Definition of Rhetoric

I’m always interested in definitions of what rhetoric is, particularly simpler ones which can be understood by non-academics. I have used a selection of rhetoric definitions to introduce rhetoric in my section of the graduate class on history of rhetoric (which I won’t be teaching this next year) as a way to make the students aware of what rhetoric is and to create some of the dissonance that Dr. Janice Lauer believes is significantly responsible for creating learning.

–I find that very ironic considering that I was very uncomfortable with the “throw the baby in the ocean” aspect of my PhD program, but it is a way to start them thinking.

ancient woman with bookKendall R. Phillips, in his introduction to the edited collection Framing Public Memory, wrote that rhetoric is “an art interested in the ways symbols are employed to induce cooperation, achieve understanding, contest understanding, and offer dissent” (2).

While “interested in” seems vague to me, the other aspects of the definition–symbols, cooperation, understanding, and dissent–are particularly noteworthy.

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