Tag Archives: ancient rhetorics

Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks Eds. Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley

With the call in Octolog II to look for rhetoric in cultural locations unpreviously examined, Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks attempts to explore rhetoric before and beyond the limited scope of Athenian rhetoric in ways that do not reify Athenian rhetoric as the apex of the ancient rhetorical tradition.  As the editors note in their introduction, in order to survive over long periods of time, cultures existing before the Greeks had to use communication for significant social functions and to persuade and convince.  This collection aims to recover understanding of rhetorical use of language by early cultures—Mesopatamia, Egypt, China, ancient Israel, and other parts of Greece.  Scholars are particularly interested in recovering rhetorical genres and conventions used in particular moments in time and investigating how they might have grown and changed over time.  This work is controversial for a number of reasons.  One, ancient artifacts to study are often scarce and fragmented and the contexts in which they were produced are difficult to fully understand.  Two, the Aristotelian body of definitions, values, and practices has a strong hold on modern conceptions of rhetoric; some argue that studying rhetorical genres and conventions of other cultures threatens traditional classical notions of rhetoric.  Three, methodological concerns are raised as to how to study “alternative rhetorics” and whether or not to apply traditional Athenian concepts of rhetoric to other cultures such as George Kennedy does in Comparative Rhetoric or study other cultures use of rhetoric on their own terms and through their own analytical frameworks—an approach Xing Lu calls a hermeneutic method, which “allows the ancient Chinese texts[, for instance,] to speak for themselves without imposing assumptions or terminological equations on them” (15).  This approach also has the benefit, as Swearingen notes, of helping us “see the blind spots of our own terminology and [helping] us envision other possibilities” (19).  


“The Birth of Rhetoric”  William W. Hallo


In “The Birth of Rhetoric,” Hallo argues that rhetoric was actually birthed in Mesopatamia through the genre of cuneiform literature.  Hallo looks to the Epic of Gilgamesh to prove that Mesopatamian myths have rhetorical value and effect.  He notes, for instance, that the rhetorical devices employed in this epic include:  self-introduction of the “speaker,” invitation to the audience, hymnic apostrophe to the protagonist, partial repetition of the proemium to achieve a frame effect and closure, and mechanical addition of an extraneous addendum to arrive at a preferred length” (33). 



“The Rhetoric of Origins and the Other:  Reading the Ancient Figure of Enheduanna”  Roberta Binkley


In this important essay that attempts to disrupt the notion that ancient women had no agency and no voice, Binkley recovers the early literacy practices of the ancient figure of Enheduanna’s song writing and situates them within the long sacred tradition described by Swearingen as “Song to Speech.”  Enheduanna was a priestess, princess, poet and “consummate rhetorician” writing in 2300 B.C., yet recognition of her as an early rhetorician has been largely ignored because she is a geographically and gendered Other writing to an Other (sacred) audience.  Consequently, her “work, her documented existence, and her ethos problematizes rhetorical assumptions of origins and the Other in rhetorical historiography and in Assyriology” (47).  Binkley explains that Enheduanna was a composer of hymns intended to be sung, which contain strong elements of pathos, ethos, and logos.  Especially interesting, Binkley argues, is the articulation of Enheduanna’s invention process, which entails calling upon the goddess Inanna to assist in her creative process.  This creative process challenges Western notions of the intellect, which divorces the body from the mind, as well as notions that divorce rhetoric from the sacred.   Binkley concludes this article by stating that the acknowledgment of Enheduanna as an early rhetorician opens up future possibilities for enhancing our understanding of rhetorical consciousness, especially of the rhetorical Other, and reconfiguring the origins of rhetoric itself.


Carol Lipson  “Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric:  It All Comes Down to Maat


            In attempt to uncover an ancient Egyptian rhetorical system, Carol Lipson reveals the ways in which Egyptian rhetoric was founded to some extent on the cultural concept of Maat—also the name of a goddess often depicted in Egyptian mortuary mythology.  According to Lipson, Matt both a.) reflects “the culture’s understanding of interconnected order of the cosmic, divine, natural, and human worlds” as well as its understanding of the need to preserve that order; and b.) defines ways to conduct oneself blamelessly toward others  (81).  Maat is rhetorical then in the educational sense; by dictating behaviors appropriate for certain situations, Maat reflects and communicates certain cultural values as well as guidelines for action.  By rhetorically analyzing Egyptian conventional and ritual practices of writing letters, Lipson demonstrates how letters that perform Maat are actually epideictic in nature—letters reaffirm the social/political order of society and emphasize the roles and responsibilities of community members at various levels of society.  In these letters, Lipson explains, the communicator performs several acts simultaneously: “doing Maat, enacting ritual practices of Maat, carrying out Maat responsibilities, and showing devotion to Maat principles (90).  Communicators are also teaching Maat by articulating how to enact Maat in specific situations depending on one’s status in society.  Besides these immediate administrative functions, Lipson also explains that the rhetorical strategies employed in these letters also function for more divine purposes—to put “themselves up for and understanding by and assessment before the goddess Maat,” which Lipson correlates to what Bahktin calls any higher authority beyond the immediate audience, a “superaddressee” (93). 

            Lipson ends her article by disclaiming that the conventions she has uncovered in Egyptian autobiographies and letters are not static practices and also that a precise understanding of what it means to do Maat can never be known.  She calls for a transhistorical research to confirm Egyptian ways of reflecting and reinforcing their cultural system and ritually enacting its cultural values through the performance of Maat.  This article also illustrates that Rhetoric doesn’t always make an argument.   Rhetoric of accommodation is particular to Egypt.  Therefore, rhetoric was at work in helping people understand themselves and society. 


Rhetoric here was directed toward divine audience; hence numerous questions about audience arise:  How do they conceive this audience?  It is imagined.  Are we always writing to an imagine audience?  If so, then is it a worthy endeavor to write to an audience?  How can we truly know who we our audience is?


“The Use of Eloquence:  The Confucian Perspective”  George Q. Xu


In this essay, Xu demonstrates a general mistrust of eloquence, defined as the “skillful, artistic verbal expression for rhetorical effect,” reflected in Confucian texts (116).  As he explains, “While keenly aware of the usefulness of persuasion in political operations, they disdained ‘indulgence in argumentation with no useful purpose and flowery eloquence with no practical results’ and they even blamed the deterioration of government effectiveness on sophistry that served no practical function” (116).  Even as Confucianists employed eloquence to devalue eloquences, their devaluation of eloquence, Xu argues, has had a profound, long lasting effect on Chinese communication practices.  As Xu explains, Confucianism was the dominant controlling ideology in everyday life and the study of Confucianism was a means to climb the social ladder (which is why the study of Chinese rhetoric must focus on Confucian texts) (125).  Therefore, the devaluation of eloquence in Confucian texts is still embedded in the Chinese collective consciousness. 


“Confucian Silence and Remonstration:  A Basis for Deliberation?”  Arabella Lyon


Arabella Lyon begins this article with a rationale for why the recovery of Confucian rhetoric is so important.  As she explains, “for more than 2,500 years, his works—fragmented, edited, even written by his disciples—have been used to make a cacophony of claims about the nature of humanity, government, education, and the East” (131).   Through the lens of deliberative rhetoric, Lyon studies the relationship of Confucian rhetoric and current democratic and civil rights movements in Asia. More specifically, by exploring remonstration and silence in The Analects, Lyon  Lyon acknowledges the risk of looking through a Western lens to study Confucian rhetoric, but she does so in order to “place Confucian rhetoric within a defined rhetorical tradition and to place Confucious in twenty-first-century rhetoric” (132). 


Lyon begins by defining rhetoric as a metalinguistic awareness of language to be manipulated in the service of identity, communication, persuasion, or artifice (132).  She explains that “as Westerners after Plato conceived” rhetoric, the Chinese do not share western assumptions about “language, communication, and the individual” (132).  For instance, in ancient China there was a “great skepticism about persuasion as an ethical undertaking and even about language as revealing knowledge, action, or character” (132).  Such a difference raises the questions:  “how do you define rhetoric in a culture wituout a homologous word?  If you simply import rhetoric as a concept, what are the implications of bringing western concepts to Chinese culture?…In bringing the concepts of rhetoric and rhetorical theory to Confucian texts, are we colonizing China, or are we disrespecting rhetorical theory, a cultural perspective of the West?” (133).  What are we missing by forcing rhetorical theory upon Confucius? (133)


As she explains:

            …[T]he need to understand alternative strategies for language use, forces a conceptual form—the concepts available in the dicipline of rhetoric—upon a different conceptual system, one that values relationship over individual, conservation over experiment, and spirituality and self-cultivation over material accomplishment.  It creates a private/public distinction within a culture that has little.  China’s philosophical concern with process, cycle, and movement over Being, creation, and performance is more congenial with rhetoric, but our prior understandings of what is rhetoric may focus us on the wrong aspects of Chinese culture and filter out what is significant.  One may obscure what is uniquely there by foregrounding western assumptions and so distort and colonize.  It is the dilemma and tragedy of translation (133)


Translation, she explains, has led to controversies such as what Chinese concept most closely approximates rhetoric.  Some argue that bian (argue, debate) does, while others argue that shuo (explain, make clear) and shui (persuade) do.  Lyon asks, what about quan (urge) , jian (remonstrate), ming (naming, dialectics), yue (speaking), ci (speech), and yan (say, language).  Lyon argues for letting go of need to specify disciplined concept of rhetoric to more deeply understanding rhetorical complexity of language.  Lyon chooses to look at Confucian rhetoric through the lens of deliberation, which she extends Lani Guinier’s explanation of deliberation to define delibertion as “the process of (articulating and) framing issues to be resolved, proposing alternative solutions, examining the reasons for and against the proposed solutions, (advocating specific solutions, recognizing and responding to the concerns of others,) and settling on alternative (action)” (qtd. on 134).  Lyon studies two modes of deliberation—silence and remonstration—in The Analects to show how the process of deliberation assists Chinese citizens in becoming more human.


Worldly acts, not articulated ideas and plans, build human character according to The Analects.  Thus, the “lived character of the rhetor is more important than his speech” (137).  Therefore, The Analects identifys specific use of silence for specific rhetorical situations (138).  Remonstration is a process of persuasion that does not end in changing the audience but in audience deliberation (140).  Because the goal of remonstration is deliberation, the objective is to represent well rather than to say and sway (140).  The goal of this form of rhetoric is human connection and respect and honor of interlocuters.  As such, in this form of democracy, which is not focused on the individual or equality, the government has responsibility to learn from commoners, honor their will, and to demonstrate virtue in order to win over the mass population and sustain order (142).


 “’Nothing Can Be Accomplished If the Speech Does Not Sound Agreeable’:  Rhetoric and the Invention of Classical Chinese Discourse”   Yameng Lu


In this article, Yameng Lu begins by suggesting that rather than fret over how to studying Chinese rhetoric on its own terms, we think of rhetoric as “the effective use of symbolic resources in discursive and sociocultural practices [which] is applicable cross-culturally” in order to hone in on the abundance of Chinese textual evidence of rhetorical thinking (147).  Lu explores the genre of nan (rebuttal) to show how the deconstruction of one’s opponent’s rhetoric so as to discredit his ideology is a common rhetorical strategy found therein.  Nan, according to Lu, is just one example of the sophisticated understanding of language in Chinese rhetoric as well as the kind of depth, scope, and complexity that classical Chinese rhetoric had managed to achieve” (150).  In arguing how sophisticated and complex ancient Chinese rhetorical thinking was, Lu also draws on David Hall and Roger Ames, who in arguing that rhetoric rather than logic was main form of communication in ancient China, cite the four following observations as evidence of their claim:  a.) pathos and ethos used more than logos in Chinese texts; analogical reasoning employed; c.) no thinking/acting dichotomy in Chinese texts:  “an idea is a proposal for feeling and action”; d.) “Chinese modes of expression function imagistically and metaphorically” (150).  Thus rather than think of Confucius and others as philosophers and thinkers, we can think of them as outstanding orators who shared certain assumptions about rhetorical thinking (152).  Lu also makes clear that we need to think of Chinese rheteoric not just as produced in response to Chinese cultural crises, but as discursive practices that create social and cultural meaning that “shape the perceptions, desires, feelings, and hence behaviors of individual or institutional actors” (153).  This way of thinking meets Foucault’s challenge to not analyze the formation of discourses and the geneaology of knowledge “’in terms of types of consciousness, modes of perception and forms of ideology, but in terms of tactics and strategies of power’” (qtd. on 153).  This way of thinking also locates Chinese rhetoric as a productive art.  And finally, this way of thinking acknowledges that “the discursive practicioners of this period, regardless of their ideological affiliations, must have shared a body of terministic and conceptual resources, subscribed to the same set of basic problematics, assumptions, and norms, and functioned within the same rhetorical framework” (155) and that rhetoric and the normative discursive order would be the supplier of this shared body of resources (156).  Overall, Lu claims classical Chinese rhetoric was a “discipline/practice in its own right and what the orginators of traditional Chinese discourse were busy doing can…be described as rhetorical criticism”; and despite their differences among discourse communities,  the “various ‘schools’ or discourse communities actually shared much in their rhetorical thinking and their modes of rhetorical practice” (161).  He argues mainly for “redefining classical Chinese rhetoric as an ‘architectonic productive art,’ one that contributed vitally to the cultural and ideological production of the time by rendering possible meaningful interactions among divergent thoughts and ideologies” (161).



“The Art of Rhetoric at Rhodes:  An Eastern Rival to the Athenian Representation of Classical Rhetoric”             Richard Enos


In this article, Enos demonstrates that what we usually think of as Greek rhetoric is actually Athenian rhetoric created in response to the particular internal, civic needs of that emerging democracy.  In Rhodes, however, the first true “Greco-Roman” rhetoric that was produced was externally oriented—produced in other words to faciliate communication with other peoples (184).  Enos points out that “the thought that Aristotle’s Rhetoric may have been accounting of rhetoric that was not meant as a universal explanation but rather as a study of rhetorica indigenous to Athens is so out of harmony with our assumptions that it is not given serious consideration” (186).  We need to create knowledge of other manifestations of Greek rhetoric, Enos argues, and study them in ways that do not deem them as inferior or derivative of Athenian rhetoric (186).  Enos explains that Rhodes was artistic center of Greece.  In Rhodes, rhetoric was not just employed for civic functions for sustaining democracy (forensic and deliberative); rhetoric also had artistic and epideictic functions that facilitated cultural diversity (189).  Overall, Enos makes five important observations of rhetoric of Rhodes:  a.) Rhodes offered a rival and enduring veriosn of Greek rhetoric; b.) it stressed epideictic function that served to create cross-cultural ties; c.) it’s moderate style made it ideal for study and practice of declamation; d.)  it was inherently inclusive and made popular in Rome; e.) its rhetorical riches are yet to be discovered (194).  I would add that it illustrates that rhetoric is just not about persuasion…


“Story-List-Sanction:  A Cross-Cultural Strategy of Ancient Persuasion” James Watts


In this article, Watts demonstrates that the genre of rhetoric that entails presenting story, generating a list, and articulating a sanction is not specific to one culture but exists across cultures and time.  Because this genre at work in ancient Eastern texts can still be found today in Western settings, Watts argues that “some ancient rhetorical forms have survived alongside the arguments of theorists who rejected them, thereby institutionalizing that conflict in the social structures that shape contemporary public discourse” (210). 


“Song to Speech:  The Origins of Early Epitaphia in Ancient Near Eastern Women’s Lamentations”  Jan Swearingen


In this article, Swearingen takes both an etic and emic approach to study the women’s songs and lamentations in the ancient Near East.  In other words, Swearingen both employs a Greco-Roman rhetorical framework to study these songs and lamentations(etic) and attempts to explore these songs and lamentations on their own terms (emic).  Swearingens’s research demonstrates that “first rhetorical epitaphia in Athens bear traces of earlier song traditions, some of them composed by women, as it was traditional for women to perform the lamentations at burials” according to Ochs and Alexiou (215).  Alongside Homeric sagas and plays as well as Hebrew scriptures, Swearingen demonstrates that the women’s songs and lamentations are revealing that women in the ancient East had some agency.  These women’s roles have been largely ignored, however, because we only have fragments of their voices and, as Kinneavy has noted, because they, as performers of rituals, were often depicted as having only evoked superstitions rather than “promoting persuasive appeals to volitional beliefs and affirmation” (216).  This distinction has been used, by the way, to draw a line between “religious and secular discourse, primitive and advanced cultures, religious and rhetorical discourse” (216).  Swearingen argues that “we need to recover…the self-conscious reflections of women singers of songs, and composers of ceremonial verse whose practices, and whose beliefs about their practices, shaped the common language of the culture before the emergence of city-states and male prose rhetoric” (218).










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Manifesto for Social Histories of Rhetoric

Manifesto: Why Study and Write Social Histories of Rhetoric?”

If we define social histories as the histories of everyday lives which haven’t been typically represented in mainstream histories, then I am assuming social histories of rhetoric(s) pertains to the use of rhetorical practices by communities and members of communities who haven’t been typically represented in mainstream rhetorical history. Working under this assumption, it is extremely important in my eyes to complicate and expand the ancient rhetorical canon beyond the traditional Greco-Roman discursive framework to include rhetorical practices employed by various members of the many diverse ancient communities from around the world, many of which exist and operate outside traditional conceptions of discursive rhetorics. We need, in other words, to open the canon of ancient rhetoric to body of texts, artifacts, and discourse venues that more accurately represents ancient rhetorics practiced by various members of specific cultures (Gaines). In order to open the canon, we must not assume that rhetoric in all ancient cultures is confined to discursive language use as traditionally conceived in classical Western rhetoric. Not only do members of ancient cultures enact rhetoric through non-verbal mediums, such as songs, gestures, physical movements, attire, and spaces, rhetoric employed in global settings often does not operate logically according to the Western Greco-Roman mindset.

In order to uncover social histories of non-discursive rhetorical practices, we must first expand the scope of rhetoric beyond its traditionally conceived discursive framework. As James Fredal convincingly argues, rhetoric should encompass the “manipulation of signs in any symbolic system, through any medium, capable of communicating meaning and value” (“Seeing” 183). Expanding the conception of rhetoric beyond ancient Western conception to nearly all forms of symbolic communication threatens to dismantle the traditional Greco-Roman framework as the foundation of the rhetorical canon. Yet, reasoned persuasion in the Aristotelian rhetorical sense leaves little room for oral or written texts that have their own unique rhetorical framework as well as the non-discursive symbols that behave rhetorically in many ancient (and contemporary) cultures. Thus, if social historians of ancient rhetoric truly want to investigate rhetorical practices beyond the Western canon on their own terms, social historians must not only be open to unique rhetorical frameworks but also create space within the scope of rhetoric to include non-discursive modes of communication that do not operate according to western logic and traditional western forms of communication. A move toward the non-discursive in rhetorical criticism would help us better understand the full spectrum of rhetorical transactions made by various people in various cultures at various points in their histories—a recommendation made by rhetorical scholars at the well-known Wingspread Conference back in 1970 (Ochs 2). This movement toward non-discursivity is especially important because we must begin to embrace cultural rhetorics from perspectives that do not reify Greco-Roman classical rhetoric as the apex in the development of ancient rhetorical systems (Lipson and Binkley 2). Excavating global, non-discursive rhetorics also exposes and challenges the tendency of canonized Western rhetoric to normalize as rhetoric the rhetorical system of one particular western culture” (Lipson and Binkley 2).

I also strongly advocate for embracing transcultural and transhistorical research on both discursive and non-discursive rhetorical practices because of its potential to bridge the polarized thinking concerning western/non-western and literate/non-literate societies that still pervades our field, despite recent efforts to complicate this way of thinking. As Robert Oliver makes clear in his original call for scholars to study “non-western” rhetorics that received harsh criticism back in 1961, “There is not just one rhetoric—instead, there are many rhetorics…and many different modes of thinking, many different standards of value, many different ways in which influence must be exerted if it is to be effective” (qtd. in Lu 113). Lois Agnew points out that the last generation of historians took a major step in recognizing that such rhetorical differences exist amongst various cultures and various members within those cultures, and that there is a significant “value in conceptions of language that are different from those we have inherited through the western rhetorical tradition” (Interview). This scholarship is vital; we need to be aware of these differences in order not to hold prejudices against other cultures and develop an appreciation for cultural rhetorics different from our own. Yet by solely focusing on rhetorical differences, we often miss the opportunity to locate similarities in the ways and reasons why certain members of certain cultures communicate rhetorically—similarities that can bridge the hierarchical thinking patterns that cloud our rhetorical gaze. Our goal should not be to develop a “General Theory” of rhetoric applicable to all cultures, as Kennedy attempts to do in Comparative Rhetoric. Rather, as Xing Lu has argued, our goal should be to “bridge gaps of misunderstandings for the betterment, enrichment, and illumination of human conditions” (“Studies and Development” 115). By identifying common values and beliefs, ways of communicating those beliefs and values, and reasons for communicating those beliefs and values across differences, social historians of rhetoric can facilitate transcultural and transhistorical understanding of how and why people in ancient cultures communicate rhetorically.

Our concern should not just focus on ancient rhetorical practices, however. We must also turn our rhetorical gaze to rhetorical practices enacted by various underepresented members of modern cultures for a wide range of purposes. As our field takes the global turn, we especially have the responsibility to deepen our understanding of how rhetoric operates beyond our own borders and contributes to the unequal labor and cultural dynamics at work in our increasingly globalized world. Because women and their families are especially susceptible to the unequal labor and cultural dynamics, we have the opportunity to put our scholarship into direct actions that improve the lives of women and their families. This is not to say I am advocating for rhetorical scholars in western settings to create a hero narrative for themselves and our discipline by “rescuing” those in need. However, rhetoricians aimed at uncovering the rhetorical practices of people who have been marginalized in historical and contemporary rhetorical studies can use our scholarship to affect real change. Peter Stearns claims history has the potential to explain and understand change in human behavior (“Why Study History” 2). I would argue that history, especially rhetorical history, also has the potential to create social change. By uncovering the rhetorical practices historically employed to marginalize communities such as women marked as “Third World,” social historians of rhetorical practices can identify and challenge contemporary rhetorics that are both explicitly and implicitly oppressive and discriminatory. Simultaneously, we can identify and support contemporary rhetorical practices employed by marginal communities to resist those oppressive and discriminatory rhetorics. In all of these ways, social historians focusing on rhetorical practices in the global world, can use our scholarship to not only create a more diverse and equitable discipline, we can also play an important role in creating a safer and more equitable globalized world.

Works Cited:

Agnew, Lois. “Response to Haskins.” Personal Email. June 2007.

Fredal, James. “Seeing Ancient Rhetoric, Easily at a Glance.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol. 36 (2006), pp. 181-189.

Gaines, Robert N. “De-Canonizing Ancient Rhetoric.” The Viability of the Rhetorical Tradition. Eds. Richard Graff, Arthur E. Walzer, and Janet M. Atwill. New York: State University of New York Press, 2005. 61-73.

Lipson, Carol and Roberta A. Binkley. Eds. Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

Lu, Xing. “Studies and Development of Comparative Rhetorics in the U.S.A.: Chinese and Western rhetoric in Focus.” China Media Research. 2 (2), 2006, pp. 112-116.

Ochs, Donovan J. Consolatory Rhetoric: Grief, Symbol, and Ritual in the Greco-Roman Era. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.

Stearns, Peter N. “Why Study History?” American Historical Association. 1998. August 30 2007.

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“Seeing Ancient Rhetoric, Easily at a Glance” James Fredal

In this article, Fredal, utimately concerned with limiting definitions of rhetoric for our postmodern world, defines rhetoric as “the exchange of meaning within  a social system through which meaning, culture, identity, knowledge and practice are produced and circulated” (183).  In defining rhetoric in this way, Fredal hopes to create a definition broad enough to encompass non-linguistic and non-verbal symbolic acts and artifacts, yet narrow enough to isolate” culturally significant processes and products of persuasion and identification” (183).  By equating rhetoric with enculturation, Fredal hopes to maintain traditional conceptions of rhetoric yet create space for all of the ways in which cultures exchange meaning and produce and reproduce themselves. 

Fredal claims that when investigating rhetoric, we should begin by asking “What symbolic systems and what media were culturally significant in the formation of what Castioriadis calls the “civic and social imaginary”…, how were these symbolic systems used, and what values, beliefs, and practices were encouraged or discouraged by their use?” (184).

Expanding the scope of rhetoric in ways mentioned above will change historiography in the following ways:

–pluralization of rhetoric

–postponement of theory until after ethnographic, anthropological, and historical studies are conducted

–consideration of non-linguistic rhetorical artificats

–consideration of non-individual, anonymous and/or collective meaning making acts

–inclusion of the visual, and political friendships, clubs, and norms popular in Ancient Greece.  After all, Greece was rich in rhetorical monuments and theatrics and physical spaces where symbolic and rhetorical exhange occurred in various forms in public.  Fredal cites the Pnyx as an exemplar of one of the many where “rhetorical artistry” was encoded in a space, structure, or site. 

Fredal concludes by saying we would be limiting our knowledge of how meaning is made by limiting our rhetorical investigations to langauge and texts (188). 

My response:  !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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“Speech is a Powerful Lord” Johnstone

In this article, Johnstone confirms Gorgia’s assertions about the magical effects of oratory rhetoric in ENCOMIUM OF HELEN with evidence from contemporary research in pscyho-phisiology.  After presenting research positing that (as Gorgias understood and articulated) oral langauge has cognitive and emotional effects on a listener, and thus, psychological power, Johnstone concludes with a couple of claims that raise questions related to disability studies.  Johnstone writes that we would to well to sustain Gorgias’ belief that “the persuasive power of logos cannot be understood apart from the sounds of speech….spoken rhetoric has been an embodied art, its practice inseperable from the voice that utters it” (12).  I appreciate Johnstone’s attempts to emphasize the power of spoken rhetoric, for presentation and delivery to contribute in significant ways to how rhetoric is both produced and consumed.  I wonder, however, about the implicatons of Johnstone’s claims for the hearing impaired or persons with other disabilities who cannot hear the power of which Gorgias and Johnstone speak.  If we embrace the notion that the persuasive power of logos cannot be seperated from sound, utterance, etc., then does that mean that those without ability to hear cannot experience the power of spoken rhetoric.  Does that mean that logos can only be expressed through the spoken word?  I agree with Johnstone in that we should be acutely aware of the power voice plays in spoken rhetoric.  I do wonder though if we often give too much credit to voice in spoken rhetoric.  What role does body language play in the persuasive power of spoken rhetoric?  Can we seperate logos from body language?  Most associate the ability to reason with the ability to verbally articulate reason, yet don’t we make logical appeals through other means than the voice?  While it is certainly useful to focus our research on the emotional and cognitive effects of the spoken word, it would behoove us to begin researching the emotional and cognitive affects of body language employed in oral rhetoric.  This research would deepen our understanding of the pyschological effects of oral rhetoric articulated through the body, but perhaps more importantly, it would deepen our understanding of how those with certain disabilities both persuade and are persuaded through logical appeals in ways previously not understood.

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Summary of “Rhetoric and Civic Virtue” — Janet Atwill

In “Rhetoric and Civic Virtue,” Janet Atwill revisits the concept of “civic virtue” as it was conceived in fifth and fourth-century Greek political and philosophical thought and claims that civic virtue was in fact a contested term dependent on the model of political order—harmonia or isonomia—that one philosophically adhered to.   Atwill explains that harmonia was model of political order in which citizens’s “shares” in society were based on honor or merit, while under the isonomia model, all citizens have equal shares (77).  According to Plato and Aristotle, different classes had different virtues; thus virtue is not only identified with particular class functions but also with, as Atwill explains, “the act of submitting to that function” (78). Practical wisdom (phronesis) was a virtue in Aristotle’s eyes that was particular to the ruling class only rather than the entire polis; therefore, Atwill warns of “invoking Artistotelian phronesis as the authority for a democratic notion of civic rhetoric” (80).  In Plato’s Protagoras, it seems Protagoras insisted political art should be “distributed to” all citizens, which would comply with isonomia, because while diversity of function can create economic and social order, political art creates social harmony that, in turn, makes a political order possible (81).  

Isocrates, Atwill explains, endorses harmonia in the sense that he believes citizen’s shares should be based on their honor, which can be both earned and invented.  Rhetoric, in Isocrates eyes, “as a teachable art is a kind of symbolic capital with the potential to increase one’s share of honor” (82).  Therefore, according to Isocrates, rhetorical meritocracy is possible. 

Atwill claims that understanding the contesting views between virtue and political order is evident in contemporary contexts.  She equates harmonia and isonomia to the contemporary counterparts of liberalism and civic republicanism.  Atwill concludes by asking as to continue to reflect on civic virtue and contemporary attempts to define and teach civic rhetoric.  She asks us to define civic rhetoric as “a contest between competing theories of rhetoric and democratic order” (88). She defines two competing theories concerning civic rhetoric within our own field: one that strives for theoretical coherence and disciplinary research and one that takes the more practical approach to teaching rhetoric as art.  She claims Aristotles’s Rhetoric  is “a ‘theory’ of rhetoric in the sense of an ‘account’ of practice” (89).  Atwill feels Aristotle’s main contribution to the rhetorical tradition is less theoretical and more practical.  She claims that our field’s “relative ‘poverty’ of it theories” is in fact one of our richest legacies; we should embrace our “resistance to setting fixed boundaries to the always evolving and incalculable complexity of rhetorical practice” (89).  

Atwill’s article asks us to seriously consider whether we truly want a coherent theory that “reflects” (explains, represents, etc..) our rhetorical tradition.  Should we spend our time conducting scholarship that aims to identify a coherent theory or acknowledge that our rhetorical tradition is comprised of my competing theories of rhetoric and democratic order and instead forge ahead and create a civic rhetoric that is dependent on, reflects, and is effective in our present historical, cultural context??

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Summary “Choosing Between Isocrates and Artistotle” — Haskins

In “Choosing Between Isocrates and Artistotle,” Haskins attempts to dispel several assumptions that support and maintain Aristotelian rhetoric as the apex of the classical Greek rhetorical tradition.   Haskins worries that rhetoric students are being taught that classical rhetoric is a “single, monolithic paradigm;” in studying the rhetorical canon, teachers and students should attend to the competing “schools of thought” and excluded voices that contributed to what is now perceived as Ancient Greek rhetoric.  Haskins also is concerned with the atemporal characteristic Athenian rhetoric has come to embody by contemporary rhetorical scholars such as George Kennedy and Donald Bryant.  Haskins challenges us to “re-historicize” Aristotle’s approach to rhetoric; afterall, Aristotle himself was well aware of the historical and cultural specificity of Athenian rhetoric.  Hasksins then attends to the theory/practice binary, which perpetuates the misconception that Aristotle’s highly theoretical rhetoric is superior to Isocrates’ practical rhetoric.  Hasksins dispell’s this assumption by showing that, in fact, Aristotle thinks of rhetoric as an art “on the lowest run of philosophically legitimate pursuits,” while Isocrates’s attitude toward imitative performance demonstrates highly theoretical insights about teaching rhetoric as well as the role rhetoric plays in a democracy.  Haskins also shows that while Aristotle considered rhetoric as capable of persuading opinions and actions of those who are ignorant,  Isocrates, on the other hand, deemed rhetoric capable of generating knowledge about politics and culture and creating social community out of division—the antecedent to the Burkean concept of identification.    Lastly, Haskins addresses the notion of neutrality in Aristotle’s techne rhetorike, which he claims is responsible for rhetoric’s reputation as an instrument capable of being used by to shape opinion and action rather than community. 


Ultimately concerned with pedagogical implications, Haskins claims we need to study the cultural debate at work in specific moments and places in Ancient Greece rather than “rhetoric proper” maintained by a homogenous rhetorical canon.  Haskins compares Isocrates and Aristotle to demonstrate how fruitful it is to investigate how each major figure in Greek rhetoric attempts to establish intellectual and political space for their ideas in specific moments of time.  Haskins believes we need to diversify the canon, not by locating transhistorical values in various rhetorical discourses, but instead by showing relevance to the particular socio, cultural, and historical contexts in which they were produced.  Haskins also warns revisionist historians against extracting theory from discourse, which he claims will only maintain the assumption that theory is superior to practice.  Further, Haskins is weary of solely thinking of rhetoric as persuasive means because that perpetuates the undue claim that rhetoric is simply a means of employing persuasive strategies of already discovered knowledge.  Lastly, in terms of neutrality, Haskins is concerned with the tendency to remove moral responsibility from the art of rhetoric and simply conceive of rhetoric as an instrument that can be utilized across the disciplines. 


Haskins is especially interested in privileging Isocrates rhetoric because he feels “Isocrates shows that…by studying and critically imitating our own culture’s discursive diversity we can become persons of practical wisdom” (200).  Rhetoric, in other words, is more than an instrument; rhetoric constructs our “personal and communal identities” (200).  

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Opened first school of rhetoric in Athens.  One of Ten
Attic Orators.  Talent in speech writing for
publication, not delivery.   Style is antithetical and
symmetrical but not aural .
Developed periodic sentence.  Saw purpose of rhetoric
to address immediate practical problems rather than
search for absolute truth.  Rhetoric is tool of
investigation for probable knowledge and for moving
people to action for common good.  Practical knowledge
here.  Saw purpose of education to train citizens to
serve the state.

Because Isocrates stayed in one place, unlike other
Sophists, he mentored many older men for service of
state.  His education, targeted toward elite men,
codified grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic.  Believed
system of composing was pointless since all speeches
were context-dependent.

Operating at different time than other Sophists.
Athens isn’t as dominant; Peloponesian wars has given
states more power and thus Athens needs to see itself
as part of larger community. Interested in unifying

Antidosis represents his educational and rhetorical

Antidosis:  begins with fictional charge of corrupting
youth with rhetorical powers to be used for personal
gain.  Says never hurt anyone; mistake was never to do
enough to gain public good through fair speech.  Says
he teaches improvement and dicipline of mind, not
morality.  “Misuse of oratorical ability is fault of
orator, not the oratory.” Asserts true wisdom is
ability to see and present best course of action for
common good.

Isocrates is considered minor philosopher because he
didn’t try to discover absolute truth or transcendent
knowledge.  Instead he is concerned with practical
knowledge developed and applied socially.  Rather than
being an isolationist, Isocrates is servant of
citizens so that citizens can become servants of

Against the Sophists

Talks about rhetoric for practical means as true
discipline of the soul. 

Starts out by condemning Sophists for taking money to
teach political discourse for purpose of attaining
virtue and happiness.  Separates himself from these
Sophists, who are hypocrites.  But claims other people
want to lump all rhetoricians together as unvirtuous.
Claims mistake of Sophists is teaching system of
argument without paying attention to context.
Distinguishes two arts:  one dictated by rules, other
by context. 

Argues formal training makes men more skillful and
resourceful in discovering possibilities of a subject.
 Good rhetoricians must have natural talent.
Otherwise, all education can do is improve self and
create more knowledge on a particular topic.

To learn about a topic is easy, but to create and
deliver a speech about a topic in an eloquent manner,
now that requires true imagination and vigour.

Charm in delivery is key.

The study of true rhetoric develops honesty of
character even more than facility in oratory.  Careful
to claim that is certainly not always the case though.

From Antidosis  [written later in life. Fictional
court case fashioned after real life court case where
he had to pay fines for something]

Rhetoric helps develop institutions of man.  Also
develops sound understanding and orients one toward
attaining wisdom, which inherently leads to just

Attempts to establish ethos by saying he will not
attack those who have condemned him nor tarnish
reputation of those who misuse rhetoric.

Says one benefit of rhetoric is that it sharpens the
mind and makes learning of other subjects easier.
Rhetoric is a gymnastic of the mind and a preparation
of philosophy. (76)

Believes all men should work toward common good and be
of service to state and/or other citizens. 

Claims a wise man is one who is able to derive by
powers of conjecture at the best course and
philosopher is one who studies subjects which provides
that insight.  One subject of study is
rhetoric/speech. (77)


Anyone who gives speech deemed honorable and
praiseworthy supports causes which are just and
devoted to welfare of man and common good.  [Hitler?]

Studying virtuous actions inspires one to be more
virtuous.  Hence, studying virtuous action, which is
studying how to speak and think well, leads to an art
of discourse with love of wisdom and love of honor.
{here is moral ideals coming out that plague our
field]  (77)

Also, since persuasion is dependent on ethos, a good
rhetoric knows he/she needs to be honorable to be
credible and will thus attempt to act honorable in all

Tries to address charge that rhetoric’s purpose is
driven by personal desire to be gain advantage (money,
power).  Says those who only work for money and power
are never in advantage because with that effort comes
no peace of mind, which is true advantage. (78)

Ends by saying you can’t lump all rhetoricians into
one lot.  There are some who use rhetoric for ill
means, but not all.

Says we must honor those men who choose to be educated
for they are choosing to improve self rather than gain
material goods; they are choosing to improve their own
minds than seek rule over others; they are trying to
master their own thoughts rather than letting self be
distracted by material life. Basically he is choosing
life of the mind.  Shouldn’t they be praised????

Claims we praise those who have natural talent at
rhetoric, but condemn those who make an effort through
education to attain it.  Class control!!!!!  (79) 

What is ironic about this speech is that here
discipline is being defended just as rhetors are
constantly defending their dicipline today.  What  is
it that makes our discipline so offensive to others? 

Isocrates’ line of thinking is much easier to follow
because he takes longer to make his points rather than
rely on short questions and claims.  He appeals to
audience’s rationale and sense of morality.  He
creates ethos by admitting exceptions to his
arguments.  He uses pathos to elicit guilt and
compassion.  Very smart!  Seems to speak from the
heart on matters that matter.  His speech exemplifies
the education he heralds.  He emulates the kind of
rhetorician he hopes his pupils will become.

We get perspective of Sophistry through eyes of

Truth has to be practical, thus rhetoric is part of
moral development.  Plato thinks rhetoric detours one
from moral development.  Isocrates think moral
character and virtue is arrived at through practice of
speaking, which is derived from thinking well.  Plato
thinks practice of speaking well doesn’t lead to moral
development.  Isocrates thinks Truth should not be
arrived at in a vacuum as Plato thinks. 

Is art true art or technique?  Plato and Isocrates
think poorly of those who teach rhetoric as technique.
 Thus, he links language and knowledge in similar ways
to Plato.


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