Enos and Blakeslee “The Classical Period”

“The Classical Period”  Richard Enos and Ann Blakeslee

In this literature review written for both students and researchers of rhetoric, Enos and Blakeslee identify key figures and primary texts in classical rhetoric, explain their value in forming the discipline of rhetoric, and evaluate various translations and collections of these primary works, making it easy for their readers to identify which texts they might choose to peruse.   Also reviewed are secondary works, more specifically reviews of research in classical rhetoric, reference works and bibliographies, historical studies of rhetoric and key rhetoricians, and texts focusing on specific specialized rhetorical concepts.  Lastly, Enos and Blakeslee identify needed areas for future research, placing special emphasis on the need for historians and rhetoricians to “introduce, refine, and modify the heuristic and stylistic processes of classical rhetorical theory for the resolution of contemporary communications so that the benefits of rhetoric…can continue to be made apparent through scholarly research”—a concern shared by many classical rhetoricians and historians of rhetoric (30). 

As a student of rhetorical theory, Enos and Blakeslee’s literature review serves as a useful resource for locating texts needed to: develop a solid foundation in classical rhetoric; better understand key rhetorical concepts; consult the work of key figures for specific research projects; compile readings for comprehensive exams in classical rhetoric; see how contemporary scholars are establishing new lines of inquiry about classical rhetoric; and/or receive inspiration for future research projects.  In reading this literature review, it is clear Enos and Blakeslee have a superb and astounding grasp of the canon of classical rhetoric.  Yet, this literature review is limited by its canonical focus.  In De-Canonizing Ancient Rhetoric, Robert Gaines challenges his readers to reconceptualize the canon of ancient rhetoric as a body of texts, artifacts, and discourse venues that more accurately represents ancient rhetorics of specific cultures than a list of major authors and texts that impose institutional authority.  Gaines claims we must make room for new kinds of rhetorical evidence, and thus stimulate diverse scholarship approached from a variety of ideological perspectives. Similarly, in The Politics of Historiography: Octalog, Robert Connors argues for an expansion of the kinds of evidence and texts to be studied, while Richard Enos calls for historiographers to “dirty their hands,” dig up artifacts other than literary texts, and immerse oneself in archaeology and history to learn about cultural forces shaping a culture’s thought and expression (15). Although Enos and Blakeslee identify the need for collection of nontraditional evidence of classical rhetoric and studies of the impact of classical rhetoric across cultures and through time, overall this literature review does little to disrupt the traditional ancient rhetorical canon, which confines our understanding of ancient rhetorics as they operated historically across cultures and therefore of contemporary rhetorics as they operate across cultures today.   

As a side note and a harsher note, the style in which this literature review was written makes the reading cumbersome if not downright tedious and painful.  Rather than retaining my interest, I found myself quickly skimming this article with the realization that this article will be more valuable to me in the future for the reasons identified above.  Questions sparked by this literature review in terms of writing style are:  how can literature reviews be written in a way that is both useful and interesting/entertaining?   The underlying presumption here is, of course, that literature reviews have a purpose other than informing–that literature reviews should be engaging and engrossing.  Some might argue this latter purpose is not, in fact, of concern for authors of literature reviews.  I would argue, however, that all texts we write must engage in order to inform.  This article, in my eyes, borders on being so disengaging as to be rendered invaluable.   What could Enos and Blakeslee have done differently to make this literature review more compelling??? 

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