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Rhetoric (from Greek ρήτωρ, rhêtôr, "orator") is the art or technique of persuasion, usually through the use of language. Rhetoric is one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar) in Western culture. In ancient and medieval times, grammar concerned itself with correct language use through the study and criticism of literary models, dialectic concerned itself with the testing and invention of new knowledge through a process of question and answer, and rhetoric concerned itself with persuasion in public and political settings such as assemblies and courts of law. As such, rhetoric is said to flourish in open and democratic societies with rights of free speech, free assembly, and political enfranchisement for some portion of the population. The concept of rhetoric has shifted widely during its 2500-year history. Today rhetoric is described more broadly as the art or practice of persuasion through any symbolic system, but especially language. Or, rhetoric can be described as the persuasive or "suasory" function of all human action, including symbolic action like language use. Both the terms "rhetoric" and "sophistry" are also used today in a pejorative or dismissive sense, when someone wants to distinguish between "empty" words and action, or between true or accurate information and misinformation, propaganda, or "spin," or to denigrate certain forms of verbal reasoning as spurious. Nonetheless, rhetoric, as the art of persuasion, continues to play an important function in contemporary public life.



The scholarly literature on the 2500-year history and theory of rhetoric in Western culture is far too voluminous to be listed at the end of this entry. Useful reference works include George Kennedy's Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, Thomas O. Sloane, ed., Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (Oxford University Press, 2001); Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric: A Foundation for Literary Study (1960; 2nd ed. 1973; English trans, Brill, 1998); Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (University of California Press, 1968; 2nd ed. 1991). For overview surveys of the scholarly literature, see Winifred Bryan Horner, ed., The Present State of Scholarship in Historical and Contemporary Rhetoric (University of Missouri Press, 1983; rev. ed. 1990); and Theresa Enos and Stuart C. Brown, eds., Defining the New Rhetorics (Sage, 1993).

Ancient Greece

Western thinking about rhetoric grew out of the public and political life of Ancient Greece, much of which revolved around the use of oratory as the medium through which philosophical ideas were developed and disseminated. For modern students today, it can be difficult to remember that the wide use and availability of written texts is a phenomenon that was just coming into vogue in Classical Greece. In Classical times, many of the great thinkers spoke their words; in fact, many of them are known only through the texts that their students and followers wrote down. As has already been noted, rhetor was the Greek term for orator. See Jeffrey Walker, Rhetoric and Poetic in Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Rhetoric thus evolved as an important art, one that provided the orator with the forms, means, and strategies of persuading an audience of the correctness of the orator's arguments. Today the term rhetoric can be used at times to refer only to the form of argumentation, often with the pejorative connotation that rhetoric is a means of obscuring the truth. Classical philosophers believed quite the contrary: the skilled use of rhetoric was essential to the discovery of truths, because it provided the means of ordering and clarifying arguments.

The Sophists

Organized thought about rhetoric began in ancient Greece. The first written manual is attributed to Corax and his pupil Tisias. Their work, as well as that of many of the early rhetoricians, grew out of the courts of law; Tisias, for example, is believed to have written judicial speeches that others delivered in the courts. Rhetoric was popularized in the 5th century BC by itinerant teachers known as sophists, the best known of whom were Protagoras (c.481-420 BC), Gorgias (c.483-376 BC), and Isocrates (436-338 BC). The Sophists were a disparate group about which it is difficult to make any general comments, but they generally travelled, taught students, charged fees, and claimed to be able make students "better," or, in other words, to teach virtue. They thus claimed that human "excellence" was not an accident of fate or a prerogative of noble birth, but an art or "techne" that could be taught and learned. And they generally pursued this goal through teaching techniques of speech, language, and public performance.

See Jacqueline de Romilly, The Great Sophists in Periclean Athens (French orig. 1988; English trans. Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 1992).


Isocrates (436-338), like the sophists, taught public speaking as a means of human improvement, but he worked to distinguish himself from the Sophists, whom he saw as claiming far more than they could deliver. He suggested that while an art of virtue or excellence did exist, it was only one piece, and the least, in a process of self-improvement that relied much more heavily on native talent and desire, constant practice, and the imitation of good models. Isocrates believed that practice in speaking publicly about noble themes and important questions would function to improve the character of both speaker and audience while also offering the best service to a state. He thus wrote his speeches as "models" for his students to imitate in the same way that poets might imitate Homer or Hesiod. His was the first permanent school in Athens and it is likely that Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum were founded in part as a response to Isocrates. Though he left no handbooks, his speeches ("Antidosis" and "Against the Sophists" are most relevant to students of rhetoric) became models of oratory (he was one of the canonical "Ten Attic Orators") and he had a marked influence on Cicero and Quintilian, and through them, on the entire educational system of the west.

Plato outlined the difference between true and false rhetoric.
LifeartistAdded by Lifeartist


Plato (427-347 BC) has famously outlined the differences between true and false rhetoric in a number of dialogues, but especially the Gorgias and the Phaedrus. Both dialogues are complex and difficult, but in both Plato disputes the Sophistic notion that an art of persuasion, the art of the Sophists which he calls "rhetoric" (after the public speaker or rhêtôr) can exist independent of the art of dialectic. Plato claims that since Sophists appeal only to what seems likely or probable, rather than to what is true, they are not at all making their students and audiences "better," but simply flattering them with what they want to hear. Plato's animosity against the Sophists derives not only from their inflated claims to teach virtue, but from the fact that his teacher, Socrates, was accused of being a sophist and ultimately put to death for his teaching. Plato's dialogues attempt to distinguish Socratic questioning from Sophistry.


Plato's student Aristotle (384-322 BC) has famously set forth an extended treatise on rhetoric that still repays careful study today.

In the first sentence of The Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle says that "rhetoric is the counterpart [literally, the antistrophe] of dialectic." As the "antistrophe" of a Greek ode responds to and is patterned after the structure of the "strophe" (they form two sections of the whole and are sung by two parts of the chorus), so the art of rhetoric follows and is structurally patterned after the art of dialectic because both are arts of discourse production. Thus, while dialectical methods are necessary to find truth in theoretical matters, rhetorical methods are required in practical matters such as adjudicating somebody's guilt or innocence when charged in a court of law, or adjudicating a prudent course of action to be taken in a deliberative assembly. For Plato and Aristotle, dialectic involves persuasion, so when Aristotle says that rhetoric is the antistrophe of dialectic, he means that rhetoric as he uses the term has a domain or scope of application that is parallel to but different from the domain or scope of application of dialectic. In Nietzsche Humanist (1998: 129), Claude Pavur explains that "[t]he Greek prefix 'anti' does not merely designate opposition, but it can also mean 'in place of.'" When Aristotle characterizes rhetoric as the antistrophe of dialectic, he no doubt means that rhetoric is used in place of dialectic when we are discussing civic issues in a court of law or in a legislative assembly. The domain of rhetoric is civic affairs and practical decision making in civic affairs, not theoretical considerations of operational definitions of terms and clarification of thought -- these, for him, are in the domain of dialectic.

Aristotle's treatise on rhetoric is an attempt to systematically describe civic rhetoric as a human art or skill (techne). He identifies three different types of rhetorical proof:

  • ethos: how the character and credibility of a speaker influence an audience to consider him to be believable. This could be any position in which the speaker knows about the topic, from being a college professor of the subject, to being an acquaintance of person who experienced the matter in question.
  • pathos: the use of emotional appeals to alter the audience's judgement. This can be done through metaphor, storytelling, or presenting the topic in a way that evokes strong emotions in the audience.
  • logos: the use of reasoning, either inductive or deductive, to construct an argument. Inductive reasoning uses examples (historical, mythical, or hypothetical) to draw conclusions: Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton all experienced political setbacks in their second terms, therefore George W. Bush will too. Deductive or "enthymematic" reasoning uses generally accepted propositions to derive specific conclusions: Democratic regimes will be more stable and friendlier to the U.S. than non-democratic or authoritarian regimes, therefore a democratic Iraq will be friendlier to the U.S. and more stable than it was under Hussein, or than other non-democratic countries in the region. The term logic evolved from logos.

Aristotle also identifies three different types of civic rhetoric: forensic (concerned with determining truth or falsity of events that took place in the past), deliberative (concerned with determining whether or not particular actions should or should not be taken in the future), and epideictic (concerned with praise and blame, demonstrating beauty and skill in the present).

See Eugene Garver, Aristotle's Rhetoric: An Art of Character (University of Chicago Press,1994).

Roman rhetoricians

The Romans, for whom oration also became an important part of public life, saw much value in Aristotle's rhetoric. Cicero (106-43 BC) and Quintilian (35-100 AD) were chief among Roman rhetoricians, and their work is an extension of Aristotle's.

Latin rhetoric was developed out of the Rhodian schools of rhetoric. In the second century BC, Rhodes became an important educational center, particularly of rhetoric, and the sons of noble Roman families studied there.

Although not widely read in Roman times, the Rhetorica ad Herennium (sometimes attributed to Cicero, but probably not his work) is a notable early work on Latin rhetoric. Its author was probably a Latin rhetorician in Rhodes, and for the first time we see a systematic treatment of Latin elocutio. Although the Ad Herennium was not widely known in its time, it provides a glimpse into the early development of Latin rhetoric, and in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it achieved wide publication as one of the basic school texts on rhetoric.

Whether or not he wrote the Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero, along with Quintilian (the most influential Roman teacher of rhetoric), is considered one of the most important Roman rhetoricians. His career began as a pleader in the courts of law; his reputation grew so great that Vespasian created a chair of rhetoric for him in Rome. The culmination of his life's work was the Institutio oratoria (or Institutes of Oratory), a lengthy treatise on the training of the orator.

In it, Quintilian codified rhetorical studies under five canons that would persist for centuries in academic circles:

  • Inventio (invention) is the process that leads to the development and refinement of an argument.
  • Once arguments are developed, dispositio (disposition, or arrangement) is used to determine how it should be organized for greatest effect, usually beginning with the exordium.
  • Once the speech content is known and the structure is determined, the next steps involve elocutio (style) and pronuntiatio (presentation).
  • Memoria (memory) comes to play as the speaker recalls each of these elements during the speech.
  • Actio (delivery) is the final step as the speech is presented in a gracious and pleasing to the audience way - the Grand Style.

This work was available only in fragments in medieval times, but the discovery of a complete copy at Abbey of St. Gall in 1416 led to its emergence as one of the most influential works on rhetoric during the Renaissance.

Quintilian was reacting in part to the growing tendency in Rome to value ornamentation over substance in rhetoric. However, his masterful work was not enough to curb this movement, and the second century CE saw rhetoric fall into decadence.

Although he is not commonly regarded as a rhetorician, St. Augustine (354-430) was at one time a teacher of Latin rhetoric. After his conversion to Christianity, he became interested in using these "pagan" arts for spreading his religion. This new use of rhetoric is explored in the Fourth Book of his De Doctrina Christiana, which laid the foundation of what would become homiletics, the rhetoric of the sermon.

A valuable collection of studies can be found in Stanley E. Porter, ed., Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period 330 B.C. - A.D. 400 (Brill, 1997).

Rhetoric from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

After the Roman Empire the study of rhetoric continued to be central to the study of the verbal arts; but the study of the verbal arts went into decline for several centuries, followed eventually by a gradual rise in formal education, culminating in the rise of medieval universities. But rhetoric transmuted during this period in the arts of letter writing (ars dictaminis) and writing sermons (ars praedicandi). As part of the trivium, rhetoric was secondary to the study of logic, and its study was highly scholastic: students were given repetitive exercises in the creation of discourses on historical subjects (suasoriae) or on classic legal questions (controversiae).

In his 1943 Cambridge University doctoral dissertation in English, Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) surveys the verbal arts from approximately the time of Cicero down to the time of Thomas Nashe (1567-1600?).[1] His dissertation is still noteworthy for undertaking to study the history of the verbal arts together as the trivium, even though the developments that he surveys have been studied in greater detail since he undertook his study. As noted below, McLuhan became one of the most widely publicized thinkers in the 20th century, so it is important to note his scholarly roots in the study of the history of rhetoric and dialectic.

Sixteenth century

Walter J. Ong's encyclopedia article "Humanism" in the 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia provides a well-informed survey of Renaissance humanism, which defined itself broadly as disfavoring medieval scholastic logic and dialectic and as favoring instead the study of classical Latin style and grammar and philology and rhetoric. (Reprinted in Ong's Faith and Contexts (Scholars Press, 1999; 4: 69-91.)

Desiderius Erasmus was an exponent of classical rhetoric

One influential figure in the rebirth of interest in classical rhetoric was Erasmus (c.1466-1536). His work, De Duplici Copia Verborum et Rerum (1512), was widely published (it went through more than 150 editions throughout Europe) and became one of the basic school texts on the subject. Its treatment of rhetoric is less comprehensive than the classic works of antiquity, but provides a traditional treatment of res-verba (matter and form): its first book treats the subject of elocutio, showing the student how to use schemes and tropes; the second book covers inventio. Much of the emphasis is on abundance of variation (copia means "plenty" or "abundance", as in copious or cornucopia), so both books focus on ways to introduce the maximum amount of variety into discourse. For instance, in one section of the De Copia, Erasmus presents two hundred variations of the sentence "Semper, dum vivam, tui meminero".

Juan Luis Vives (1492 - 1540) also helped shape the study of rhetoric in England. A Spaniard, he was appointed in 1523 to the Lectureship of Rhetoric at Oxford by Cardinal Wolsey, and was entrusted by Henry VIII to be one of the tutors of Mary. Vives fell into disfavor when Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon and left England in 1528. His best-known work was a book on education, De Disciplinis, published in 1531, and his writings on rhetoric included Rhetoricae, sive De Ratione Dicendi, Libri Tres (1533), De Consultatione (1533), and a rhetoric on letter writing, De Conscribendis Epistolas (1536).

It is likely that many well-known English writers would have been exposed to the works of Erasmus and Vives (as well as those of the Classical rhetoricians) in their schooling, which was conducted in Latin (not English) and often included some study of Greek and placed considerable emphasis on rhetoric. See, for example, T.W. Baldwin's William Shakspere's Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, 2 vols. (University of Illinois Press, 1944).

The mid-1500s saw the rise of vernacular rhetorics — those written in English rather than in the Classical languages; adoption of works in English was slow, however, due to the strong orientation toward Latin and Greek. A successful early text was Thomas Wilson's The Arte of Rhetorique (1553), which presents a traditional treatment of rhetoric. For instance, Wilson presents the five parts of rhetoric (Inuention, Disposition, Elocution, Memorie, and Utterance). Other notable works included Angel Day's The English Secretorie (1586, 1592), George Puttenham's The Arte of English Poesie (1589), and Richard Rainholde's Foundacion of Rhetorike (1563).

During this same period, a movement began that would change the organization of the school curriculum in Protestant and especially Puritan circles and lead to rhetoric losing its central place. A French scholar, Petrus Ramus (1515-1572), dissatisfied with what he saw as the overly broad and redundant organization of the trivium, proposed a new curriculum. In his scheme of things, the five components of rhetoric no longer lived under the common heading of rhetoric. Instead, invention and disposition were determined to fall exclusively under the heading of dialectic, while language, delivery, and memory were all that remained for rhetoric. See Walter J. Ong, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason (Harvard University Press, 1958; reissued by the University of Chicago Press, 2004, with a new foreword by Adrian Johns).

File:John Milton - Project Gutenberg eText 13619.jpg
John Milton, English poet and rhetorician

One of Ramus' followers, Audomarus Talaeus (Omer Talon) published his rhetoric, Institutiones Oratoriae, in 1544. This work provided a simple presentation of rhetoric that emphasized the treatment of style, and became so popular that it was mentioned in John Brinsley's (1612) Ludus literarius; or The Grammar Schoole as being the "most used in the best schooles." Many other Ramist rhetorics followed in the next half-century, and by the 1600s, their approach became the primary method of teaching rhetoric in Protestant and especially Puritan circles. See Walter J. Ong, Ramus and Talon Inventory (Harvard University Press, 1958); Joseph S. Freedman, Philosophy and the Arts in Central Europe, 1500-1700: Teaching and Texts at Schools and Universities (Ashgate, 1999). John Milton (1608-1674) wrote a textbook in logic or dialectic in Latin based on Ramus' work, which has now been translated into English by Walter J. Ong and Charles J. Ermatinger in The Complete Prose Works of John Milton (Yale University Press, 1982; 8: 206-407), with a lengthy introduction by Ong (144-205). The introduction is reprinted in Ong's Faith and Contexts (Scholars Press, 1999; 4: 111-41).

But Ramism did not strongly influence the established Catholic schools and universities or the new Catholic schools and universities founded by members of the religious order known as the Society of Jesus, as can be seen in the Jesuit document known as the Ratio Studiorum that Claude Pavur, S.J., has recently translated into English, with the Latin text in the parallel column on each page (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2005). The influence of Cicero and Quintilian permeates the Ratio Studiorum.

Seventeenth century

In New England and at Harvard College (founded 1636), Ramus and his followers dominated, as Perry Miller shows in The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (Harvard University Press, 1939). However, in England, several writers influenced the course of rhetoric during the seventeenth century, many of them carrying forward the dichotomy that had been set forth by Ramus and his followers during the preceding decades. Of greater importance is that this century saw the development of a modern, vernacular style that looked to English, rather than to Greek, Latin, or French models.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), although not a rhetorician, contributed to the field in his writings. One of the concerns of the age was to find a suitable style for the discussion of scientific topics, which needed above all a clear exposition of facts and arguments, rather than the ornate style favored at the time. Bacon in his The Advancement of Learning criticized those who are preoccupied with style rather than "the weight of matter, worth of subject, soundness of argument, life of invention, or depth of judgment." On matters of style, he proposed that the style conform to the subject matter and to the audience, that simple words be employed whenever possible, and that the style should be agreeable. See Lisa Jardine, Francis Bacon: Discovery and the Art of Discourse (Cambridge University Press, 1975).

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) also wrote on rhetoric. Along with a shortened translation of Aristotle's Rhetoric, Hobbes also produced a number of other works on the subject. Sharply contrarian on many subjects, Hobbes, like Bacon, also promoted a simpler and more natural style that used figures of speech sparingly.

Perhaps the most influential development in English style came out of the work of the Royal Society (founded in 1660), which in 1664 set up a committee to improve the English language. Among the committee's members were John Evelyn (1620-1706), Thomas Sprat (1635-1713), and John Dryden (1631-1700). Sprat regarded "fine speaking" as a disease, and thought that a proper style should "reject all amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style" and instead "return back to a primitive purity and shortness" (History of the Royal Society, 1667).

While the work of this committee never went beyond planning, John Dryden is often credited with creating and exemplifying a new and modern English style. His central tenet was that the style should be proper "to the occasion, the subject, and the persons." As such, he advocated the use of English words whenever possible instead of foreign ones, as well as vernacular, rather than Latinate, syntax. His own prose (and his poetry) became exemplars of this new style.

Modern developments

Walter Jost has examined Rhetorical Thought in John Henry Newman (1989). (John Henry Newman lived from 1801-1890.)

The Canadian Jesuit philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984), who was deeply influenced by Newman's An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870), worked out what he styles the generalized empirical method in Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (1957) and elsewhere. In a review article originally published in the Quarterly Journal of Speech (1985: 476-88), John Angus Campbell has characterized Lonergan's generalized empirical method as his rhetoric, an astute observation that has not yet been widely noted. Even so, Lonergan's generalized empirical method holds enormous potential for taking the theory of rhetoric to the next level of significance. (Campbell's essay is reprinted in Communication and Lonergan (Sheed & Ward, 1991: 3-22).

At the turn of the twentieth century, there was a revival of rhetorical study manifested in the establishment of departments of rhetoric and speech at academic institutions, as well as the formation of national and international professional organizations. Theorists generally agree that a significant reason for the revival of the study of rhetoric was the renewed importance of language and persuasion in the increasingly mediated environment of the twentieth century. The rise of advertising and of mass media such as photography, telegraphy, radio, and film brought rhetoric more prominently into people's lives.

For example, when McLuhan was working on his 1943 Cambridge University doctoral dissertation on the verbal arts and Nashe, mentioned above, he was also preparing the materials that were eventually published as the book The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of Industrial Man (Vanguard Press, 1951). This book is a compilation of exhibits of ads and other materials from popular culture with short essays about them by McLuhan. The essays involve rhetorical analyses of the ways in which the material in an item aims to persuade, and commentary on the persuasive strategies in each item.

After studying the persuasive strategies involved in such an array of items in popular culture, McLuhan shifted the focus of his rhetorical analysis and began to consider how communication media themselves impact on us as persuasive, in a manner of speaking. In other words, the communication media as such embody and carry a persuasive dimension. McLuhan uses hyperbole to express this insight when he says "the medium is the message." This shift in focus from his 1951 book led to his two most widely known books, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (University of Toronto Press, 1962) and Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McGraw-Hill, 1964). These two books led McLuhan to become one of the most publicized thinkers in the 20th century. No other scholar of the history and theory of rhetoric was as widely publicized in the 20th century as McLuhan.

It should be noted here that McLuhan read Lonergan's Insight, mentioned above, in 1957 (see Letters of Marshall McLuhan, 1987: 251). Lonergan's book is an elaborate guidebook to cultivate one's inwardness and on attending to and reflecting on one's inward consciousness. McLuhan's 1962 and 1964 books represent an inward turn to attending to one's consciousness that is far more pronounced than anything found in his 1951 book or in his 1943 dissertation. By contrast, many other thinkers in the study of rhetoric are more outward oriented toward sociological considerations and symbolic interaction.

McLuhan's famous dictum "the medium is the message" can be paraphrased with terminology from Lonergan. At the empirical level of consciousness, the medium is the message, whereas at the intelligent and rational levels of consciousness, the content is the message. Thus McLuhan is enjoining us to attend to the empirical level of consciousness.

Current state of rhetorical study

Rhetorical theory today is as much influenced by the research results and research methods of the behavioral sciences and by theories of literary criticism as by ancient rhetorical theory. Early rhetorical theorists attempted to turn the study of rhetoric into a social science that allowed predictive analyses of human behavior. Interdisciplinary scholars of symbol systems, such as Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), Hugh Duncan, and most notably Kenneth Burke (1897-1993), influenced a new generation of rhetorical scholars who drew from various disciplines to more fully comprehend the phenomenon of human communication in all its aspects. While ancient rhetorical scholarship had focused primarily on rhetoric as oral speech, contemporary rhetorical theorists are interested in the panoply of human symbolic behavior—both the spoken and written word as well as music, film, radio, television, etc. Thus Kenneth Burke, who defined the human being as the "symbol-using animal," defined rhetoric as "the use of symbols to induce cooperation in those who by nature respond to symbols." Current rhetorical theory also draws heavily from cultural studies and design studies.Topics of interest to contemporary scholars include the relationships between rhetoric and gender, studies of non-traditional or alternative rhetorics, and rhetorics of science, technology, and new media.

Other notable 20th-century authors in the study of the history and theory of rhetoric include Wayne C. Booth, Edward P.J. Corbett, James Kinneavy, Richard A. Lanham, Paul de Man, Chaim Perelman, I.A. Richards, Stephen Toulmin, and Richard M. Weaver.

Contemporary scholars in rhetoric come from diverse academic backgrounds, and are often housed in departments of English, Rhetoric, Communication Studies, Education, or Speech Communication. Rhetorical scholars meet at conferences such as the Conference on College Composition and Communication, the Rhetoric Society of America conference, and the National Communication Association conference. They publish research in journals including College Composition and Communication, the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, and Philosophy and Rhetoric.

See also

Analysis of contemporary rhetoric

2006: Bush's State of the Union speech -- "An emotional State of the Union" on MercatorNet

Related theory

Homiletics; Theories of communication; Literary theory; Language and thought; Linguistics; Technical communication


Monroe's motivated sequence

Rhetorical remedies

Literary topos; Logical fallacies; Rhetorical figure; Ad captandum; Allusion; anaptyxis; Ambiguity; Aphesis; Aphorism; Apologue; Aposiopesis; Archaism; Atticism; Brachyology; Cacophony; Circumlocution; Climax; Conceit; Eloquence; Enthymeme; Ethos; Euphemism; Figure of speech; Formal equivalence; Hendiadys; Hysteron-proteron; Idiom; Innuendo; Ipsedixitism; Kenning; List of pejorative political slogans; Merism; Mnemonic; Negation; Overdetermination; Parable; Paraphrase; Paraprosdokian; Pericope; Period; Perissologia; Praeteritio; Proverb; Rhetoric of Science; Soundbite; Synchysis; Synesis; Synonymia; Tautology; Tertium comparationis; Trope; Truism; Word play.


Primary texts

The locus classicus for bilingual editions of Greek and Latin primary texts is the Loeb Classical Library that is published in the United States by Harvard University Press. For other translations, see the bibliographies accompanying the Wikipedia entries about each author.

see the external links section for online editions of several important works, including"

Rhetorica ad Herennium
Cicero's De Inventione
Quintilian's Institutio oratoria
Thomas Wilson's The Arte of Rhetorique


  1. ^  McLuhan's dissertation is scheduled to be published in a critical edition by Gingko Press in April of 2006 with the title The Classical Trivium: The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of His Time.

External links

Online primary texts

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