Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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Rhetoric was once an essential part of western education. Aristotle wrote an important treatise on it and Demosthenes remains famous to this day for his skills as a rhetorician. But skill with rhetoric today is no longer admired. Rhetoric is often seen as a synonym for shallow, deceptive language-empty words, empty rhetoric--and therefore as something quite negative. But if we view rhetoric in more neutral terms, as the "art of persuasion," it is clear that we are all forced to engage with it at some level, if only because we are constantly exposed to the rhetoric of others. In this Very Short Introduction, Richard Toye explores the purpose of rhetoric. Rather than presenting a defense of it, he considers it as the foundation-stone of civil society, and an essential part of any democratic process. Using wide-ranging examples from ancient Greece, medieval Islamic preaching, the wartime speeches of Winston Churchill, and modern cinema, Toye considers why we should all have an appreciation of the art of rhetoric.
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Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
irrelevant matter through the processes of editing, compilation, and excerption. These activities ‘not only produced new syntheses of local relevance, but also provided a climate in which the major classical texts would at least be sufficiently copied as to survive into Renaissance times.’ If so, the Middle Ages were less a rhetorical wrong turning than a route-marker for later developments. It is difficult to overstate the importance of rhetoric to medieval education and literature. Of course,
address to the meeting easily shows us the futility of imagining that a given combination of words has a fixed meaning that can be extracted simply by reading the text—or even by breaking it down into the different parts of speech. The whole point about Hannay’s speech is that, on the page, it is fairly banal, yet it is both funny and moving if you know his situation. Useful though it is to identify the various appeals and technical devices that a speaker may deploy, these in themselves do not
meaning from the circumstances in which they are delivered. The film scenario ostentatiously draws attention to Hannay’s double meanings, but ambiguity can be found in any complex text, and indeed in many simple ones. ‘Ambiguity’ was helpfully defined by the literary critic William Empson as ‘any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language.’ However hard we strive for clarity, such nuances creep into our words unavoidably. In the face
expressing them. These new ways of expression never leave the ideas unaltered. It is a natural habit to see ideas as representing content and language as representing form and as thus being in some sense separate from, or even antithetical to, one another. Yet ideologies are themselves rhetorical constructs, that is to say, they cannot be separated from the rhetorical structures of which they are composed. As Alan Finlayson and James Martin suggest, ‘one of the things an ideology is, is a style
the political purposes that his posthumous ‘canonization’ as the supposedly ideal orator served for others. In Cicero’s world, the Republican political elite used oratory at public meetings as a means to boost their power by generating evidence of popular support. And in contrast to the Athenian public assembly, where all male citizens could speak, Senate rhetoric was the preserve of the propertied. Linguistic culture, then, was linked to the social order. Rhetorical exercises included forms of