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'Let me persuade you'
on 16 May 2012
Some say we live in the age of communication so it seems odd that the study of rhetoric seems antiquated and neglected - part of an irrelevant classical tradition.
In a introduction which starts with a funny and apposite scene from The Simpsons, Sam Leith says 'So although rhetoric is all around us, we don't see it. Indeed it's precisely because it's all around us that we don't see it. Explaining rhetoric to a human being is, or should be, like explaining water to a fish.' He goes on to say 'We use language to cajole and seduce, to impress and inspire, to endear and to justify. Language happens because human beings are desiring machines; and what knits desire and language is rhetoric.' At that point I was sold - my interest was piqued. What kept me reading was his clear style and wonderful examples from Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost to The Simpsons, from Churchill to Obama.
The book is structured according to the Five Parts of rhetoric
Ethos, pathos and logos
For example narration, proof and refutation
For example, decorum and jokes
some top tips on using a memory house
and then he explores the three branches of rhetoric:
Judicial Rhetoric and
Don't be put off by the classical terms. If you have an important presentation or speech to give then this book will be very useful, but it's also something that can be dipped in to with pleasure and will reward and enrich the everyday communications.
Sam Leith has pulled off that very difficult balancing act with his book which is entertaining and inspiring as well as informative and educational. It is a master class in rhetoric.