Rhetoric in Electronic Age

free essayRhetoric is defined as an art of using a persuasive language and effective expression. One of the greatest rhetoricians, Aristotle, identified rhetoric as means of exploring all possible ways of convincing others of a topic. Aristotle stated that rhetoric had clear epistemic and persuasive functions that served as tools for discovering the person’s knowledge of a certain theme.

The discipline of rhetoric is one of the oldest in the world; it possesses roots in the sophistication tradition of classical Greece. From the Ancient Greek times till the late nineteenth century, rhetoric had been a vital part of the Western educational tradition used for teaching writers and public speakers to convince listeners to perform certain deeds using proper arguments. Starting from the 20th century, the rhetorical study began to grow, which manifested in the organization of departments of speech and rhetoric at universities and colleges, as well as the evolvement of international and national professional organizations. The significance of the study of rhetoric had to be reconsidered because of the renewed role of language and conviction in the progressively reunited environment of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With the expansion of mass media and marketing in the form of telegraphy, photography, film, and radio, rhetoric became more notably conveyed in people’s lives. It is unclear how rhetoric will evolve in the future; however, the analysis of its history and branches helps predict some aspects of the existence of the discipline hereafter.

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Ancient History of Rhetoric

Many scholars claim that the discipline of rhetoric was formed in Ancient Greece approximately in the 5th century. The first rhetoric movement was sophism, which was represented by a group of speakers, teachers, and philosophers who, as intelligent individuals, could teach others about the things they knew. The rhetorical teachers lived luxurious lives and were referred to as the highest class of people. They taught science, art, and the rhetoric of law and politics (LoFaro, 2009). This ancient movement made an enduring influence on philosophy as well as the modern day study of rhetoric. One more movement that shook up the Ancient rhetoric tradition was the Gorgias movement. Gorgias believed that words were the key elements of suggestion, persuasion, and belief. Thus they defined rhetoric as an art of persuasion. Thus, it means that a person cannot perceive what another person says, which leads to the fact that no conceptual ideas exist.

Along with the rhetoric movement, there were great rhetoricians in the ancient Greece. The main representatives were Aristotle, Plato, Aspasia of Miletus, and Socrates who contributed to the current understanding of rhetoric. Aspasia of Miletus was the only woman among those who promoted the development of rhetoric. She studied Socrates’ rhetoric and home economics at an early age. Moreover, she was heavily involved in philosophy and politics and was an elite and respected member of the Periclean circle, which brought together the most notorious Sophists of that time. Being a member of the circle, she was equally hated and loved for her public speaking prowess and political knowledge.

Plato was one of the greatest thinkers who played a significant role in the evolvement and understanding of rhetoric. Plato was the student of Socrates, his key contribution to the discipline included many rhetorical dialogues, in which he featured Socrates as the chief character. Thus, he presented dialectics as a major form of communication. Plato considered this term as a process in which questions and responses were used for reaching an ultimate truth and understanding (Herrick, 1997). There are, indeed, many forms of dialectics in today’s communication. The examples of dialectics in the modern society can be a teacher who asks his students a question to see their knowledge of the subject or a doctor who refers to the patients to understand their problem and find the proper treatment.

Aristotle was another great rhetorician and Plato’s student. In contrast to his teacher, Aristotle stated that rhetoric was a feasible means of forming a society. Aristotle believed that rhetoric was the ability to imagine the kinds of convictions available in each case. Aristotle was sure that each situation depended on both sides, and the perception of the rhetorician depended on the audience with which he or she was interacting. A good example of Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric is the manufacturing of any commodity that is popular in one group of people and unpopular within others (Herrick, 1997). However, the analysis of the market and customers’ needs can lead to the manufacturing of other products, which can be popular within other groups of people. Aristotle also thought that rhetoric was a process that existed only in conditions when humans or groups of people attempted to engage in a conversation or communication intended to improve one another in a peculiar way. The example of Aristotle’s understanding of rhetoric in the modern society can be the attempts of politicians to convince the electorate to vote for their political party.

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One more element in the evolvement of rhetoric was the formation of five canons, which contributed greatly to the rhetorical theoretical systems. There were such five speech preparation stages as invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Invention supposes proper preparation of the text for a speech. Arrangement is constructing the text in the most effective and appropriate manner. Style requires the choosing of appropriate language, which will enhance impact made on the audience as well as the acceptability of the person’s arguments. The memory stage demands proper memorization of the material. The last step implies delivery of the idea using vocal variations, nonverbal gestures, and eye contact while presenting the speech or argument to the audience.

Rhetoric in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

In the Middle Ages, rhetoric moved from the political to the religious sphere. At that time, rhetoric was considered as a means to rescue souls rather than a tool to lead the state. The rhetoric discipline was closely connected to the church, and the priests mastered this study completely. During the late medieval period, colleges and universities started forming in Italy, France, and England. People studied logic, grammar, and rhetoric. Students learned texts written by Aristotle to master the theory and did exercises in Latin and Greek for hours to improve their rhetorical skills. In fact, the students of the medieval times were greatly concentrated on the rhetoric learning; however, the medieval philosophers and thinkers contributed nothing new to the rhetorical theories. Nevertheless, during the Renaissance period, the rhetoric study experienced a re-birth. The texts of the Ancient rhetorician were among the main textbooks in the universities. Moreover, the Renaissance scholars started producing new books and treatises on rhetoric. Three new trends appeared in the rhetorical theories including epistemological, elocutionist, and belletristic (McKay, 2010). Thus, the Renaissance period had a great impact on the development of rhetoric and its state in the 21st electronic century.

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The New Rhetoric

After rhetoric’s development in the classical era, the period of the twentieth century appeared to be one of the most significant periods for studying the discipline. The New Rhetoric entailed and rediscovered the importance of rhetoric epistemology as well as the centrality of persuasion and argument in the daily lives of humans. In the twenty-first century, rhetoric is utilized in business and technical writing. For example, the structures and styles of writing letters, memos, and other types of official correspondence go along with the principles of rhetoric. It is widely used in politics as politicians attempt to make people vote for them with the help of rhetorical texts (Zappen, 2005). The judicial system also uses the rhetorical principles in persuading the jury of the guiltiness or innocence of a defendant.

The Future of Rhetoric in Electronic Age

The new rhetoric has its roots in the Ancient and Renaissance kinds, and nowadays their principles are employed in making texts and preparing speeches. The future rhetoric will certainly utilize those concepts as well because the Ancient and Renaissance rhetoric were the basis of the entire discipline. However, the future rhetoric will implement a better understanding of how to communicate with the audience. The most powerful role of rhetoric in the future society will be to persuade people and rule the audience. Most often, these rhetorical skills will be used in the political and judicial systems. Regular people will utilize rhetoric every day; for instance, parents for convincing their children to behave well and employees for persuading their employers to increase the salary. The art of rhetoric is and will be vital in enabling a human to argue for both sides of an issue. The participants of the conversation can interact on the basis of rhetoric principles supporting their opinions. Though modern and ancient rhetoric have some similar functions, there are also some differences in their roles. Compared to the Ancient rhetoric, the modern kind uses new principles in convincing the audience. Nowadays, people utilize forensic rhetoric, which aims at persuading the audience of the defense of an action. Deliberative rhetoric makes the public believe that any particular action will be advantageous to them in the future. Epideictic rhetoric is aiming at making the public see any person as noble. These types of rhetoric are mostly used by politicians to convince the electorate to vote for them and the ordinary people in their everyday life to achieve certain goals. The future rhetoric will evolve these principles and add new ones as the generations to come will have some other reasons for using rhetoric.

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Rhetoric has changed since the ancient times, but this period had a great impact on its development. During the Middle Ages and the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the rhetorical discipline evolved on the basis of the Ancient thoughts. While in the ancient times, rhetoric was employed only for oral persuasion and speeches, during the Middle Ages, its role changed to written texts. Rhetoric was widely used in politics, business, and technical writing. For instance, the style and structure of speeches, letters, memos, and other types of documents was in accordance with the rhetorical standards. When the old rhetoric dealt chiefly with the content and structure of an essay or speech, the New Rhetoric worked with new limits. It now involves sociology and philosophy. Nowadays, rhetoric is no more only concerned with the question of how to deliver a good speech or inscribe a good essay; it deals with the way humans organize communication and the influence it has on the people’s lives. With the emergence of computers and the Internet, the rhetoric started playing a completely new role along with persuading.

The appearance of new technology in the electronic world altered the perception of the rhetoric role in the society. People started using rhetoric in diverse situations like writing electronic letters. The electronic age presented the words in more adaptable textual forms on the screens of people’s computers, which quickly replaced the more conventional print texts of the twentieth century (Porter, 2009). Such electronic formats as hypertext, email, and network exchanges improve humans’ intellectual perception and create tension between the common printed texts and the new adaptable forms. In the future, printed texts are predicted to be replaced by the electronic versions completely. It will bring a modern phenomenon called electronic literacy that will totally change the way people define literacy.

Currently, literature is under the danger of the emerging electronic age. For example, the works of Shakespeare, Dante, and others are no longer read in the written form, and their electronic versions are more often used. Some scientists even predict that printed texts could disappear or become something unique in the future. Moreover, students now most often study via the Internet and with the help of their computers. They have almost fully moved on to electronic books instead of printed ones. All lectures and materials are presented in the electronic version. As a discipline in the universities and colleges, rhetoric is taught in the electronic format as well; professors do not teach students to speak persuasively — only write.

Previously, rhetoric included the art of writing the letters, but this art was tremendously affected by the appearance of superior technology in the modern world. Nowadays, people do not trouble themselves with writing letters because emailing and mobile phones have taken over as a preferred, fast mode of communication. In some political and business environments, written letters are still present; however, all other interaction went to electronic messages and chatting. The future for this area is quite gloomy, and people as well as scientist assume that letters will soon become obsolete. The scope of written letters has slowly decreased and will continue to do so. From love letters to job applications, letter writing is surely on its deathbed.

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The greatest threat to the future is losing the unique literature works that have been considered masterpieces for centuries. Maybe, the future generations will not see the infamous works of the classics in the original but only in the electronic version. The example of the danger of losing the rhetoric scope can be regarded in the Middle Ages period, when many texts of antiquity, like the works of Quintilian – Institutio Oratoria, became missing for years and centuries. These works were recovered only later, after much exertion on the part of Petrarch and others during the Renaissance period.

The current disregard of canonical texts is in the same situation nowadays as the usage of electronic texts can lead to complete disagreement in literature. The traditional and classical pleasures associated with rhetoric literature are unavailable to most students today as they have accepted the pleasures that the Internet, television, and movies provide. This crisis will focus on the tension between the visual and the texts, and if the world will continue to accept technology in almost all life spheres, the prediction is that a lot of the ancient literature will be lost. Moreover, rhetorical studies will not only become obsolete but will be considered pagan by the electronic generation (Porter, 2009). The problem is that people will no longer be able to communicate using the rhetorical principles, which have been efficiently used over the centuries.

This issue must be solved in the recent time not to allow the rhetoric and the classical literature die. Universities and libraries must struggle to save all the rhetorical writing. Schools must implement specialized classes to teach students to communicate in a proper rhetorical way. The study of rhetoric is particularly significant for the business and political spheres where people must conduct effective interactions to reach common decisions. Sufficient rhetorical knowledge in politicians and economists will certainly improve the state of their countries (Porter, 2009). People must know how to deliver their ideas and persuade others to accept their opinion. With the help of rhetoric, a lot of conflicts and misunderstandings can be easily avoided.

The study of rhetoric must be accessible in the electronic version, develop along with the modern technology, and be more understandable for the current generation. The task of the modern scientists and politics is to save the rhetoric discipline and try to make it more available for people to use it and students to learn. The new rhetoric must suit all the modern people’s needs. For example, students must be taught to use rhetoric in the electronic formats, such as writing letters and chatting with friends. Moreover, nowadays, online jobs are of high popularity, and students should be able to conduct business interactions online as well. Verbal rhetoric is also a necessary subject because students will work and must interact with colleges and managers properly (Porter, 2009). Therefore, the art of rhetoric is as significant in today’s world as it used to be a thousand years ago.

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Although there are lots of dangers for rhetoric in the modern world, it will evolve through time and flourish. It is proven by history as rhetoric did not cease to exist during the Middle Ages but continued its development during the Renaissance. Current and future rhetoricians will use the knowledge of the notable philosophers of the Ancient and Middle Age times and will continue to promote this discipline. The emergence of new technology will assist in the promotion of rhetoric. First, rhetoric can be widely used in Internet communication — business letters, social media, and video chats. The knowledge of rhetoric helps people come to the agreement in today’s world, convince other people of one’s opinion, and acquit the viewpoint of others. Second, today’s politicians largely benefit from rhetoric as they use it for persuading the voters to support them during the elections. Politicians write their speeches utilizing the rhetorical traditions. Third, businessmen must use rhetoric to close contracts and negotiate with their colleges as the economic matters depend directly on the rhetorical skills.

The future rhetoric will be electronical as no matter whether you connect with people via the Internet or live, the communication must be proper. Along with the new technology, the mankind is taking the old disciplines, which have gone through time and remained necessary. The future will be loaded with virtual interaction, but people will try to go back to their roots and try to live in the real world. Moreover, important political and economic matters will not be decided through the Internet; only live communication can help in coming to significant. Various sides of the rhetorical question show that rhetoric was, is, and will be necessary for people.

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Rhetoric is the art of communicating and persuading people. This discipline emerged in the Ancient Greece in the 5th century during the movement of the Sophists who were intelligent people and passed their knowledge on to others. Along with Sophists, another rhetoric movement existed — Gorgias; they believed that words were the chief elements of persuasion, suggestions, and belief. The main representatives of the Ancient rhetoric were Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Aspasia of Miletus who wrote rhetoric tractates and contributed to the rhetorical study. In the time of the Middle Ages, rhetoric declined and moved from the theme of politics to religion. However, during the Renaissance period, of the rhetoric tradition was reborn. The role of rhetoric in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries was influenced by the emergence of innovative technology and the decline of the classical literary tendencies. The problem is that the future of rhetoric will remain unclear if scientist and politics do not deal with this issue more seriously. Rhetoric must evolve not just in the verbal but the electronic version as well to suit the modern people’s needs.

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