This time around for classical rhetoric I did a more straightforward pre-read, post-read process. I think I would’ve been more organized to do it in a similar fashion for last week – but never mind that now. I end after Gorgias and Isocrates because including Plato as well was running a bit long. Also I really dislike reading, engaging in the dialogued format.
Pre-reading Gorgias – Wikipedia, our increasingly less controversial friend – states that the Economium of Helen is a rhetorical demonstration to attract students. Professor Villanueva referenced this phenomenon (a bit starry-eyed at the glory days of rhetoric) as well in contemporary rhetoric.
Post-read, I thought that maybe I would spot the advertising rhetoric – but beyond the defense of Helen (and did I actually read this already in Contemporary Rhetoric? I don’t know) as a popular topic of the time, I didn’t really recognize. But I think his arguments as summed up in the end are thorough, if not convincing, “How then is it necessary to regard as just the blame of Helen, who either passionately in love or persuaded by discourse or abducted by force or constrained by divine constraints did the things she did, escaping responsibility every way?” (20). I also found prior statements to be a bit counter to the defense of rhetoric in the first place, “Those who have persuaded and do persuade anyone about anything are shapers of lying discourse” (11) and “for to tell knowing people things they know supplies corroboration but does not convey enjoyment” (5). I particularly like the later and agree with it though I’ve nothing new to add about it for my knowing people reading.
Gorgias’ rhetoric that I found most impressive was early on and contained many ideologies still in effect today, “For it is not natural for the superior to be hindered by the inferior, but for the inferior to be ruled and led by the superior–for the superior to lead and the inferior to follow” (6).
A powerful show a rhetoric keeping the class systems in place – because those in power, by this statement, are indeed superior. For someone hearing this it creates a powerful internalized less than effect – this same rhetoric happens today under the guise of “If you work hard enough in America, you can make it” e.g. if you are poor it’s your fault and you’re lazy. If you work hard and still suffer you are just somehow unintelligent – a very real and literal interpretation made by my own working-class father.
Isocrates touches on the same issue, “But why wonder at those who are by nature envious of all superior excellence, when certain even of those who regard themselves as superior and who seek to emulate me and imitate my work are more hostile to me than is the general public?” (16). This is a far cry from the have and have nots – that some people are better than others is a given – it’s a matter of convincing that you, that Isocrates, was one of the betters. …another reference to class/caste hierarchy in 28, condemning his contenders to being less cultivated than their servants (because of course they have servants, and of course servants are not educated).
But I jump ahead of my pre-reading for Isocrates, which involved Wikipedia once again and rereading, revisting the timelines I found from last week. Isocrates is very influential rhetorician and teacher, Gorgias as one of his mentors (wiki) and generally is listed as one of the big deals, top 3 to 8 or so listed, on the timelines (honestly, I think before I thought people were just saying Socrates, the really famous and later one, incorrectly or weird – like with a hesitation, “Uh, I, you know, I-socrates). I noticed by years he overlaps sophists and classical rhetoric (http://prezi.com/rii-fdiwla18/composition-rhetorical-theory-a-timeline/) but he pretty clearly states where he stands on that, “For notwithstanding that I strive to live in a manner above reproach and without offence to others, I am continually being misrepresented by obscure and worthless sophists and being judged by the general public, not by what I really am, but by what they hear from others” (5). Not a sophist.
Isocrates rhetoric feels and sounds like present day political mudslinging campaigns and then from 10, I wonder if I am reading a common man appeal? Saying he’s not born to the same abilities in Athens, and later in 11 a “hard work pays off” rhetoric. We see this idea more as Isocrates defines what he considers to be a good educated man 29-32. Arts, sciences and a specialized skills, demonstrated in writing, if I understand him correclty, versus oratory. But specifically those with judgment and day to day “applicable” knowledge – the ability to act on their feet – also morality (there it is again, moral=good rhetoric as read from Quintilian last week) and the ability to put up with assholes but also don’t get overexcited (31). Someone who isn’t arrogant, which is funny after the big long, “I am awesome speech” we read – but again the theme of hard work over inheritance or, “men with character” (32). Also I finally looked up oligarchy, a word I hear used a fair amount but never bothered with until now.
I am already over word count so I’ll be mysterious and save the rest for class.