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Aearly history of rhetoric
Scris de mihaiela lazar   
Marţi, 08 Septembrie 2020 09:31

EARLY HISTORY OF RHETORIC


Arbore Beatrice-Camelia, profesor de limba engleză

Școala Primară „Gheorghe Asachi”, Iași


Summary: The earliest mention of oratorical skill can be found in Homer’s Iliad, where the characters were honored for their ability to advise other people. With the rise of the democratic polis, the rhetorical art was adjusted to the needs of the public and political life of cities in Ancient Greece. Rhetoric thus evolved as an important art that helped the orator to persuade an audience of the correctness of the orator’s arguments. Although nowadays the term “rhetoric” is sometimes used with a pejorative connotation, namely that of obscuring the truth, classical philosophers believed quite the contrary: the skilled use of rhetoric was essential to the discovery of truths.

Key words: rhetoric, Homer, Aristotle, Renaissance, medieval culture

The earliest mention of oratorical skill can be found in Homer’s Iliad, where heroes like Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus were honored for their ability to advise and exhort other people in appropriate action. With the rise of the democratic polis, the rhetorical art was adjusted to the needs of the public and political life of cities in Ancient Greece. Rhetoric evolved as an important art, one that provided the orator with the forms, means, and strategies for persuading an audience of the correctness of the orator’s arguments. Nowadays the term rhetoric is sometimes used to refer only to the form of argumentation, often with a pejorative connotation, namely that 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 arranging and clarifying arguments. Aristotle identifies three types or genres of civic rhetoric: forensic (also known as judicial, concerned with determining the truth or falsity of events that took place in the past), deliberative (also known as political, concerned with determining whether or not particular actions should be taken in the future), and epideictic (also known as ceremonial, concerned with notions such as praise and blame, right and wrong).

Oration also became an important part of Roman public life. Cicero (106-43 BC) and Quintilian (35-100 AD) are two of the major Roman rhetoricians. Rhetorica ad Herennium, formerly attributed to Cicero, but of unknown authorship, is one of the most significant works on rhetoric and is still widely used as a reference today. Cicero’s works include the influential De Inventione (On Invention), De Oratore, Topics, Brutus and Orator (a defense of Cicero’s style). It was the rediscovery of Cicero’s speeches (such as The Defence of Archias) and letters (to Atticus) by Italians like Petrarch that, in part, influenced the cultural innovations that came to be known as the Renaissance. In his work Institutio oratoria (or Institutes of Oratory), Quintilian speaks about the training of the “perfect” orator from birth to old age and, in the process, reviews the doctrines and opinions of many previous influential rhetoricians.

The emergence of Christianity sealed the fate of rhetoric. So deep was the anti-rhetoric attitude of the first Christians and medieval theologians that, for a long time, rhetoric was believed to have vanished until the Renaissance. After a systematic study of the medieval culture, the philologists discovered that in fact numerous treatises circulated throughout the Middle Ages. In 1910, L. J. Patow stated that rhetoric became a discipline that cumulated the functions of the literary criticism and poetics. According to C. S. Baldwin (1928), rhetoric was absorbed by grammar after the promotion of dialectics as ars atrium in the medieval culture. Echoing Baldwin’s assertion, C. H. Haskins concludes that for the ancient people rhetoric was an “art” of oratory while for the medieval people it was an art of epistolography.

 

Bibliography

1. Vasile Florescu, Florescu V., Retorica şi Neoretorica. Geneză, evoluţie, perspective, Editura Academiei, Bucureşti, 1973.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhetoric

Vasile Florescu, Florescu V., Retorica şi Neoretorica. Geneză, evoluţie, perspective. Bucureşti, Editura Academiei, 1973, p. 87-88.


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