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Rhetorical Criticism

Karlyn Kohrs Campbell

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Aristotle, Cicero

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Rhetorical criticism analyzes →  Discourse in order to understand its communicative power. In US departments of speech and communication, it grew out of the emphasis on public speaking as an expression of democracy and from perspectives developed by literary theorists (→  Rhetorical Studies ; Speech Communication, History of ). Critical analysis of discourse began in ancient Greece and Rome as teachers attempted to understand why some rhetorical acts were successful while others were not (→  Rhetoric, Greek ; Rhetoric, Roman ). Although the practice of analyzing discourse became part of disciplinary scholarship only in the modern period, the works of Aristotle, Isocrates, Cicero, Quintilian, and Augustine, among others, include guidelines for assessing rhetorical acts. Those linkages reaffirm the relationship between theory and practice; in effect, criticism is a way of refining theory in light of assessments of practice. In Plato's Phaedrus , for example, the main characters evaluate three speeches and, on that basis, offer a theory of rhetoric. Textual analysis appears briefly in book 4 of Augustine's On Christian doctrine in which biblical passages are dissected to demonstrate that sacred authors used the tropes associated with the pagan Greco-Roman tradition. Rhetorical criticism as the analysis of those elements in poetry or prose that are there primarily for the sake ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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