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Rhetoric Resources

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In recent years classical presses have put out some very excellent textbooks on rhetoric and writing. Many rhetoric teachers also know (and some make use of) classic treatises or dialogues on rhetoric (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Augustine). I'm sure quite a few folks have also used some modern textbooks that adapt traditional rhetoric (Corbett's Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student and Crowley and Hawhee's Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students). I do wonder how many teachers of rhetoric (including homeschool and co-op folks) are aware of modern supplementary rhetoric texts? Here are some books that I've made good use of as a teacher, and which I've also developed some lectures and assignments from:

Silva Rhetoricae (rhetoric.byu.edu) - has good summaries of the canons, figures of speech, rhetorical exercises, etc.

Figures of Speech: 60 ways to turn a phrase, by Arthur Quinn - a short, pithy handbook on figures of speech. 

A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, by Richard A. Lanham - a short handbook that includes many rhetorical terms, including figures of speech and argument forms.

A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus A-Z, by Albert W. Halsall - a well-stocked treasure trove of literary terms and devices.

Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric, by Ward Farnsworth - the best modern treatment of figures of speech.

Farnsworth's Classical English Metaphor, by Ward Farnsworth - the same of the figures book, but for metaphors.

The Legal Analyst, by Ward Farnsworth - an excellent modern resource for forensic topics / thinking.

The Office of Assertion, by Scott F. Crider - a superb treatise on academic writing.

 

There are definitely more, but these are ones I've found most helpful to me. What resources do you use in class, use to supplement what you are doing in class, or use to create lectures/assignments?

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I want to add another resource that has been particularly helpful for me since I use a lot of Shakespeare for student recitations.

Playing Shakespeare by John Barton. There is a book (which I have but isn't as helpful) and a DVD series. The DVD series is a bit hard to come by, although YouTube has (or had at one time) videos from the series. It is basically John Barton laying out his philosophy of how to direct actors in Shakespeare plays. He covers the traditions of acting (Elizabethan and Modern), the use of verse, language and character, use of prose, set speeches and soliloquies, use of sonnets, irony and ambiguity, passion and coolness, rehearsal, exploring character, contemporary appropriation of or response to Shakespeare, and poetry.

It is marvelously helpful in getting students to move beyond generalizations of emotion or intention in the speeches from Shakespeare that I have them recite, and I believe it pays dividends beyond those imitations into their original speeches as well, as they think about the sort of intention and emotion they want to illicit with their words.

 

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What are some specific works you have students read? In the past we've read Aristotle's Rhetoric, but it took quite a bit of time and effort and I didn't think it was worth it. We had better luck with Rhetorica ad Herennium, which we found to be much more readable.

Do you have any good classical speeches you'd recommend? In particular, I'm interested in giving students good examples (classical or more recent, even) that clearly implement the six-part classical arrangement that they use to write their senior thesis.

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Good question. I have gone back and forth with reading classical sources. I've never had them read Aristotle in his entirety, though we've read portions (it is just too much of a slog for students). I lecture Aristotle these days. I used to read the entirety of Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus, but this year I lectured and only read portions. We read Gorgias' Encomium of Helen as an example of Sophistic elements of argument and style. I've used the Ad Herennium as well in portions. I also used portions of Cicero's De Oratore for theory and his Pro Murena as an example of classical speech. All of these have garnered mixed results.

This year I've turned more toward using examples for imitation. I've tried to have students write 750-1000 word speeches imitating a forensic, deliberative, and epideictic speech. I usually give them about two weeks in which we read, discuss, and then they write (eight 50-min periods).

Here are the speeches I've used or am planning to use:

Chrysostom's Eulogy of St. Ignatius

Aristides' Apology before Emperor Hadrian

Urban II Speech at the Council of Clermont

Booker T Washington's Speech to the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition

Eugene Debs' Speech to the Supreme Court

FDR's Four Freedoms

As you can see it is eclectic and spans a lot of ages. These do not follow the classical structure, but there are elements that I draw out in particular for them to imitate, some of which are structural, some of which are stylistic, and some of which are argument forms. I have them adapt the speeches' original themes to things in their realm of experience or imagination as well.

Dr. Buhler posted some excellent ideas for composition/speech in another thread I started called "Rhetoric with Substance" that you might find useful.

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I homeschool, so I consider my teaching on rhetoric to be integrated across the curriculum, rather than a discrete class. But, as a matter of interest, how far do you think the classical content of rhetoric (as opposed to just practicing/imitating it as a beginner level) is appropriate for high school students? I feel like most 17/18 year olds are only going to be able to get the rudiments of rhetoric, and that they should be aware of that--be aware that there is still a lot to learn. When it comes to the liberal arts, I'm always mindful that they formed the substance of a university course--which is why more than just a sampling of Aristotle's Rhetoric is more than they are ready for.

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28 minutes ago, KarenG said:

I homeschool, so I consider my teaching on rhetoric to be integrated across the curriculum, rather than a discrete class. But, as a matter of interest, how far do you think the classical content of rhetoric (as opposed to just practicing/imitating it as a beginner level) is appropriate for high school students? I feel like most 17/18 year olds are only going to be able to get the rudiments of rhetoric, and that they should be aware of that--be aware that there is still a lot to learn. When it comes to the liberal arts, I'm always mindful that they formed the substance of a university course--which is why more than just a sampling of Aristotle's Rhetoric is more than they are ready for.

Classical rhetoric curriculum began after the Grammaticus completed preliminary training, say, around 14 or 15 before a pupil would be tutored by a rhetorician. The Progymnasmata content would have come first, and then more fully formed exercises in forensic and deliberative speech. But even with this, rudimentary is a good fit for what the pupil would have been able to gain, since the telos of education was a fully formed rhetor--something that required experience in the assembly.  

For contemporary students, I think that exposure to the tools is a good goal, with imitation and practice with the tools being more heavily emphasized than understanding all of the theoretical parts and distinctions. Like most practical arts, a deep understanding of the tools and theories comes through experience using them. A 17 or 18 year old can "get" Aristotle, but not so much by reading him as putting his tools into practice through speaking and analysis of speeches.

That's how I've come to see it over my years of teaching it to high schoolers and college students.

I'll add that if a classical program (homeschool or meeting school) doesn't teach rhetoric across the curriculum isn't following the classical model very carefully. The formal classes just serve to make explicit, emphasize, and more acutely train what students should be exposed to throughout.

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Agree with you about the integrated rhetoric.

But these sorts of discussions always leave me with more questions than answers. For example, the 14-15 year olds beginning rhetoric studies in the classical world were destined to be public speakers of a sort--play a role in the public life of the city, more or less. But, the more narrowly defined seven liberal arts were a university course, and that was often begun at age 18 (sometimes earlier, yes, but not always). And how does our more universal approach to education fit into this? Everyone goes to jr. high/high school, but not everyone is going to take on a university level study of the seven liberal arts. In the ancient world, study with a rhetorician wasn't a universal form of education. How do we remain faithful to the classical tradition when we are dealing with pre-university level students? With the need for a universal education?

I don't have answers to all this--mostly just questions.

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2 minutes ago, KarenG said:

Agree with you about the integrated rhetoric.

But these sorts of discussions always leave me with more questions than answers. For example, the 14-15 year olds beginning rhetoric studies in the classical world were destined to be public speakers of a sort--play a role in the public life of the city, more or less. But, the more narrowly defined seven liberal arts were a university course, and that was often begun at age 18 (sometimes earlier, yes, but not always). And how does our more universal approach to education fit into this? Everyone goes to jr. high/high school, but not everyone is going to take on a university level study of the seven liberal arts. In the ancient world, study with a rhetorician wasn't a universal form of education. How do we remain faithful to the classical tradition when we are dealing with pre-university level students? With the need for a universal education?

I don't have answers to all this--mostly just questions.

I've had the same questions, Karen, and I don't have any great answers, unfortunately. The universal nature of education in our day is unprecedented in history. The classical and medieval educational models were meant to serve a minority from the upper class portion of the population. Today classical education offers itself to all classes, and so there must be adaptation of the old material into the new context. Combine that with the fact that today's children are generally less mature than children several decades ago, much less several centuries ago, and it is difficult to set the standard appropriately with the frame of the student. However, I think the current formal rhetoric curricula being produced by classical presses do justice (however limited by our as yet inexperienced application of the classical tradition to contemporary life) to both the classical content and the modern student.

I tend to take a more general approach to thinking about the rhetoric my students must be trained to use: few, if any, of them will be statesmen in any classical sense; a few may become political office holders, lawyers, or pastors. Some will become educators or leaders who will need to communicate clearly, vividly, and persuasively. Almost all of them will become parents and active church members who will need to navigate the interpersonal and organizational realms of home and church. The skills of rhetoric do aid in those spheres if students recognize it (whether I emphasize it or not--and I do wonder how often to make explicit such emphasis).

One aspect of the Puritan vision was to have an educated populace that could read, understand, and use the Bible in their own households as well as in the community of the Church under the authority of the elders. Their efforts produced one of the most industrious cultures in history despite its decline into secularism. I hope that classical educators share something of that same vision--to see all of our students, our children, well educated into their Christian and Western heritage that they may rebuild, maintain, and defend it even if they find themselves in vocations that are not stately or academic.

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