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Rhetoric in Western Europe: Germany

Dietmar Till

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

Place Western Europe » Germany

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


During the early modern period, in Germany rhetoric was taught at grammar schools ( Gymnasien ), both Protestant and Jesuit, and at Protestant universities. Rhetorical theory provided a basis for writing, especially in Latin, serving as a means of communication for scholars throughout Europe. It influenced the theory of poetics as well as art, each of which relied heavily on rhetorical theory (→  Rhetoric and Poetics ). The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were the “golden age” of rhetoric in Germany. A significant number of textbooks were published, mostly in Latin, by authors like Philipp Melanchthon ( Elementa rhetorices , 1531), the Dutch Latinist G. J. Vossius ( Rhetorice contracta , 1621), and C. Soarez ( De arte rhetorica , 1560), to name just a few. Some of these treatises were still being reprinted and used in teaching during the eighteenth century. A small number of textbooks were written in German, for example by J. M. Meyfart and especially Christian Weise ( Politischer Redner , 1677), one of the most important figures of late-baroque rhetoric. With the rise of German as the language of instruction in the Enlightenment , this changed dramatically. The most influential handbook was composed by Johann Christoph Gottsched, a professor of philosophy at Leipzig University. His Vernünftige Redekunst (1736) combines both humanist and modern traditions. Rhetoric is viewed ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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