ERIC Number: ED344262
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1991-May-14
Reference Count: N/A
The Possibility of Rhetoric's Early Beginnings. The Van Zelst Lecture in Communication.
Thanks to Mario Untersteiner and those who followed his example, the talk about the Sophists can be heard not only in rhetoricians' hallways, classroom, and convention halls but also in the hallways, classrooms, and convention halls of philologists, historians, philosophers, and literary critics. Sophistical rhetoric emerged in a culture of competition and spectacles and was shaped by the ethic of competition and the aesthetic of exhibition. Rhetoric, in turn, influenced the culture in which it was produced by making it more aware of the competitive practices and spectacular uses of the word. The Sophists construed public discursive practices themselves as examples of competition. For the Sophists, to be an orator meant treating audiences to discursive spectaculars, theatricalizing the word, and giving it power by making it appear beautiful. The Sophists responded to Hellenic culture's sweeping change from aristocracy to democracy in the mid-fifth century by accelerating its rate and enlarging its scope. Sophistical rhetoric helped strengthen the newly instituted democracy by forging a mentality aware of the centrality of persuasion in the coordination of sociopolitical action, and the resolution of human conflicts. Rhetorical studies have taken a sophistical turn, and it is the task of contemporary rhetoricians to account for this turn. (Twenty-two references are attached.) (RS)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Historical Materials; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL. School of Speech.
Identifiers: Classical Rhetoric; Historical Background; Orators; Sophists