This week I read the Introduction to Classical Rhetoric, the "Encomium to Helen" by Gorgias, and James L. Kinneavy's "The Basic Aims of Discourse" from Cross Talk. In addition, I also read a very interesting piece by Susan Biesecker's " which you can access through the link below:
The power that rhetoric wields in the arena of social change really stood out for me this week. This was highlighted mainly in Biesecker’s work but I felt the same undertones within Kinneavy’s writing as well. What I found fascinating was the effect that Pericles’ law of restricting Athenian citizenship had on conceptions of gender in his time. The language of this law, although restricting in its conception, provided the “possibility of an opening for women” (105 Biesecker). I like to imagine that Pericles was fully aware of the great effect his language would have - especially as he lived amid a time when “the skillful use of language became increasingly important in a society that was rapidly changing” (Bizzell 22). Moreover, his mistress Aspasia was “a much sought after teacher of rhetoric and political theory” (Bizzell 27), which helps me to justify the thought that he may have been looking at a bigger picture. What I believe might be an unfortunate blow to this rhetorical prowess is how Kinneavy describes “the dissolution of the liberal arts tradition in the early 1900’s” (138). I feel the power that rhetoric held when it was the basis of education was stifled with this fracturing. Perhaps this is why it proves difficult to define rhetoric itself – it’s no longer whole. However, as some of my fellow classmates had pointed out, advertisements and politics are a major way in which rhetoric is beginning to be seen as a major force once again in our world. The social changes we are witnessing - marriage equality for example - have high stakes in the rhetoric used to communicate with the populous. As we’ve seen with Pericles, the very wording of our laws, even our discussions, have the potential to open doors hidden from our immediate view.