Thursday, January 20, 2011

Defining Rhetoric

  1. Go to Google or your favorite search engine and search for the phrase "rhetoric is" while including the quotation marks.  I recommend that you do it in a separate tab or window while also keeping this blog open.
  2. Look through the various links and read through several definitions of rhetoric.  If you have trouble finding the place where "rhetoric is" on the page, and you are using Firefox, you can go to Edit and select Find.  Type in "rhetoric is" and click "Highlight All," and you can see all the places on that page where the phrase is used.
  3. Find a definition that you find provocative for whatever reason.  Come back to this blog and click on comments beneath this post.  When the comment box opens, copy-and-paste the definition that you find interesting.  Then, copy-and-paste the URL for the page where you found it beneath the definition.  After that, write a couple of sentences about why it stands out to you, whether you find it smart, strange, useful, different, or whatever and a brief reason about why.
  4. Select "Name/URL" from the pull-down menu beneath the comment box and type your name (your first name or first name with last initial is fine).  Then, click "Post Comment."
  5. Prepare to say a little about what you chose and why.  When we are done, I will show the comments on the screen so we can go over them and you can introduce yourselves.


  1. rhetoric is "the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion

    This particular definition of rhetoric stands out for both is usual and unusual characteristics. It shows detail, but is still open enough to allow for interpretation.

  2. "Wherever there is persuasion, there is rhetoric, and wherever there is rhetoric, there is meaning."- Kenneth Burke

    This definition stood out to me because it doesn't merely indicate how rhetoric is used, but also how words can indicate emotions and the like. The meaning behind words is one that is extremely objective and that is what this definition is leading one to believe, that by examining rhetoric one is making inferences and continuing to expand their meaning of a statement, a story or even a word.

  3. "Rhetoric is the art of testing ideas with people who share our questions. It involves not merely the language we use but all the decisions we make and how to communicate effectively with others."

    The main idea here is communication, which is the key to all interaction. When using all of our ideas and experiences in discussion with others, we open ourselves to a broader and more intelligent scope of communication.

  4. "Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and writing. And the art of persuasion. And many other things."

    Implies that there is more to rhetoric than just speaking or writing words for persuasion; rhetoric is also the study behind how ideas are communicated.

  5. Rhetoric is "an instrumental use of language".

    I chose this definition of rhetoric because I thought the adjective "instrumental" was interesting and a different way to describe language.

  6. Rhetoric is "meant to evoke the tradition of theory and analysis that underlies academic approaches to communication."

    I like this definition because it not only mentions that rhetoric is rooted in tradition, but that it is also still a part of communication today. Most other definitions that I came across only focused on one side of rhetoric, but I think that both are important.

  7. Rhetoric is, classically, the art of persuasion; human speakers (and writers and signers) intend their audiences to come to believe and feel certain things.

    I think that this definition gives the basic idea about persuasion that we all know but then takes it to another level saying how humans try to make others believe and feel certain things. In essence this is basically always true because we're always convincing, on some level or another and we start practicing our rhetorical skills very early in life with simple acts of everyday living. I like this definition and feel like it suits rhetoric because everyday people practice this theory and professional writers do the same. It's like we're all in the same "rhetoric boat", if you will.

  8. Rhetoric is an art through which people learn to improve their own communication and adapt it to specific audiences and purposes.

    I liked this description of what rhetoric is becuase it really stresses the importance of using your words effectively. To be good at rhetoric you have to be flexible and willing to adapt what you are trying to say to different audiences. This definition makes rhetoric seem more situational and forces the person to be accomadating to their audience.

  9. "Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and writing. And the art of persuasion. And many other things."

    I hadn't thought about rhetoric as being about persuasion as much as just being able to express your message well, I thought the idea of persuasion was interesting

  10. "Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men."

    This definition is a reminder that rhetoric can be an extremely powerful tool of persuasion and can influence perceptions and ideas.

  11. Angry rhetoric is a response to uncertainty and fear.

    This quote stood out due to its relevance today. Since the shooting of Congresswoman Gifford in Tuscon, people are more upset than ever about the controversy of our out-dated 2nd Amendment. This quote makes sense to me because I feel it is accurate in defining the reactions of one of the most pertinent news stories so far in 2011.

  12. "rhetoric is, quite simply, the ability to connect with an audience and thereby stir an impact"

    This defintion appeals to me because it seems that rhetoric has a very human element to it. It seems that rather studying language in a purely objective way, this discipline seems to concern itself with the persuasion of a target audience.

  13. "Rhetoric is the art of speaking well."

    Although there were many definitions I liked of "rhetoric," this one stood out to me because of its simplicity. There can be so many different definitions of rhetoric, and if it had to be summed up into one, although very vague, this one works. I also enjoyed:

    "Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and writing. And the art of persuasion. And many other things."

    I liked this one for a similar reason. It's simple, yet complex. The "and many other things" at the end makes it seem like there should be one single diluted definiton that covers all aspects of what rhetoric is, but that it really can't be easily defined. It's a lot of different things that are hard to put into a simple one or two sentence definition.

  14. "Rhetoric removes disagreement from the arena of violence and turns it into debate."
    This description of rhetoric explains the exact purpose of the art. Rhetoric is not about disagreeing at all, but quite the opposite. It actually allows your "opponent" to respond in a way that could challenge your rhetoric; something like a debate.