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Ancient Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 4th Edition by Edward P. J. Corbett, Robert J. Connors (Oxford University Press) This wonderful old workhorse of rhetoric remains a astounding blend of classical topology with a judicious touch of recent work. No one who has a interest in how to use the language effectively can afford to avoid this or some similar text. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student however has my vote. I struggled with its second edition as an undergrad and knowledge of it made the many essays I wrote more engaging and perhaps contributed to my general success in written communication.
The most widely used textbook of its kind for courses in advanced composition and writing, Classical Rhetoric for the Modem Student discusses the three vital components of classical rhetoric-argument, arrangement, and style-bringing these elements to life and demonstrating their effective application in yesterday's and today's writing. Presenting its subject in five parts, the text provides grounding in the elements and applications of classical rhetoric; the strategies and tactics of argumentation; the effective presentation and organization of discourses; the development of power, grace, and felicity in expression; and the history of rhetorical principles. Numerous examples of classic and contemporary rhetoric, from paragraphs to complete essays, appear throughout the book, many followed by detailed analyses.

The fourth edition of Classical Rhetoric for the Modem Student features a new section on the Progymnasmata (classical composition exercises), a new analysis of a color advertisement in the Introduction, an updated survey of the history of rhetoric, and an updated section on "External Aids to Invention."
Rhetoric has come to be seen as a discipline for frauds and charlatans. It has the connotation of artful trickery and deception. No matter what you may think of rhetoric, you engage in it each and every time you try to prevail upon someone to see things your way. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Any artform practiced by mortals can be (and is) misused by unscrupulous villains. Those who decry rhetoric for its susceptibility to misuse overlook this point: Rhetoric, properly understood and applied, is the best defense against misused rhetoric.
For a good grounding in the basics of rhetoric, the student need look no farther than this textbook. It is not easy reading, but diligent study will equip the reader well for the tasks of analyzing, defending, and making arguments. The book aims at the written word, but the principles apply as well to the spoken.
The book divides itself into six chapters:
1. Introduction
2. Discovery of Arguments (Deciding what to say).
3. Arrangement of Material (Marshalling your arguments for greatest effect).
4. Style (How best to speak/write your arguments).
5. The Progymnasmata (Exercises in rhetoric).
6. A Survey of Rhetoric (History of rhetoric from Ancient Greece to modern times). 

Encyclopedia of Rhetoric by Thomas O. Sloane (Oxford University Press) ambitious new encyclopedia covers rhetoric from all times and places in some 200 signed entries by 120 scholarly contributors from around the world. Bibliographies are appended to each article, and the index and a Synoptic Outline of Contents provide fine access points. Typical articles include "Public Speaking," "Queer Rhetoric," "Synecdoche," and "Science." This work abstracts rhetoric from people, places, and cultures in search of the "principles" of rhetoric, excluding, for example, entries for relevant historical figures. This emphasis on the abstract differentiates it from the Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition (Garland, 1996), which has more than twice as many entries in about the same number of pages and includes, for example, entries for people. Though these two excellent books often duplicate each other, both include information and insights not found in the other. Libraries serving patrons concerned with the art and history of rhetoric should have both. Given the high price of both books, other libraries will have to choose between the practicality of the older one and the more theoretical emphasis of the newer one.

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism by Michael Groden, Martin Kreiswirth (Johns Hopkins) provides 226 entries covering individuals, schools, and topics important to the field in its 775 pages. From Adorno to Zola, with stops including Chomsky, gay theory and criticism, and the Bloomsbury group, the editors have taken great pains to select subjects of broad influence and appeal. Organized alphabetically by topic and extensively cross-referenced, the Guide is at once an informative, easy-to-use text and a fascinating look into the lives of the men and women who shaped our views of literature over the years. The editors state that they shortened the entries on twentieth-century critics in an effort to entice the reader into making selective sorties into earlier entries, earlier in the historical sense. In addition to those figures who have affected literary theory and criticism, the work includes important groups, schools, and movements; major national or ethnic schools of criticism; and theoretical innovations of specific countries and historical periods. Almost ten years in the making, this international, encyclopedic guide brings the world of reference up-to-date with regard to the dominant intellectual preoccupation of the humanities and social sciences over the past generation. While concentrating on contemporary works, it provides a comprehensive historical survey of ideas and individuals ranging from Plato and Aristotle to 20th-century scholars, in some 200 alphabetical entries on critics and theorists, schools and movements, and innovations of specific countries and historical periods. It also examines developments in other disciplines that have shaped literary theory and criticism. Each entry, really a substantial, signed essay, provides an original overview of its subject and includes a selected primary and secondary bibliography.

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