A spirited effort to restore the importance of rhetoric, this book examines its early development in the classical era, its triumph during the Renaissance, and its subsequent decline. While acknowledging rhetoric's general loss of prestige, the author asserts its value in modern times as an indispensable vehicle for style and thought in the work of Joyce, Orwell, Jarrell, and others, and concludes by surveying rhetoric's fragmentation and misapplication in the current critical theories of such thinkers as Jakobson and de Man.
'One of Vickers's great accomplishments is that, with an erudition as deep as his touch is light, he shows the central role rhetoric has actually played in Western culture ... Vickers's book is also a triumph of formal exposition. It contains a remarkably lucid account of the three genres of oratory ... It also includes the best and clearest discussion of the rhetorical tropes and figures of which I am aware. It is full of excellent examples of various
devices, and it provides a magnificent instance of formal rhetorical criticism in its analysis of the use of the figures and tropes in the "Aeolus" episode in Joyce's Ulysses.'
Times Literary Supplement
'Professor Vickers is concerned not only to defend rhetoric but also to recount its history. He traces its recovery in the Renaissance in fascinating detail ... Brian Vickers presents a traditionally conceived, squarely intellectual case ... the general character of his method is clear ... His defence of rhetoric is itself not rhetorical but rational.'
The London Review of Books
'It counts as a great virtue of Brian Vicker's In Defence of Rhetoric that he succeeds in charting the moving borders of rhetoric with magisterial simplicity, and in such a way as to uncover the fundamental issues of its relation to dialectic ... This is a powerful study; surely one of the most significant and interesting general studies of rhetoric ever produced.'
Alastair Fowler, Times Higher Education Supplement
'Brian Vicker's book about rhetoric is itself a magnificent example of one of the three traditional rhetorical kinds, the judicial ... He is properly eloquent and energetic in rhetoric's defence'
The English Association
'Vickers not only covers the span of Western thought, not only teaches about a neglected subject, but also actually trains us to see rhetoric at work and enjoy it ... It awakens in one a hunger for shaped speech, for eloquence.'
Christian Science Monitor
'V. has written a book which may well become a standard text for students of the Classical Tradition'
S. Usher, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London. Classical Review
'subtle both in style and in the content of its argument'
Modern Law Review, Vol 53 No 4 July '90
'This is a rich, stimulating, and absorbing book. The book is beautifully printed.'
B.D.H. Miller, Brasenose College, Review of English Studies, Vol. 44, May 1993
List of Illustrations
1. An Outline of Classical Rhetoric
- Rhetoric and Life
- The Major Texts
- The Main Processes of Rhetoric
a) The Three Genres
b) The Stages of Composition
c) The Parts of a Speech
d) The Orator's Three Duties
e) The Three Styles
2. Plato's Attack on Rhetoric
3. Territorial Disputes: Philosophy versus Rhetoric
- Responses to Plato
- The Triumph of Rhetoric
- The Revenge of Philosophy
4. Medieval Fragmentation
5. Renaissance Reintegration
6. The Expressive Function of Rhetorical Figures
7. Rhetoric and the Sister Arts
8. Rhetoric in the Modern Novel
9. Epilogue: The Future of Rhetoric