Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Response to Reading Eleven

I found Thomas Wilson's "The Arte of Rhetorique" to be a very interesting read. Wilson's language is, quite obviously, very different from Americanized English. I have very little exposure to traditional English composition, except sporadically in classes or on my week-long trip to England several years ago.

According to The Rhetorical Tradition, "Wilson's rhetoric went through eight editions and was the most popular rhetoric in English in sixteenth-century England" (700). Acknowledging his success as a rhetorician, I believe Wilson's style to be a very accurate example of what traditional English composition sounded like. He was also the first Englishman to publish a book on rhetoric that described the creative process. In many ways, this is more of a handbook than anything else as it describes invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery; these are, as I am sure most people know, the five parts of classical rhetoric.

"The Arte of Rhetorique" describes "Five thynges to be considreed in an Oratour," which are the five parts of classical rhetoric. Though we know them as invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, Wilson calls them invencion of matter, disposicion of the same, elocucion, memorie, and utteraunce.

Wilson, in a distinctly sixteenth-century British diction, says of these elements: "Anyone that will largely handle any matter, muste fasten his mynde, first of all upon these five especial poynctes that folowe, and learne theim every one" (707).

In somewhat of a side note, I find it absolutely remarkable that such different spellings can be understandable to the modern reader. For example, "mynde, learne, theim, muste" are present-day "mind, learn, them, must." How fascinating! I am quite curious why word spelling has evolved so much in just a few centuries, considering that sentence structure and word meanings are nearly identical.

Now, back to the book. Wilson does a very interesting job describing what each of the five parts are. Interestingly, I found the definitions near identical to my present understanding.

1. Invention (Invencion)
According to Wilson, invention is searching for truth. He suggests that it is the attempt to prove a cause and seek the truth. Logic, says Wilson, is key to invention.

2. Arrangement (Disposicion)
Wilson believes that arrangement is the settlement or order of things; essentially, organization. He states, "But yet what helpeth it though we can finde good reasons, and knowe howe to place theim..." (708). Wilson declares a problem that every rhetor experiences: how to best organize an essay while also choosing the most meaningful evidence possible.

3. Style (Elocucion)
Style, Wilson says, is using the most apt and eloquent words possible to prove an argument. His definition is concise, yet entirely accurate. An argument is only as good as the words used to describe it.

4. Memory (Memorie)
Memory is a slightly forgotten component of contemporary rhetoric; as discussed in class, we have far less use for it today. In any case, Wilson argues that memory must be cherished. He believes that if rhetoric is not worthy of memorization, then it had no merit in the first place. It is hard to imagine that the qualifier for rhetoric centuries ago was the desirability of memorization.

5. Delivery (Utteraunce)
Wilson says, "Utteraunce therefore is a framyng of the voyce, countenaunce, and gesture, after a comely manner" (708). In essence, Wilson describes how delivery is vital in the final persuasion of an argument. Without all components working together -- which is essentially the basis for delivery -- then no argument can be justified. It takes all parts to complete the rhetorical package, so to speak.

No comments:

Post a Comment