The Orator's Toolkit

An eighteenth century poet quipped:

This satirical observation is substantially correct. One of the things we inherit from the classical tradition of rhetoric is a set of lists of technical terms--names for types of speeches, for lines of argument, for patterns of words, among other things.

It's worth asking: Why? Why such a rich technical vocabulary? What is it that makes this heap of terms so useful, or necessary, to rhetoricians?

If you were a student in ancient Greece or Rome, or in the Renaissance, a large part of your education would have been taken up with learning to use these terms in analyzing other's discourse and in producing your own. You'd accomplish this by reading and writing a series of set exercises, called the "progymnasmata." Since we don't have a dozen years to spare, however, we're going to take a more intense approach.

I'm confident that you're familiar with at least some of these terms, from taking (or teaching) composition and communication classes. This exercise asks you to begin the process of mastering the others. Here's what you should do:

1. Browse through the whole list, reviewing enough of the background material and taking enough notes so that when you hit these terms again, they'll sound vaguely familiar. This way, you'll know where to look when you want to find them again.

2. Become one of the class experts on the terms you were assigned in class. Be ready to explain them to others, to give examples of them, and to use them in analyzing discourse.

3. Again, become an expert on the stylistic devices listed below, plus select three other unusual ones.

To help you develop familiarity and expertise, each set of terms is linked to at least one classical and one contemporary resource explaining it.

The list of lists of rhetorical terms

List Classical source Contemporary source
The three functions of the rhetorician:
to inform (docere), to move (movere) and to delight (delectare).
Cicero, de Oratore 2.128 (not online)

(For a Renaissance source, see Thomas Wilson, Arte of Rhetorique)

(there's nothing really good out there!)
The three genres of rhetoric:
deliberative, forensic, epideictic
Aristotle, Rhetoric Book 1, chapter 3 Silva Rhetoricae, "Branches" of Oratory
The three modes of proof:
logos (logic/reasoning/words), ethos (character/credibility), and pathos (emotion)
Aristotle, Rhetoric Book 1, chapter 2 Wikibook, Rhetoric & Composition, "Rhetorical Analysis"
The five "canons" or stages in developing a speech:
invention, disposition (organization), style, memory and delivery
Cicero, De inventione (On Invention), Book 1, chap. 7

(For a Renaissance source, see Thomas Wilson, Arte of Rhetorique)

Silva Rhetoricae, Canons of Rhetoric
The five-to-seven parts of an oration:
exordium, narration, partition, confirmation, refutation, digression, peroration.
Anonymous, Rhetorica ad Herennium, Book 1, chap. 4
Note: This work was until recently ascribed to Cicero.
Silva Rhetoricae, Canons of Rhetoric>Arrangement
The three functions of an exordium:
to render the audience attentive (attentus), open (docile, "teachable"), and favorable (benevolus, "good-willing").
Cicero, De inventione, Book 1, chap. 15-18 (there's nothing really good out there!)
The two-three "topics"* (standard lines of argument) for persuading someone to do something (deliberative rhetoric):
the advantageous (or expedient, or useful), and the good (or honorable, or worthy), and possibly the in-between (e.g., reputation)
Cicero, De inventione, Book 2, chap. 52-59 Silva Rhetoricae, Canons of Rhetoric>Invention>Topics of Invention>Deliberative
The ten "topics"* for arousing indignation and the equally many "topics" for arousing pity, in the peroration. Anonymous, Rhetorica ad Herennium, Book 2 chapter 47-50 (there's nothing really good out there!)
The three levels of style:
grand (high), middle, and plain (low).
Anonymous, de Inventione, Book 4, chap. 11 Silva Rhetoricae, Canons of Rhetoric>Style>Levels of Style
Up to several hundred stylistic devices (figures and tropes);
check out: anaphora, chiasmus, climax, epistrophe, paralepsis (paralipsis), sententia, synecdoche, and three others you select.
Quintilian, Institutiones oratoriae, Book 9, chapter 3

(For a Renaissance source, see Henry Peachum, The Garden of Eloquence)

Silva Rhetoricae, "Flowers"

Rhetorical Figures in Sound, from American Rhetoric

Toolkit for Rhetorical Analysis

A handbook of rhetorical devices

Amplification (amplificatio, auxesis) or copia:
one overall rhetorical effect to be achieved by the use of topics of invention and figures of speech.
Quintilian, Institutiones oratoriae, Book 8, chapter 4

(A central thrust of Renaissance rhetoric; see Thomas Wilson, Arte of Rhetorique, or Henry Peachum, The Garden of Eloquence).

Silva Rhetoricae (do a search on "amplification" and "copia")

Toolkit for Rhetorical Analysis

A handbook of rhetorical devices

*Note: "topics" (a/k/a "common topics," "commonplaces," "topoi," "loci") are resources for inventing arguments--"places" (the literal meaning of the Latin & Greek terms) where arguments can be found. They range from more or less pre-written chunks or "paragraphs" of prose (for example, a denunciation of murder, in which the orator could just insert the names of the accused and victim), to very abstract logical forms (for example, "argument from contraries"--if Saddam is bad, Bush must be good). The lists included here are just a small, small sample of all the "topic" (topoi) lists in classical rhetoric.