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Rhetoric in European Culture and Beyond

Publication at Faculty of Social Sciences |


The book Rhetoric in European Culture and Beyond traces the position of rhetoric as a theory and practice of public communication from ancient times to the present. It examines the changes of the reputation of rhetoric during its long history and explains the causes of its contemporary entrance to the context of philosophy and humanities.

It examines the decline of its importance in a period of rationalism and enlightenment, presents the causes of why rhetoric (reduced to a system of rhetorical tricks) came to have negative connotations, and explains why rhetoric in the 20th century was able to regain its position. It demonstrates that the prestige of rhetoric sharply falls when it is reduced to a refined method for deceiving the public, and increases when it is seen as a scientific discipline that is used throughout all of the fields of the humanities - philosophy, logic, semiotics, literary science, linguistics, the science of media and others.

In this sense, rhetoric strives for universal recognition and the cultivation of rhetorical expression, spoken and written, including not only its production but also reception and interpretation. In such a renaissance of interest, rhetoric appears not merely as a guide to language skills, but as a complex theoretical field examining human behaviour in social communication.

Chapters 1-9 describe the development of rhetoric from its Greek, Hellenic and Roman beginnings to rhetoric in the context of medieval Christian culture, later during the periods of humanism, Enlightenment, baroque. The final chapter is concerned with rhetoric in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

It takes into account geography, including the history of rhetoric in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, England, Scotland, Poland, Russia, the Czech Lands, Moravia, Slovakia and from the 19th century in the United States. The final chapter presents an answer to the question of whether corresponding systems of rhetorical knowledge have been formed beyond the borders of Mediterranean antiquity.

The selected examples of theoretical works on "the art of speech" from India, the Middle East, China, Korea and Japan show that each language community forms its own concept, theory and practice of persuasive and suggestive speaking behaviours. Often such findings, instead of being used as manuals for the stylization and presentation of speeches, rather concentrate on analyzing written documents, in which we can find not only specific categorical devices of the given culture (as is the case with comments on the Vedic texts of ancient India) but also tropes and figures characteristic of Greek and Roman rhetoric, e.g., the Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament.