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The History of Rhetoric. Kristen K. Tiscione June 2014. Rhetoric is the art of “discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion.” — Aristotle, Rhetoric (c. 333 BCE). Logic. Rhetoric. the invention and arrangement of ideas that lead to t ruth

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The history of rhetoric

The History of Rhetoric

Kristen K. Tiscione

June 2014

The history of rhetoric

Rhetoric is the art of “discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion.”

—Aristotle, Rhetoric (c. 333 BCE)

The history of rhetoric



the invention and arrangement of ideas that

lead to truth

(the philosopher)

the invention, arrangement, and expression of ideas that lead to probable truth

(the politician, lawyer)

The trivium

The Trivium


The art of inventing The art of The art of

and combining symbols thinking communication

to communicate





Logic – invention


Rhetoric – invention



Rhetoric disappears as a school subject

Rhetoric disappears as a school subject

  • Writing (English)

    • Literature –

      (how to read)

    • Composition

      (how to write)

  • Speaking (Speech)

    • Rhetorical criticism

      (how to evaluate speech)

    • Speech

      (how to speak)

Impact on legal education

Impact on legal education

Doctrinal – invention

Courses arrangement

true principles of law


scientific case method

Legal– expression







Invention in legal writing

Invention in Legal Writing

  • the holding of a case

  • synthesized legal rules

  • analogies

No true law

No “true” law

Q: What is negligence?

A: It depends . . . on the jurisdiction, the case law, the lawyer who interprets it, and the judge who applies it.

What does this all mean for us

What does this all mean for us?

  • Ramus was wrong: theory and practice are inseparable –

    • Ideas and knowledge cannot exist in society outside their expression

  • Aristotle was wrong: all knowledge is probable and a product of the rhetorical process

    • Rhetoric uses logic and grammar to produce knowledge

Law is the product of rhetoric

Law is the product of rhetoric



Regulators LAW







arrangement +


Teaching law as rhetoric

Teaching law as rhetoric

If law is a function of rhetoric, rhetorical theory helps us understand

the lawmaking process

how to persuade and participate in the process

how to teach the process, and

how to teach it better

Using rhetorical theory and method to study legal communication

Using Rhetorical Theory and Method to Study Legal Communication

KIRSTEN k. Davis

June 2014

Rhetoric kirsten s definition

Rhetoric: Kirsten’s Definition

  • The ability to

    • use or

    • understand how others use

    • symbols to

      • reason from shared assumptions,

      • increase identification between “speaker” and “audience,” and

      • inspire an audience to take action or change attitudes.

      • More definitions:

Rhetorical theory and method

Rhetorical Theory and Method

  • Rhetorical Theory: A body of thought about human symbol use.

  • Rhetorical Method: Using rhetorical theory to ask questions about “how communication constructs a specific understanding of the world.”

Applying rhetorical theory is humanistic inquiry

  • Seeks to explain:

    • Agency of speakers

    • Roles of symbols in the human world

    • Power of audience to co-construct reality

  • Humanistic, not scientific:

    • Not looking for objective truth—reality is not a distinct object to be “discovered”

    • Looking to understanding the meaning humans assign—reality is a product of humans interactively creating knowledge in context.

Applying rhetorical theory is humanistic inquiry.

Or Is It?

Rhetorical theory is a lens for looking at legal communication as a rhetorical situation

Symbol (of Law)

[Legal] Context and Constraints



A speaker uses symbols of the law to persuade an audience to take action. The action of the audience is constrained. All of this takes place in a context.

Inducing Action

Responding to Need


Rhetorical theory is a lens for looking at legal communication as a rhetorical situation.

Two main areas for using rhetorical theory and method to analyze legal communication

Two Main Areas for Using Rhetorical Theory and Method to Analyze Legal Communication

Production (Instructive)

Reception (Instructive, Critical)

Construct messages more consciously.

Write better.

Speak better.

Teach better.

Receive messages more consciously.

As a lawyer: read/listen better.

As a scholar/ “special citizen”: critically assess legal messages.

Why rhetorical theory for legal communication

Why Rhetorical Theory for Legal Communication?

  • Improve

    • teaching and develop expertise.

    • production and reception of legal communication.

    • understanding of how legal language works by standing “outside” the law to make better sense of law as language.

  • Examine

    • ethics of legal communication as well as effectiveness.

  • Create

    • The legal community we want by theorizing the practice of law.

Applying rhetorical theory the researcher s choices

Applying Rhetorical Theory: The Researcher’s Choices

What will be the focus of study? The speaker, audience, patterns, strategies?

What is the perspective (method) the scholar will take?

What is the judgment the scholar wishes to make (descriptive, interpretive, evaluative)?

What kind of insight will be gained from the study?

Rhetorical theory is applied through methodological perspectives

Rhetorical Theory Is Applied Through Methodological Perspectives




Fantasy Theme








Social Movement

Dramatism cluster analysis

Dramatism: Cluster Analysis



Action is motivated. Language is symbolic action. Symbol choices reveal motivation.

Looking for how symbols “hang together”

“What goes with what”

  • Key symbols

    • Frequency

    • Intensity

  • Associational Clusters

    • Proximity

    • Cause/effect

    • Connectedness

    • Opposing terms

Dramatism pentadic analysis

Dramatism: Pentadic Analysis

The idea

The Pentad

Symbolic structures have five interacting elements.

Meaning changes depending on the relationship between those elements.

Pentad allows systematic exam of the “strategic moments” in symbol use.

Pentadic ratios

Pentadic Ratios

Scene Determines Act

Act Defines Agent

At a little after the restaurant’s closing time, Ms. Jones found herself alone in an unlit alley. That was when Mr. Smith rushed toward Ms. Jones from an area obscured by empty liquor crates.

While walking home after a late dinner at a local restaurant, Mr. Smith saw Ms. Jones, a tenant in his apartment building, and he attempted to escort her home.

Metaphor analysis

Metaphor Analysis


Metaphor Parts

Tenor: Abortion

Vehicle: Terrorism

The way in which we know our reality through language.

An argument for a particular view of the world.

The “vehicle” frames the “tenor.”

Law is rhetoric

Law is Rhetoric

Julie A. Oseid

University of St. Thomas School of Law

Minneapolis, MN

My knowledge about rhetoric

My knowledge about rhetoric

Abraham lincoln brevity

Abraham Lincoln - brevity

Kristen Tiscione

Thomas jefferson metaphor

Thomas Jefferson - metaphor


Michael Smith and Linda Berger

James madison rigor

James Madison - rigor

Ulysses grant clarity

Ulysses Grant - clarity

Kirsten Davis

Teddy roosevelt zeal

Teddy Roosevelt - zeal



The Four

James Boyd White

Rhetoric and teaching

Rhetoric and Teaching

I (and maybe you, too?) was a rhetoric scholar and teacher

and didn’t really realize it . . .

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