- Paperback: 168 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (1 July 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520076699
- ISBN-13: 978-0520076693
- Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.4 x 1.4 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 916,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms Paperback – 1 Jul 1992
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"The prose is wonderfully lucid, and the commentary is sensitive to the relationships not only between the traditions of rhetoric and recent developments in literature studies but also between rhetoric and the role of electronic technologies in formulating new notions of argument and textuality."--"Choice
About the Author
Richard A. Lanham is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of California, Los Angeles, and President of Rhetorica, Inc., in Los Angeles.
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Originally rhetoric applied not to documents but the utterance. Not only in politics did it reign but in law. As Demosthenes persuaded Athenians to oppose Phillip of Macedonia, so did Cicero persuade the Roman senate to outlaw Cato. In those days rhetoric rendered by pen was negligible, by voice it was foremost in public affairs.
Oratory these days lacks the prominence it once had. Politics and trials depend more on agreement between influential individuals (the latter with a lawyers opening and closing statement has the edge over the former). Rhetoric as a study to aid a speaker on a survey of university curriculums is not even conspicuous by its absence. If reduced to near invisibility in the aural arts, rhetoric retains a visible presence in the written ones. Thus, this handbook of rhetorical terminology has value to a person interested in enhancing his/hers writing beyond the mechanics of punctuation, grammar, and usage. However rhetoric is not a cure-all. John Lyly’s Euphues is as bad in its excess of rhetoric as Dick and Jane is in its paucity of the same. Besides valuing rhetoric the ancient Greeks valued moderation too.
I cherish my copy. For someone like me who so often thinks, "There must be a name for that" -- prompted by an object, concept, or figure of speech -- this book is a boon and a blast.
I encourage songwriters and lyricists to look over the classic suggestions for rhetorical approach, contained in the appendix. Every item on the list is a line of attack for a song or a poem. I find this inspiring.
This and Schott's Almanac have been kept for months in the bathroom reading bin.
One thing to note: the Handlist has nothing related to 20th century rhetorical terminology. Don't expect concepts from Toulmin or Perelman to crop up here.
Unfortunately, Amazon has failed to link the reviews to this version. For the time being, they are still there to be consulted; I don't know what Amazon will do if/when the "original" Second Edition is no longer available. With luck, they will transfer them to this printing, but the software has been known to miss the connection. [N.B. Mid-September: Amazon has since made the connection.]
As for the book itself: In a widespread current usage, "rhetoric" tends to be the label applied to windy and/or flowery oratory, often with a suggestion of trickery. In dictionary terms, the meaning is considerably broader: "the art of expressive speech or discourse" and "the art or practice of writing or speaking as means of communication or persuasion" (Merriam-Webster). It includes all styles, from the plainest and most "straight-talking" (a nice piece of rhetoric in itself) to the most ornate. Despite what some scientists seem to have been taught, it definitely includes "objective" scientific reports (e.g., "it was observed"), a style invented in the seventeenth century (at least partly to replace highly polemic and argumentative styles, filled with attacks on persons and institutions, which had preceded it in learned discourse).
Another meaning for rhetoric, and a key one for the "Handlist," is a formal area of study of the means of communication and persuasion, mainly spoken, as first described (in the surviving literature) by Aristotle, and elaborated by a series of Classical writers, culminating (for modern purposes) in the "Institutes of Oratory" of Quintilian. It was a basic part of the curriculum in the Middle Ages (if only as a means of preparing sermons), based on late-Roman theory and practice, and was re-invented on a somewhat more classical basis in the Renaissance. Naturally, Rhetoric as a specialization developed its own specialized terms, as a kind of verbal shorthand. The direct borrowing of Greek and Latin terms into English has, over the centuries, competed with "Englished" renderings, mainly Elizabethan; Lanham includes both sets, with cross-references.
At one time rhetoric was a basic part of education; then of higher education; and then, for a good deal of the time, it was pushed to the academic fringes, even while it continued to thrive in places like Washington D.C. and Madison Avenue. The "Handlist" was part of a needed return of rhetorical consciousness to the modern world. (Among other things, slippery words are a lot less slippery when they can be pinned down with a precise label.)
As one of Professor Lanham's sometime (long ago) students at UCLA, I am perhaps not the ideally objective reviewer of this book; still, I've been using one or another edition of it since the early 1970s, sometimes (I hope) to the advantage of my prose style, sometimes just just to satisfy my curiosity. From my point of view, the book sometimes comes close to failing as a helpful manual, because I tend to lose track of what I was looking for, and just browse among the terms, definitions and examples. (This is not quite so much a problem with the Kindle format, which I am now using.) Apparently, the same has befallen other word-lovers (see those other reviews!). Unfortunately, my memory of extended readings doesn't retain nearly as much as I would have hoped.