Speech Criticism, the Development of Standards for Rhetorical Appraisal

By Lester Thonssen; A. Craig Baird | Go to book overview

PREFACE

"There are plenty of opportunities for criticism," said Lucian, "if one has captious ears." But it is important that our critical evaluations be more than just censorious. We live in a world of talk--talk that influences our lives, from the minor acts of a local club to the policy-making decisions of our government. In a democracy such as ours, this implies a very real obligation upon the citizenry to appraise intelligently what its representatives say; thus is the criticism of speeches made necessary by the nature of our political and social environment.

Believing that this time-honored discipline of criticism should be as closely and definitely related to speechcraft as it has been to literature, history, and art, we offer this volume. There exists a welldeveloped body of theory for public speaking; here we seek to articulate critical standards with the theory. Although designed as a text for a college course in speech criticism, we believe that this book should prove of comparable value in courses dealing with rhetorical theory, advanced speech composition, and the history or philosophy of public address. The extensive scope, the analytical consideration of authorities in speechcraft from the ancients down to our own time, and the wide use of citation that characterize this book should also establish its value as correlative reading in more general introductory courses. It should prove its worth in libraries, whether general or educational, and especially in the personal libraries of speech instructors and speech majors, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

The undertaking is ambitious, and attempting to define it in a prefatory note is most difficult. In simplest form, the critic's objective should be an intelligently critical evaluation and judgment. This task involves (1) investigating the facts relating to the speech, (2) formulating the criteria by which the speech is to be judged, and (3) making the evaluation.

As steps one and three define themselves with relative clarity, we will briefly indicate typical constituents of the second as they are presented in Part I. The criteria derive from the fundamental principles of rhetoric, philosophy, psychology, history, and logic. Sampling these, we note the importance of the psychological factor when

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