John Franklin Genung.

The practical elements of rhetoric, with illustrative examples online

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Elements of Rhetoric


JOHN F. GENUNG, Ph.D. (Leipsic)

Professor op Rhbtoric in Amherst College.





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■■■ 1; J (- ■-'

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1886, by

in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.


Prbsswork by Ginm & Co., Boston, U.S.A.


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my friend and colleague,

in pleasant recollection

of the points we have discussed and the plans

we have made together,

in the sphere of study to which this book

aspires to contribute.


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Definition of Rhetoric i

Rhetoric as Adaptation I

Rhetoric as an Art 3

Province and Distribution of Rhetoric 6


Cliapter I. — Style in Gteneral.

Definition of Style 13

Adaptations of Style 17

Qualities of Style 19

Principle of Economy 25

Chapter II. — Diction.

Definition of Diction .28

Section I. — Choice of Words 29

I. Accurate Use 29

II. Present Use 35

m. Intelligible Use 39

IV. Scholarly Use 42

SKCnoN II. — The Characteristics of Poetic Diction ... 48

I. Poetic Brevity of Expression 50

II. Poetic Archaisms and Non-Colloquialisms ... 52

III. Poetic Picturesqueness 55

IV. Poetic Regard for Sound 60


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Section III. The Characteristics and Types of Prose Diction . 63

I. Characteristics of Prose Diction 64

n. Types of Prose Diction . . . . ' . 68

Section IV. — Diction as Determined by Object and Occasion . 76

I. The Diction of Spoken Discourse 76

II. The Diction of Written Discourse 80

III. Antique, Foreign, Colloquial, and Dialect Diction . . 82
rv. Maintenance of the Tone of Dbcourse .... 83

Ch.apter III. — Figures of Speech..

Definition 85

General Suggestions 85

Qassification and Description of the Most Important Figures of

Speech 87

I. Figures that promote Qearness and Concreteness . . 87

II. Figures that promote Emj^asis 96

Cliapter IV.— Composition.

Section I. — Fundamental Processes 109

I. Syntax no

II. Collocation 117

ni. Retrospective Reference 122

IV. Prospective Reference 133

V. Correlation 135

VI. Conjunctional Relation 138

vn. Negation 144

vin. Suspension 146

IX. Augmentation 150

X. Condensation i54

XI. Repetition 160

XII. Inversion 165

XIII. Euphony 167

XIV. Rhythm 169

Section II.— The Sentence 172

Definition 172

I. Structure of the Sentence 172


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II. Necessary Qualities of the Sentence . . . • ^75

III. Kinds of Sentences 185

Section III. -^ The Paragraph 193

Definition 193

I. Qualities and Structure of the Paragraph . . . .194

II. Kinds of Paragraphs 210


Scope of Invention 217

Chapter I. — Th.e Basis in Mental Aptitudes and Hab-

I. Invention as a Natural Gift 220

II. The Mental Habits that promote Invention . . 226

Habits of Observation 227

Habits of Thought 232

Habits of Reading 235

Chapter II. — Gteneral Processes in the Ordering oi

Section I. — Determination of the Theme 248

Definition of Theme 248

Theme and Subject 249

Statement of the Theme 253

The Title 258

Section II. — Construction of the Plan 260

I. General Mechanism of the Plan 261

II. The Three Fundamental Elements of the Plan . . 266

The Introduction 267

The Development 272

The Conclusion 279

III. Means of Preserving Continuity 282

Section III. — Amplification 285

I. Uses of Amplification . 286

II. Means of Amplification . 290

III. Accessories oS Amplification 297


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Cliapter III. — Reproduction of the Tliouglit of Others.

I. Interpretation 302

II. Abstract '. . . 307

III. Paraphrase 310

IV. Translation 315

Cliapter IV. — Invention dealing "with Observed Ob-
jects: Description.

I. Description in its Principles 326

Definition of Description 326

Mechanism of Description 328

Subdual of Descriptive Details 334

Accessories of Description 338

Exactions of the Object 347

II. Description in Literature 350

In Prose Literature 351

In Poetry, 352

Cliapter v.— Invention dealing Tvith Events: Narra-

I. Simple Narration 355

Definition of Narration 355

Method of Narration 356

Movement in Narration 363

What Narration owes to Description .... 368

II. Combination of Narratives 371

Synchronism of Events 371

Interwoven Plots 373

III. Narration in Literature 375

History 375

Biography . . . 378

Fiction 379

Drama 381

Chapter VI. — Invention dealing -with Generaliza-
tions: Exposition.

I. Exposition in its Elements 384


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The Object Expounded
Exposition Intensive, or Definition
Exposition Extensive, or Division
II. Exposition in literature .

Science and Systematized Thought


Popular Exposition
Cliapter VII. — Invention dealing -with Trutlis : Argu-

I. Proof of Truth Directiy

Discovery of Facts : Testimony and Authority
Inference from Partic^lars : Induction
Inference from Generals : Deduction .
II. Proof of Truth by Disprodf of Error

By Reducing the Issue to an Alternative •

By Refutation

UI. The Body of Arguments

What Argumentation owes to Exposition .
Suggestions on Order of Arguments .

IV. Debate .

Chapter VIII.— Invention dealing "with Practical Is-
sues: Persuasion.

I. The Principles of Persuasion 448

The Speaker's Alliance with his 'Audience . . . 449
The Speaker's Achievement of his Object . . . 456

II. Oratory 468

Characteristics of Oratory in Geoerai . . . . 469

Kinds of Oratory 472

Index of Subjects 477

Index of the Principal Quotations 485




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A BOOK on so old a subject as rhetoric can scarcely hope to give the
worid much that is new. But old things, in proportion to their living
value, need from time to time to be newly defined and distributed,
their perspective and emphasis need to be freshly determined, to suit
changing conditions of thought ; thb we find abundantly recognized in
the sul^ect before us, in the rapidly increasing number of text-books
that are appearing. To which number the present volume presumes to
add one ; and in setting forth its aim and standard would select for
remark a single word of its title, — the word practicaL

By practical elements are here meant, broadly, those elements which
may be applied, as the result of the teacher^s guidance, to the actual
construction of literature. In this sense of the term, some elements of
rhetoric, though very real and valuable, are not practical, because the
ability to employ them cannot be imparted by teaching. They have
to exist in the writer himself in the peculiar, individual bent of his na-
ture. No teacher or treatise, for instance, could ever endow the student
with Milton^s sublimity, or with Sterne^s elusive wit, or with Bacon^s
weighty sententiousness ; and any attempt on the students part to
work up these qualities by rule would be only a contortion. Other
elements are not practical, because all that can be done with them is
merely to discriminate and define them. The student can burden him-
self, for instance, with the names of some two hundred and fifty figures
of speech ; but when he gets beyond the name and inquires after the
usage, he may safely omit two hundred and thirty-five of them as super-
fluous, — they are merely those spontaneous and unlabored modes


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of expression of which De Quincey says, " the rack would not have
forced any man to do otherwise.^' Still other elements there are which
are not practical to teach, because they have to be discovered. The
finer principles of literary taste, for instance, the subtler music of rhythm
and fancy and allusion, are obtained only through a special sense devel-
oped by long and minute discipline ; they may come some time, but not
ordinarily through the class-room. Such are the elements excluded
from the present treatment. To say they are unpractical, however, is
not to say they are useless ; it is merely to confess that they are incom-
municable. They belong, in a word, to a delicate and difficult science
— the science of criticism, rather than to what is here sought, the art
of constructing.

Literature is of course infinitely more than mechanism ; but in pro-
portion as it becomes more, a text-book of rhetoric has less business
with it It is as mechanism that it must be taught ; the rest must be
left to the student himself. To this sphere, then, the present work is
restricted : the literary art, so for as it is amenable to the precepts of
a text-book and to the demands of a college course.

The best way to discern whether a rhetorical principle is true and
practical is to study its effect in the concrete. When the student sees
how it looks in actual application, he cannot gainsay it ; it is no more
theory but £act. And all the more suggestive is the instance if it is not
manufactured for the occasion but taken fi'om those universally current
works whose writers had neither the fear nor the worship of rhetoric
before their eyes. For this reason, it has been deemed essential in
this book to illustrate every important point by copious examples from
standard literature; and though these have increased the number of
pages beyond what was originally contemplated, it is believed that their
value will more than atone for the space they occupy.

Amherst, Mass., June 25, 1887.


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** I hope that your professors of rhetoric will teach you to cultivate
that golden art — the steadfast use of a language in which truth can be
told ; a speech that is strong by natural force, and not merely effective
by declamation ; an utterance without trick, without affectation, without
mannerisms, and without any of that excessive ambition which over-
leaps itself as much in prose writing as It does in other things.^^ —
John Morley.


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Definition of Khetoric. — Rhetoric is the art of adapting d^is-
course, in harmony with its subject and occasion, to the require-
ments of a reader or hearer.

The word discourse, as it will be used throughout this treatise,
is a general term denoting any coherent literary production, whether
spoken or written.


Bhfitorie as Adaptation. — literary discourse, properly consid-
eredy does not exist for itself alone ; it is not soliloquy, but a de-
terminate address to readers or hearers, seeking to impart to them
some information or thought, with accompaniment, as occasion
requires, of emotion or impulse. Hence, whatever is thus im-
parted must strive after such order and expression as is best fitted
to have its proper power on men ; consulting their capacities and
susceptibilities, it must determine its work by the requirements
thus necessitated. The various problems involved in such adapta-
tion constitute the field of the art of rhetoric.

This idea of adaptation is the best modem representative of
the original aim of the art Having at first to deal only with
hearers, rhetoric began as the art of oratory, that is, of convincing
and persuading by speech ; now, however, when the art of print-
ing has greatiy broadened its field of action, it must fit itself to
readers as well, must therefore include more literary forms and
more comprehensive objects; while still the initial character of
the art survives, in the general aim of so presenting thought that
it shall have power on men, which aim is most satis£Eu:torily ex-
pressed in the term adaptation


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Distingaished by this Charaoteristic from the Sciences on
which it is founded. — Rhetoric is mainly founded on two sci-
ences, logic and grammar. " Now it is by the sense," says Dr.
Campbell, "that rhetoric holds of logic, and by the expression
that she holds of grammar."

Grammar investigates the uses of words, and the structure of
phrases and sentences, with a view to ascertaining what are the
facts of the language; and when these are presented so as to
show what is correct in expression, its end is accomplished.
Rhetoric, also, employs the facts of the language to secure gram-
matical correctness; but this only because discourse cannot be
effectual without it. Nor does rhetoric stop with mere correctness
of expression. Having an end to accomplish beyond simple utter-
ance, it must seek also clearness, or beauty, or force of style, ac-
cording as these qualities may best serve to give thought its fitting
power. Further, while the sphere of grammar extends only as far
as the sentence, rhetoric discusses also the stnicture of paragraphs
and larger sections, and so on through the various details of an
entire discourse.

Logic investigates the laws of thought, with a view to determin-
ing its exact and consistent sequences ; and, like grammar, it is
content with discovering and presenting the facts of its province.
Rhetoric, also, must observe the laws of thought, because the ends
of discourse fail if these are transgressed ; but this it does only as
its hidden beginning. What it has found by logical processes to
be true and consistent, it seeks further to make lucid, or attractive,
or cogent, or persuasive, in order to gain men's attention and in-
fluence them.

Thus thought on the one side and expression on the other,
taking the distinctive quaUties that adaptation imposes on them,
combine to ma^e up. what Dr. Campbell calls the soul and the
body of discou^.

In what Ways Disoonrse may be adapted. — As dictated by its
thought and occasion, three general adaptations of discourse are
to be noted, corresponding to the three divisions of man's spiritual


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powers, and giving rise, as either of these is predominantly con-
sulted, to three broad types of literature.

First and most fundamentally, discourse of whatever kind must
adapt itself to the reader's understanding ; that is, it addresses and
compels his power of thought, whether by imparting information
or by convincing of truth. Common ideas require, for the most
part, merely such simple presentation as this ; and the predomi-
nance of this appeal to the intellect gives rise to the great'body of
every-day literature — history, biography, fiction, essays, treatises,
criticism — included under the general name of Didactic Prose.

Secondly, some .kinds of ideas come to the writer intensified by
emotion or glowing with imagination ; and hence, in their presen-
tation, while they must 3till consult primarily the reader's under-
standing, they address themselves most directly to his sensibilities,
to make him feel the thought as well as think it. Of such adapta-
tion to the emotional nature, the purest outcome is Poetry.

A third class of ideas comprises such as, from their importance,
or firom the occasion of their presentation, require a definite deci-
sion in the hearer's conduct, and hence, employing persuasion as
a means, culminate as an appeal to the will. This kind of dis-
course, as it has the highest object, must seek to enlist all the
spiritual powers, imparting alike thought, emotion, and impulse ;
and results in the most complex Hterary type. Oratory.

Such are the three comprehensive types of discourse, evolved
fi-om the effort to adapt thought, in various ways, to human powers.
Of their occasion and principle it is essential to take account,
though it is not to be supposed that they must necessarily remain
unmixed. A great part of the life and interest of any literary work
may arise firom the fact that, while one type predominates, such
elements of others may be introduced as shall make the thought
influence and satisfy the whole man.


Blietorio as an Art. — Rhetoric, here called an art, is some-
times defined as a science. Both designations are true; they


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merely regard the subject in two different aspects. Science is sys-
tematized knowledge ; if then the laws and principles of discourse
are exhibited in an ordered system, they appear in the character
of a science. Art is knowledge made efficient by skill ; if then
rhetorical laws and principles are applied inthe actual construction
of discourse, they become the working rules of an art.

According to its predominant character as an art or as a science,
rhetoric may be regarded as of two kinds : constructive rhetoric,
which is concerned with the production of discourse ; and critical
rhetoric, which traces the laws of discourse through the study of
works of literature. The present manual, having principally in view
the practical ends of constructive rhetoric, starts from the definition
which views rhetoric as an art.

Art and Aptitude. — Art in expression is exactly analogous to
art in painting, or music, or handicraft. No one becomes really
eminent in these pursuits without first possessing some natural
aptitude for them ; and just so, true genius for expression must to
some extent be bom in a man. Some persons cannot hope, even
by training, to attain eminence as writers. There is in the highest
literary work a grace and freedom that cannot be imparted by
rules. But though all cannot become great writers, all can at least
learn to express their thought directly and without ambiguity ; nor
is there any excuse on the score of nature for crudeness and inac-
curacy in speech.

Further, just as in these Qther arts one does not think of stopping
with mere inborn aptitude, but develops and disciplines all his
powers by precept and training ; so in the art of expression one
needs by faithful study and practice to get beyond the point where
he only happens to write well, and attain that conscious power
over language and thought which gives him precision and grace in
adapting means to ends, and fine discrimination in choosing among
his resources. This is rhetorical art, and this assured power its

Sources of Failure. — "All fatal faults," says Ruskin, "in art
that might have been otherwise good, arise from one or other of


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these three things : either from the pretence to feel what we do
not j the indolence in exercises necessary to obtain the power of
expressing the truth ; or the presumptuous insistence upon, and
indulgence in, our own powers and delights, and with no care or
wish that they should be useful to other people, so only they be
admired by them."

This, written primarily with reference to painting, applies with
equal fitness to the literary art ; and. the order in which the faults
are named corresponds to the frequency of their occurrence.

First and commonest, insincerity. By this is not meant that
writers intentionally make pretence of feeling what they do not.
None the less truly, however, they may fall into insincerity and
unreality, by unconsidered use of conventionalisms, stock expres-
sions, outworn figures, and the like. Young writers especially are
liable to employ such ready-made and stereotyped resources, with-
out stopping to think how much or how little they mean; and
thus they commit themselves to what does not represent their
genuine thought. — Secondly, "indolence in exercises necessary
to obtain the power of expressing the truth." This fault is the
special temptation of those to whom composition comes easy;
they think their cleverness will obviate the necessity of discipline.
Thus the very innate aptitude which is so full of promise may be-
come a snare to them, through being imdervalued. It is to be
remembered that this art, like every other, has its technicalities,
which require and repay all the diligence and minuteness of care
that can be expended upon them. — Lastly, rhetorical vanity.
This comes from being so taken with literary devices and artifices
as to rate form before thought ; and it manifests itself in manner-
isms, affectations, tricks of style, and the like. It must always be
borne in mind that rhetoric does not exist for itself, but only as
the handmaid of the truth which it seeks to make living in the
minds and hearts of men.

Initial Difficulties of the Art of Khetorio. — These are just such
as occur in the beginning of every art : the difficulty, to wit, of
making skilled achievement take the place of crude, undisciplined


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effort. To submit one's work in composition to rules is to regulate
the free creative impulse by critical processes ; and this, until the
writer gets used to it, is apt to check and chill the flow of thought.
Beginning thus, Uterary work is too self-conscious, and the art of
the discourse too apparent. But such a self-conscious stage in the
writer's experience cannot well be avoided ; it is merely a sign that
the art is not fully mastered. Sooner or later rhetorical rules must
be learned, either from precept or from experience ; for they are
not arbitrarily invented, as something that a writer may treat as he
will, but discovered and deduced from confessedly good usage, as

Online LibraryJohn Franklin GenungThe practical elements of rhetoric, with illustrative examples → online text (page 1 of 46)