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Getting started discussing/reading about style with Crowley and Hawhee

This is where you should post your comments on the first reading for the term, the chapter on “Style” from the book Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, by Sharon Crowley and Deborah Hawhee.  For the first part of this assignment, you should read through about page 240 in the eReserves copy, or  just to the part about figurative language.  I have some more introductory comments and suggestions that you should read more about by clicking on the “Continued” link below.

First off, just a brief note about “rhetoric.” Despite the ways in which we tend to describe rhetoric nowadays (“that’s just empty rhetoric,” for example), rhetoric was one of the key parts of the curriculum, especially in the ancient world.  Crowley’s and Hawhee’s textbook uses classic rhetoric and some of its training techniques as the basis for teaching writing in a contemporary world.

The wikipedia entry for “rhetoric” gives a pretty good summary of the history and study of rhetoric.  But for our purposes here, I only want to point out three things:

  • Originally, the study of rhetoric was about the spoken word– that is, how to arrange speeches and such– and it applied mainly to the kinds of speeches you’d give in courts, legislatures, and other more formal occasions (funerals, weddings, etc.).  The ancients did recognize that rhetoric was employed in other settings, but the idea that “everything is rhetorical” is a more modern phenomenon.
  • The study of rhetoric is classically divided into five parts or “canons:”  they are:
    • “Invention,” which is how you come up with and/or discover arguments in the first place;
    • “Arrangement,” which is how you order your speech/presentation;
    • “Style,” our topic here;
    • “Memory,” which was important since we’re talking about speeches and they had to be memorized; and
    • “Delivery,” which is the way you present something to your audience.
  • Rhetoric (and style in particular) was not about the study of “parts of speech,” or grammar.  We tend to put them together nowadays, as we’ll discuss later, but the ancients did not.

So, in discussing “style” in this section of the class, we’re not really talking about the more colloquial definition of style, as in “Wow, she really has style,” or “that car is a sleek and stylish design” or whatever.  In talking about style here, we’re not going to be talking about a sort of abstract idea of design and tastes; rather, we’re talking about some very specific elements of the way the ancients discussed style– at least as related by Crowley and Hawhee here.

Okay, so what do you think of the reading?

Posted in Class Readings.

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