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Rhetoric, the principles of training rhetoric in both its traditional and its modern forms. For information on applications of rhetoric, see the articles broadcasting, communication, and propaganda.

Rhetoric in literature

The nature and scope of rhetoric

Traditional and modern rhetoric

The traditional rhetoric is limited to the insights and terms developed by rhetors, or rhetoricians, in the Classical period of purview of rhetoric; but it has consistently maintained its emphasis upon creation, upon instructing those wishing to initiate communication with other people.

Modern rhetoric has shifted its focus to the auditor or reader. antithesis and metaphor were invented by Classical rhetoricians. When disciplines. History, philosophy, literary criticism, and the social sciences are apt to view a text as though it were a kind of map of the discipline to look at communication from the communicator’s point of view, regard the text as the embodiment of an intention, not as a map. They know that that intention in its formulation is affected by its audience. They know also that the structure of a piece of discourse is a result of its intention. A concern for audience, for intention, and for structure is, then, the mark of modern rhetoric. It is as involved with the process of interpretation, or analysis, as it is with the process of creation, or genesis.

Rhetorical analysis is actually an analogue of traditional rhetorical genesis: both view a message through the situation of the auditor or reader as well as the situation of the speaker or writer. Both view the message as compounded of elements of time and place, motivation and response. An emphasis on the context automatically makes a rhetorician of the literary critic or interpreter and distinguishes that approach from the other kinds of verbal analysis. milieu of its creation have found themselves unable to abstract it from the situation of its reader. Certain modern critics have joined with rhetoricians in denouncing the folly of all such attempts at abstraction. In interpreting any text—say a speech by Elizabeth I of England at Tilbury, Essex, or a play by the great Hindu poet of the 5th century, Kālidāsa—the rhetorician must imaginatively re-create the original situation of that text as well as endeavour to understand those factors that condition a present understanding.

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All discourse now falls within the rhetorician’s purview. Modern rhetoricians identify rhetoric more with critical perspective than with artistic product. They justify expanding their concerns into other literary provinces on the basis of a change in thinking about the nature of human conviction, reason and emotion, rhetoric and conflated, with rhetoric itself being a further conflation of the subject matter Aristotle discusses not only in his Rhetoric but also in his Topics, which he had designed for dialectics, for disputation among experts. According to this view, philosophers engage in a rhetorical transaction that seeks to persuade through a dialogic process first themselves and then, by means of their utterances, others. It is in this “argumentative” light that a rhetorically trained reader or auditor interprets all texts and justifies their inclusion within the province of rhetoric.

Rhetoric has come to be understood less as a body of theory or as certain types of artificial techniques and more as an integral component of all human discourse. As a body of discursive theory, rhetoric has traditionally offered rules that are merely articulations of contemporary attitudes toward certain kinds of prose and has tended to be identified with orations in which the specific intent to persuade is most obvious. But modern rhetoric is limited neither to the offering of rules nor to studying topical and transient products of controversy. Rather, having linked its traditional focus upon creation with a focus upon interpretation, modern rhetoric offers a perspective for discovering the suffusion of text and content inhering within any discourse. And for its twin tasks, analysis and genesis, it offers a methodology as well: the uncovering of those strategies whereby the interest, values, or emotions of an audience are engaged by any speaker or writer through his discourse. The perspective has been denoted with the term situation; the methodology, after the manner of certain modern philosophers, may be denoted by the term argumentation. It should be noted at the outset that one may study not only the intent, audience, and structure of a discursive act but also the shaping effects of the medium itself on both the communicator and the communicant. Those rhetorical instruments that potentially work upon an audience in a certain way, it must be assumed, produce somewhat analogous effects within the writer or speaker as well, directing and shaping his discourse.

Elements of rhetoric

For the tasks imposed by the rhetorical approach some of the most important tools inherited from antiquity are the figures of speech: for example, the allegory, a structural principle). To the former category belong such figures as metaphor, premises will be supplied by the audience), coherent. Above all, a modern rhetorician would insist that the figures, like all elements of rhetoric, reflect and determine not only the conceptualizing processes of the speaker’s mind but also an audience’s potential response. For all these reasons figures of speech are crucial means of examining the transactional nature of discourse.

Rhetoric of or in a discourse

In making a rhetorical approach to various discursive acts, one may speak of the rhetoric of a discourse—say, Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” (1842)—and mean by that the strategies whereby the poet communicated with his contemporaries, in this case the Victorians, or with modern man, his present readers; or one may speak of the rhetoric in a discourse and mean by that the strategies whereby the persona, the Duke of Ferrara who speaks Browning’s poem in dramatic-monologue fashion, communicates with his audience in the poem, in this case an emissary from the father of Ferrara’s next duchess. The two kinds of rhetoric are not necessarily discrete: in oratory or in lyric poetry, for example, the creator and his persona are assumed to be identical. To a degree Aristotle’s distinction between the three voices of discourse still holds. A poet, according to Aristotle, speaks in his own voice in lyric poetry, in his own voice and through the voices of his characters in epic (or narrative), and only through the voices of his characters in drama. Thus, the speaker of oratory or of most nonfictional prose is similar to the lyric speaker, with less freedom than the latter either to universalize or to create imaginatively his own audience.

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