Essays that show what a broad conception of rhetoric means and does in relation to practice
Rhetoric is the art of emphasis, in the ancient sense of bringing to light or obscuring in shadow, and it is both a practice and a theory about that practice. In recent decades, scholars of rhetoric have turned to approaches that braid together poetics, performance, and philosophy into a “practical art.” The Practice of Rhetoric: Poetics, Performance, Philosophy presents just such an account of rhetoric that presumes and incorporates theoretical approaches, offering a collection of principles assembled in the heat and trials of public practice. The essays gathered in this volume are inspired by the capacious conception of rhetoric put forth by historian of rhetoric Jeffrey Walker, who is perhaps best known for stressing rhetoric’s educational mission and its investments in both theory and practice.
The book extends that vision through the prisms of poetics, performance, and philosophy of argument. Poetics shows rhetoric’s meaning making in all its verbal possibilities and material manifestations, in contexts ranging from mouse-infested medieval fields to the threat of toxin-ridden streams in the twentieth century. Performance puts what is created into the heat of public life, tapping out the rhythms of Byzantine prose or using collage to visually depict the beliefs and convictions of Martin Luther King Jr. Philosophy of argument enacts the mutually constitutive relationship between rhetoric and dialectic, offering new insights on and contexts for old tools like stasis and disputation, while keeping the focus on usefulness and teachability.
Ranging across centuries and contexts, the essays collected here demonstrate the continued need to attend carefully to the cooperation of descriptive language and normative reality, conceptual vocabulary and material practice, public speech and moral self-shaping. This volume will rekindle long-standing conversations about the public, world-making practice of rhetoric, thereby enlivening anew its civic mission.
Debra Hawhee is McCourtney Professor of Civic Deliberation and Professor of English and of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State University. She is author of Rhetoric in Tooth and Claw: Animals, Language, Sensation; Moving Bodies: Kenneth Burke at the Edges of Language; and Bodily Arts: Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece.
Vessela Valiavitcharska is associate professor of language, rhetoric, and writing in the Department of English at the University of Maryland. She is author of Rhetoric and Rhythm in Byzantium: The Sound of Persuasion.
“This collection of scholars and their works demonstrates that this art we call rhetoric is the exercise of not just another kind of practice. Rhetoric, as performed by these essays, shows itself to be a practice that is at once political, poetic, and pedagogical. It shows itself to be of vital importance.” —Casey Boyle, author of Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice
“A brilliant series of essays that amplify the practical, beating, ‘how-to’ heart of rhetoric. Collectively, they raise anew questions and considerations that have been central to the study of rhetoric since at least Gorgias, compelling us to reconsider the various ways that histories and theories of rhetoric above all are and always have been a form of praxis—poetic, interpretive, descriptive, expressive, compositional, addressive, disputational, demonstrative, performative, pedagogical, and more.” —Robin Reames, author of Seeming and Being in Plato’s Rhetorical Theory
“A fitting tribute to the multifaceted scholarship and teaching of rhetorician Jeffrey Walker, The Practice of Rhetoric offers ten essays by eleven authors that compel readers to re-vision and re-imagine relationships among poetics, rhetorical performance, and philosophical argumentation. A significant and provocative contribution to our field.” —Richard Leo Enos, author of Greek Rhetoric before Aristotle and Roman Rhetoric: Revolution and the Greek Influence