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Invention and Rhetoric

James Jasinski

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Plato

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


In classical rhetorical theory, invention was one of the five essential canons and referred to the activity or process of creating a message (a speech, an essay, a poem, etc.). (On the other canons, see →  Arrangement and Rhetoric ; Delivery and Rhetoric ; Memory and Rhetoric ; Style and Rhetoric .) Over time, rhetoricians have explored some recurrent questions, such as whether or not invention can be described and systematized, what is the precise nature of the process of invention, and what exactly is the scope and function of inventional activity. Scholars have identified four dominant approaches to explaining and guiding this activity/process: romantic, systematic, imitative, and social ( Kennedy 1963 ; Jasinski 2001 ). Rhetoricians typically credit Plato with introducing a romantic approach to invention that emphasizes an individual's psychic interior as the appropriate source for ideas and inspiration ( LeFevre 1987 ). With its emphasis on imagination, emotional spontaneity, and individual creative genius, late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century romanticism represents a particularly strong version of this approach to rhetorical invention. But the romantic emphasis on psychic interiors, many scholars maintain, remained a fixture in twentieth-century speech and composition classrooms ( Crowley 1990 ; Bawarshi 2003 ). Critics of modernist rhetorical and “current-traditional” ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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