September 5, 2012

What is Rhetoric?

I see that most of the posts here are about Aristotle’s article that we had to read before class, but I still have some things on my mind about one of the first articles we had to read in this class for our first preliminary exercise. We had to choose an article to read out of three theorists and I picked Jennifer Richards’ What is Rhetoric?, which happened to be the hardest article of the three. I would not classify this article as hard since I could read it and understand it, but it was definitely dense. Richards took it into her own hands to sort of chronicle the definition of the word rhetoric throughout the years and how people viewed the term and its relevance. This seems like a difficult undertaking since rhetoric is the art of discourse and almost everything falls under this category. Even though many things throughout time fall under this category, she was able to set up an article that covers the transition of the term rhetoric to a certain degree. I felt that one sentence in the article embodies the structure of her article and the journey that rhetoric has gone through over the years, “rhetoric is an art, but it is not; rhetoric is dead, but it thrives” (Richards 18). I thought this was the most confusing definition one could use to define rhetoric, but as I reread the article it actually defines the term perfectly.

Rhetoric at first was considered an art and then was bashed and demoted to cheap tricks by others and proclaimed dead by many and then summoned from the dead for one last hurrah. This is how she organized her article as well, which confused me at first when she was jumping form different time periods like Doctor Who, but it all made sense after that one sentence. The term rhetoric is constantly changing thanks to the many people who study and partake in it.

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