English Department William J. and Yvonne M. Hyde Colloquium Series
"What Is Rhetoric and Why Do we Study It?" with Dr. Haixia Lan
What Is Rhetoric and Why Do We Study It?
Aristotle for Everyone
Rhetoric is often considered an activity where practitioners think backwards: Rhetors—and nowadays writers—know what they want to say; they need to say it appropriately for the audience. While this view of rhetoric has a long history in the West, it has never been the only tradition. For example, while Aristotle deems the function of rhetoric, as conceived by this rhetorical tradition, crucial to the survival of the human community, he does not see it as the only or the primary function of rhetoric. In this presentation, I will discuss Aristotle’s view of rhetoric through his understanding of change, more specifically, change as generation and as alteration. I would like to show that Aristotelian rhetoric strives not only to express the true but also to hit the mean, which is both objective and nonquantitative. This makes rhetoric an important tool for achieving the happiness of the individual and the wellbeing of the community—because it is an activity through which we cultivate and practice, among others, calmness, friendliness, fair-mindedness, truthfulness, tact, wit (if we can manage), as well as practical reasoning.