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Rhetoric and Poetics

Jeffrey Walker

Subject Literature
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Aristotle

Key-Topics poetry

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Any understanding of the relation between rhetoric and poetics will depend on how each category is conceived. The term “rhetoric” can mean “rhetorical discourse”; or the suasory practices observable in any given piece or kind of →  Discourse ; or the art or theory of rhetorical performance. Further, “rhetorical discourse” may be defined narrowly or broadly – for example, as any discourse that intends or causes persuasion. “Persuasion” too may be defined narrowly, as the inducement of belief and the promotion of action; or broadly, as the production of any effect in an audience's psyche (→  Persuasion ; Rhetoric, Argument, and Persuasion ). Likewise, “poetics” can mean the art or theory of poetic discourse, while “poetic discourse” may mean anything from poetry to “literature” very generally conceived. Thus, any discussion of rhetoric and poetics is working with labile terms. A persistent tradition in modern western culture tends to regard rhetorical and poetic discourse as virtual opposites that may, however, exert some influence on each other. This way of thinking played a formative role in the early twentieth-century revival of rhetoric as a modern academic discipline (→  Communication as a Field and Discipline ; Rhetorical Studies ). Scholars tended to conceptualize rhetoric as primarily an art of practical public discourse, and to regard the subject matters of rhetorical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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