Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period : 330 B.C.-A.D. 400

By Stanley E. Porter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
STYLE

Galen O. Rowe

University of Idaho, Moscow, USA

Of classical rhetoric's five duties, the one concerning style

elocutio) has had an especially pervasive and lasting influence.1 At least three reasons account for this influence. First, classical rhetoric supplies a rich nomenclature encompassing most of the important stylistic phenomena found in any language. Not to mention other stylistic terms, there are names for more than 60 tropes and figures identified by rhetoricians from the fifth century BC through to the early Christian era. Secondly, the ancient precepts on style apply to any verbal expression and not simply to that which is used to persuade. These precepts inform poetry as well as prose, historical writings, philosophical essays, and letters as well as political and forensic speeches. Thirdly, classical rhetoric has established criteria for judging style that are sufficiently flexible to allow for changing tastes and requirements. In fact, the criteria, the so-called virtues virtutes) of correctness, clarity, ornamentation, and propriety, form the basis of the entire classical theory.

1 For general and deep background on the theory of style according to classical
rhetoric see the following works: H. Lausberg, Handbuch der literarischen Rhetonk (2
vols.; Munich: Max Hueber, 1960), I, pp. 248–525. Although Lausberg's work has
flaws (see A. E. Douglas's review in CR 12 “1963”, pp. 246–47), it is the most com-
plete and systematic source of stylistic terms and definitions presented by the
ancient rhetoricians. The serious student will also wish to consult R. Volkmann, Die
Rhetorik der Gruchen void Roma
(Leipzig: Teubner, 1885; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1963),
pp. 393–562, especially for the excellent examples of tropes and figures; and J. Martin,
Antike Rhetorik (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, II.3; Munich: Beck, 1974), pp.
245–345, particularly as a response to Lausberg. Recommended for later Greek and
Latin style are E. Norden, Antike Kunstprosa (2 vols.; Berlin: Teubner, 1909, 1915
“Nachtrage”; repr. Stuttgart: Teubner, 1958) and G. A. Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric
and Its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient
to Modem Times (Chapel Hill: Univer-
sity of North Carolina Press, 1980). Of fundamental importance to the stylistic as-
pect of the New Testament are J. Weiss, Beitrage zur paulinischen Rhetorik (Gottingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1897) and R. Bultmann, Der Stil der Paulinischen Predigt
und die kynisch-stoische Diatribe
(Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910).

-121-

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