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Rhetoric in Western Europe: France

Pierre Zoberman

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

Place Western Europe » France

People Aristotle, Cicero

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


According to the doxa , rhetoric flourished in France under absolutism, enjoyed a fire-and-brimstone revival during the Revolution, and gradually disappeared in the nineteenth century, until it was reduced to the few figures of style school children still learned in the twentieth century. Actually, after 1700, interwoven rhetorical and anti-rhetorical strands shape a field that expands and contracts, with occasional eclipses. Rhetoric – with competing definitions as an art of →  Persuasion and/or ornate speech – survived in academic programs until the late nineteenth century. Latin rhetoric thrived in the Jesuits’ schools, whose curriculum remained faithful to the Ratio studiorum , until their expulsion (1764); elsewhere, it was gradually restricted to French and its emphasis shifted from oratory to techniques of writing and reading, reminiscent of the Hellenistic progymnasmata (preparatory exercises), until the 1890s, when literary history and dissertation displaced it. Rhetoric resurfaced in the twentieth century, especially in the 1960s–1970s: its taxonomies appealed to the structuralists (→  Structuralism ); its history was reassessed; it was also recast as a theory of communication (→  Communication Theory and Philosophy ; Rhetorical Studies ). It has since inspired dynamic and innovative research. In the Ancien Régime, rhetoric ruled the social usages of language, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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