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Department of Hispanic Studies


Elements of classical rhetoric

Rhetoric essentially means the art of speaking persuasively: using the phonetic, semantic and syntactical resources of language in a formalized way in order to convince or have an effect on an audience. The principles of rhetoric originally set out by Aristotle and other classical writers have for centuries been used as guides for writing and as tools for analysing the style of literary texts. Since traditional ways of classifying rhetorical tropes, schemes and figures tend to vary, the following list is loosely organized according to the effect each device is supposed to produce. Some terms refer to small-scale effects of sound, sense or tone; others to the broader structuring of the discourse. Conscious deployment of rhetorical conventions may be most obvious in texts written before the 20th century, but these terms are equally useful for the analysis of modern texts and have been incorporated into various strands of contemporary critical theory.






Addressing the audience

English in red, Spanish in purple.
For an accessible introduction in the Durham University Library, try Peter Dixon, Rhetoric (London: Methuen, 1971).
For more definitions and examples (in English and Latin) online, go to the Kentucky Classics page.









M.P. Thompson
Updated September 2008

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