Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction

Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction

Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction

Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction

Synopsis

This is the first book to offer a cross-cultural overview of rhetoric as a universal feature of expression and communication. The author explores analogies to human rhetoric in animal communication, rhetorical factors in the origin of human speech, and rhetorical conventions in traditionally oral societies around the world. The second part of the book discusses rhetoric as understood and practised in early literate cultures, seeking to identify what is unique or unusual in the western tradition.

Excerpt

Comparative Rhetoric is the cross-cultural study of rhetorical traditions as they exist or have existed in different societies around the world. It has at least four objectives:

One is to use comparative methods to identify what is universal and what is distinctive about any one rhetorical tradition in comparison to others. How, for example, have traditional rhetorical practices in China resembled or differed from those in Europe? A comparative approach has often proved to be useful in the natural and human sciences to reveal features of some object of study that may not be immediately evident in its own context.

A second, drawing on the first, is to try to formulate a General Theory of Rhetoric that will apply in all societies. This would be the innate or "deep" rhetorical faculty that we all share but which takes different forms in different cultures.

A third is to develop and test structures and terminology that can be used to describe rhetorical practices cross-culturally.

And a fourth is to apply what has been learned from comparative study to contemporary cross-cultural communication. This fourth objective goes beyond my present undertaking, but I hope greater historical perspective may be useful in understanding how cultures other than our own have come to view conventions of discourse.

This book is divided into two parts. In the first five chapters I give a picture of rhetorical practices in social groups that do not make use of writing. The chap-

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