary genres than with the rhetorical theory developed by a small group of Scottish intellectuals and often forgotten English and American rhetoricians. The tendency to forget these theorists was complicated by the fact that many of them -- Adam Smith is the striking example -- were not creative writers but philosophers, social commentators, critics, and theologians. Therefore, much of the early and most important work done about these figures was carried out not in English but in speech departments, whose primary interest concerned the spoken word. Consequently, much available research approaches rhetoric from that important angle.

Now, however, a new group of scholars with parallel interests has begun . . .

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