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Rhetoric (from Greek ρήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is the art or technique of persuasion, usually through the use of language. Rhetoric is one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar) in Western culture. In ancient and medieval times, grammar concerned itself with correct language use through the study and criticism of literary models, dialectic concerned itself with the testing and invention of new knowledge through a process of question and answer, and rhetoric concerned itself with persuasion in public and political settings such as assemblies and courts of law. As such, rhetoric is said to flourish in open and democratic societies with rights of free speech, free assembly, and political enfranchisement for some portion of the population.

The concept of rhetoric has shifted widely during its 2500-year history. Today rhetoric is described more broadly as the art or practice of persuasion through any symbolic system, but especially language. Or, rhetoric can be described as the persuasive or "suasory" function of all human action, including symbolic action like language use. Both the terms "rhetoric" and "sophistry" are also used today in a pejorative or dismissive sense, when someone wants to distinguish between "empty" words and action, or between true or accurate information and misinformation, propaganda, or "spin," or to denigrate specific forms of verbal reasoning as spurious. Nonetheless, rhetoric, as the art of persuasion, continues to play an important function in contemporary public life.



The scholarly literature on the 2500-year history and theory of rhetoric in Western culture is far too voluminous to be listed at the end of this entry. Useful reference works include George Kennedy's Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times, Thomas O. Sloane, ed., Encyclopedia of Rhetoric (Oxford University Press, 2001); Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric: A Foundation for Literary Study (1960; 2nd ed. 1973; English trans, Brill, 1998); Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms (University of California Press, 1968; 2nd ed. 1991). For overview surveys of the scholarly literature, see Winifred Bryan Horner, ed., The Present State of Scholarship in Historical and Contemporary Rhetoric (University of Missouri Press, 1983; rev. ed. 1990); and Theresa Enos and Stuart C. Brown, eds., Defining the New Rhetorics (Sage, 1993).

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Corax of Syracuse - Wikipedia - Profile of the Greek rhetorician who structured judicial speeches into various parts.

Gisbert, Blaise - French rhetorician and critic; born at Cahors, 21 February, 1657; died at Montpellier, 21 February, 1731.
Meta Description: [ French rhetorician and critic; born at Cahors, 21 February, 1657; died at Montpellier, 21 February, 1731 ]

Isocrates - Wikipedia - Biography of the Greek rhetorician who was one of the ten Attic orators.

Research on Pietism and Rhetoric: Reinhard Breymayer - Short presentation of Reinhard Breymayer, lecturer for General Rhetoric at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. Bibliography of his publications.
Meta Description: [ Erforschung von Pietismus und Rhetorik: Vorstellung von Reinhard Breymayer mit ausführlicher Bibliographie seiner Werke ]

Rhetoric Web - Undergraduate students at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, present rhetorical theorists, such as Jurgen Habermas, Kenneth Burke and Stephen Toulmin. With bibliography.

Severus Sanctus Endelechus - Christian rhetorician and poet of the fourth century.
Meta Description: [ Christian rhetorician and poet of the fourth century ]

Theories of Language: Kenneth Burke - Annotated list of links introducing the theory of language of the American writer.

Victorinus, Caius Marius - Profile of the fourth-century grammarian, rhetorician, philosopher, and theologian.
Meta Description: [ A fourth-century grammarian, rhetorician, philosopher, and theologian ]

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