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Rhetoric and History

Kathleen J. Turner

Subject History
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


The conjoining of the terms “rhetoric” and “history” suggests at least three related but distinct areas of study. One, the history of rhetoric , focuses on rhetorical theory and practice during particular periods of time; entries on various aspects of this area abound (e.g., →  Rhetoric, Pre-Socratic ; Rhetoric, European Renaissance ). Two others are the focus here: rhetorical processes in history and the rhetoric of history . The study of rhetorical processes in history focuses on the ways in which rhetoric functions in historical contexts. As “speech” emerged as a distinct field in the early to mid-1900s, its origins in public address were evidenced in its scholarship (→  Speech Communication, History of ). Early inquiries focused on specific speeches and speakers in historical contexts using what came to be known as “historical-critical research,” exemplified by the classic three-volume anthology, A history and criticism of American public address ( Brigance 1943 ; Hochmuth 1955 ). In the mid-1960s, publications using this methodological approach came under attack as “cookie cutter” studies that did little to advance either rhetorical theory or the discipline's status in the academy (→  Rhetorical Criticism ). By the 1970s, such challenges met rejoinders from several authors who sought to restore luster to the study of rhetorical processes in history. During a gradual ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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