Ancient Rhetoric and Poetic: Interpreted from Representative Works

Ancient Rhetoric and Poetic: Interpreted from Representative Works

Ancient Rhetoric and Poetic: Interpreted from Representative Works

Ancient Rhetoric and Poetic: Interpreted from Representative Works

Excerpt

To interpret ancient rhetoric and poetic afresh from typical theory and practise is the first step toward interpreting those traditions of criticism which were most influential in the middle age. Medieval rhetoric and poetic in turn, besides illuminating medieval literature, prepare for clearer comprehension of the Renaissance renewal of allegiance to antiquity. Thus the historical survey needed to focus many important detached studies itself needs a preliminary volume of exposition. The influences of ancient oratory, drama, and story cannot be measured surely without more specific knowledge of ancient precept and practise, firmer grasp of ancient conceptions, than has been offered by any synthesis in English. Even in other languages the available compends are generally rather digests, or dictionaries of terms, than interpretations of leading ideas. Instead of risking once more the inadequacy and the forced emphasis that beset such a method, I have tried to make the most representative ancients speak for themselves.

Though the very choice of spokesmen interposes the chooser, scholars generally, I hope, will accept Aristotle for the theory of rhetoric as the energizing of knowledge, Cicero for its scope and skill in practise, Quintilian for its teaching, and so on through a list chosen for representative significances. Nor does the plan of spokesmen preclude sufficient indications of general theory and practise. It shows in Cicero the influence not only of Aristotle, but of Isocrates. In poetic, ancient epic art is . . .

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