Electric Rhetoric – An Isocratic Literacy Theory

October 27th, 2010

I contend that we do not now know Isocrates’ rhetorical theories well enough, because we have not understood classical Greek rhetoric and writing practices for our electrified time. (33)

Welch, Kathleen E. Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a New Literacy. The MIT Press, 1999.

In this Chapter 2 of Electric Rhetoric, Welch argues that the classical rhetoric set forth by interpretations of Aristotle and Plato is “categorical and highly ordered” (p. 33) and does not account for our “electrified time.” While it may be categorical and ordered, that helps for classification. She also contends that Isocrates’ rhetoric is by nature misogynistic and exclusionist. While this may be true, that was an unfortunate condition of the period. Applied today, Aristotelian and Platonic rhetorical theory need not be exclusionist or misogynist. This is a point Welch understands well, as she goes to great lengths to vindicate Isocrates’ rhetoric and find application for it in the “next rhetoric” (Chapter 4) that she proposes.

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