Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action

By Ian Worthington | Go to book overview

4

Classical rhetoric and modern theories of discourse

David Cohen

The past three decades have witnessed a remarkable resurgence of interest in rhetorical theory. This interest has, however, taken a number of distinct forms. Some theorists, for example, have sought to extend traditional understanding of rhetoric as a methodology for the study of argument. On the other hand, others have paid little heed to rhetoric’s historical parameters as they have reconceptualised rhetoric as the analysis of fictional narrative. Still others have attempted to overcome the ancient antagonism between philosophy and rhetoric by construing rhetoric as the framework for a philosophy of discourse. Finally, in recent years post-modernist thinkers have turned to rhetoric precisely because of its repudiation of philosophical conceptions of knowledge and truth. The purpose of this chapter is to explore a variety of these perspectives on the rhetorical tradition. More specifically, the ensuing discussion will examine the ways in which diverse theorists have sought to appropriate classical rhetoric for the purposes of their own enterprise. The first part will take up seminal figures, Perelman, Booth and Richards, who regarded themselves as engaging in the construction of a ‘new’ rhetoric upon the foundations (or, in some cases, the ruins) of the ancient art of persuasion. The second part will turn to thinkers, such as Foucault, Derrida and Barthes, who, though they do not seek to create a ‘new rhetoric’, none the less find a reconnection to the classical tradition essential for their own theoretical endeavours. Though one could have included other figures as well, the sample included here represents a strikingly broad range of perspectives on the study of discourse. This breadth alone, it seems to me, testifies to the importance which classical rhetoric has assumed for contemporary theory.

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Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface viii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Part I - Communicating 1
  • 1 - From Orality to Rhetoric: an Intellectual Transformation 3
  • 2 - Rhetorical Means of Persuasion 26
  • 3 - Probability and Persuasion: Plato and Early Greek Rhetoric 46
  • 4 - Classical Rhetoric and Modern Theories of Discourse 69
  • Part II - Applications 83
  • 5 - Power and Oratory in Democratic Athens: Demosthenes 21, against Meidias 85
  • 6 - History and Oratorical Exploitation 109
  • 7 - Law and Oratory 130
  • Part III - Contexts 151
  • 8 - Epic and Rhetoric 153
  • 9 - Tragedy and Rhetoric 176
  • 10 - Comedy and Rhetoric 196
  • 11 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 222
  • Notes 242
  • 12 - The Canon of the Ten Attic Orators 244
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 274
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