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The Beginnings of Rhetorical Theory in Classical Greece

Edward Schiappa

View Inside Price: $57.00

July 11, 1999
240 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300075908

In this provocative book, Edward Schiappa argues that rhetorical theory did not originate with the Sophists in the fifth century B.C.E, as is commonly believed, but came into being a century later. Schiappa examines closely the terminology of the Sophists—such as Gorgias and Protagoras—and of their reporters and opponents—especially Plato and Aristotle—and contends that the terms and problems that make up what we think of as rhetorical theory had not yet formed in the era of the early Sophists. His revision of rhetoric’s early history enables him to change the way we read both the Sophists and Aristotle and Plato. Schiappa contends, for example, that Plato probably coined the Greek word for rhetoric; that Gorgias is a “prose rhapsode” whose style does not deserve the criticism it has received; that Isocrates deliberately never uses the Greek work for "rhetoric" and that our habit of pitting him versus Plato as “rhetoric versus philosophy” is problematic; and that Aristotle "disciplined" the genre of epideictic in a way that robs the genre of its political importance. His book will be of great interest to students of classics, communications, philosophy, and rhetoric.

Edward Schiappa is a professor in the Department of Speech Communication and director of Graduate Studies in Rhetorical Studies at the University of Minnesota.

“This is a stimulating book. It argues from many points of detail to advance important claims about the intellectual development of the classical Greek world. . . . Its exploration of the available secondary literature, at least in English and German, is impressive. Classicists . . . are likely to engage mainly with the points of detail, but I hope that this book will lead us to engage with the bigger questions also.”—David C. Mirhady, Phoenix

"Edward Schiappa’s well researched, clearly written, and splendidly suggestive book marshals a vast array of evidence against the standard story of rhetoric’s invention. This work will surely prove of great value to a wide range of scholars interested in rhetoric, philosophy, and the history of humanistic education."—Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine

“I have learned a great deal from this well researched, clearly written, and splendidly suggestive book. It will be praised, debated, and much used.”—Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine

“A very important book, not only as a model of good sense in the world of hermeneutics, or as a model of good writing but as an important corrective to past histories of philosophy and the discipline of rhetoric.”—John Michael Crafton, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

“This is a very important book, not only as a model of good sense in the world of hermeneutics, or as a model of good writing but as an important corrective to past histories of philosophy and the discipline of rhetoric.”—Nita Krevans, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Beginnings has made a major contribution not only to the history of rhetoric but to our methods of research. . . . Schiappa has given us not only a better understanding of rhetoric’s origins as a theoretical construct, he has provided us with an heuristic to analyze subordinate concepts of rhetoric in order to further understand the discipline itself. Both for its original contribution to rhetorical theory in classical Greece and for a model of how to conduct similar, more localized inquiry into critical concepts, we extend to Beginnings, and its author, our praise and appreciation.”—Rhetoric Review