History of Style in Rhetoric

In the Second Sophistic (which included Lucian, Capella, and Hermogenes), there was an emphasis on elocution, which included style–but did not make style the entire focus of rhetoric.

Isidore attempted to create an encyclopedia of human knowledge and his presentation of rhetoric temporarily halted the movement to define rhetoric solely in terms of style.

During the Middle Ages there was a sustained emphasis upon style, as rhetoric was mostly seen as style or the manner of speaking/composing. Beauty was a central concern, as was persuasion.

At the time, “modern” rhetoricians were those who were mostly involved with the development of style. They were also derided as foolish.

Copia said, “Style is to thought as clothes are to the body.”

De Ratione Studi and De Duplici Copia Verborum ac Rerum (1512) recommended imitation of classical style.

Ramus (1515-1572) defined rhetoric as style and delivery.

Thomas Wilson (1524-1581) proposed that style had 4 virtues: plainness, aptness, composition, and exhortation or nobility.

Early Modern:
John Locke (1632-1704) limited rhetoric to style alone and believed that it was an aid to false or wrong information, not to the truth.

During the Enlightenment era there was ongoing debate on the best style. Was it ornate, plain, or natural?

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