Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literacy and Western Lies

Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literacy and Western Lies

by C. Jan Swearingen
     
 
This pathbreaking study integrates the histories of rhetoric, literacy, and literary aesthetics up to the time of Augustine, focusing on Western concepts of rhetoric as dissembling and of language as deceptive that Swearingen argues have received curiously prominent emphasis in Western aesthetics and language theory. Swearingen reverses the traditional focus on

Overview

This pathbreaking study integrates the histories of rhetoric, literacy, and literary aesthetics up to the time of Augustine, focusing on Western concepts of rhetoric as dissembling and of language as deceptive that Swearingen argues have received curiously prominent emphasis in Western aesthetics and language theory. Swearingen reverses the traditional focus on rhetoric as an oral agonistic genre and examines it instead as a paradigm for literate discourse. She proposes that rhetoric and literacy have in the West disseminated the interrelated notions that through learning rhetoric individuals can learn to manipulate language and others; that language is an unreliable, manipulable, and contingent vehicle of thought, meaning, and communication; and that literature is a body of pretty lies and beguiling fictions. In a bold concluding chapter Swearingen aligns her thesis concerning early Western literacy and rhetoric with contemporary critical and rhetorical theory; with feminist studies in language, psychology, and culture; and with studies of literacy in multi- and cross-cultural settings.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Her achievement is an example of serious, detailed scholarship that both challenges established terms and concepts and also uses historical analysis to look at a number of contemporary issues....A significant contribution to studies in rhetoric and literacy. Swearingen has foregrounded the dialogic complexity and liberating potential of both classical and contemporary rhetoric and literacy."—College Composition and Communication

"Swearingen combines solid erudition with provocative viewpoints, and raises questions of crucial interest to us all....An enjoyable book."—Philosophy & Literature

"Scholars interested in both classical and contemporary rhetorical theory will find many of Swearingen's discussions provocative....Rewards the reader with much useful information about the philosophical dimension of classical rhetoric and the high stakes of current deliberation about ambiguity of meaning in discourse."—Journal of Advanced Composition

"Making conjoint use of orality-literacy studies and of deconstruction, Swearingen here opens deep new insights into the meaning and use of rhetoric and all that goes with it in the West from the Preplatonic age to the present. Her close reading and sensitive interpretations will interest rhetoricians, philosophers, literary critics, logicians, and many others as she shows the vulnerability of many accepted views and draws patiently to her conclusion that truth is held communally or not at all."—Walter Ong, Saint Louis University

"Swearingen has written a lively, well-informed study of the shift from oral to literate rhetoric in the later ancient world, which helped to create the ambivalent status of the Western concept of 'literature.' Her book can be read for the light it sheds on ancient and modern problems of literacy."—Brian Stock, Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195362503
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
09/05/1991
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
555 KB

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