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Rhetoric, Part I

Introduction to Rhetoric

Katherine Robbins

on 11 January 2015

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Transcript of Rhetoric, Part I

Language as Arbitrary
Language and Meaning
Layers of Meaning:
Connotation vs. Denotation
What happens to a dream overdue?
Does it dehydrate
like a raisin in the sun?
Or irritate like a booboo—
And then scurry?
Does it smell like meat expired?
Or scab and sugar over—
like a thick sweet?
Maybe it just droops
like a burdensome load.
Or does it pop?
Dream Deferred (Modified)
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Dream Deferred – (Original)
Shared meaning collectively agreed upon
Book; table; smoke
Arbitrary quality
Steve Martin on discussing learning French, “It’s like they have a word for everything.”
Change with time and between cultures:
I.e. the word, “gay”
Layers of Meaning: Symbolic Meaning
Aristotle: “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”
Cicero: eloquent public speaking
Sowell: “Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.”
Burke: “the use of language in such a way as to produce a desired impression upon the hearer or reader.'"
Plato: "Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men."
Quotes on Rhetoric
“An effort to understand how people attempt to influence others through language and more broadly every kind of important symbolic action”
In other words, how someone is trying to persuade you
Art of persuasion
The power to control events and meanings through words
Speaking to gain control over another
What is Rhetoric?
Population: impact of more signs, more artifacts, and great knowledge of other cultures
Pluralism: awareness of perspectives, philosophies, point of view, codes of ethics, aesthetic sensibilities, etc.
Knowledge: scientific, technological, social, etc.
Modern Effects on Rhetoric
When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now? Do not the nightly guards placed on the Palatine Hill—do not the watches posted throughout the city—does not the alarm of the people, and the union of all good men—does not the precaution taken of assembling the senate in this most defensible place—do not the looks and countenances of this venerable body here present, have any effect upon you? Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which every one here possesses of it? . . . Shame on the age and on its principles! The senate is aware of these things; the consul sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! . . . And we, gallant men that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks.
Cicero, “Against Catullus”
The Rhetorical Situation
Giving Meaning to the Situation
Rhetorical Situation
Bitzer, “Rhetorical Situation:”
In short, rhetoric is a mode of altering reality, not by the direct application of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action. The rhetor alters reality by bringing into existence a discourse of such a character that the audience, in thought and action, is so engaged that it becomes mediator of change. In this sense rhetoric is always persuasive.
Bush/Dukakis Campaign Ad
Reagan Campaign Ad
Full transcript