08
Nov
08

Walker’s Rhetoric and Poetics in Antiquity

Jeffrey Walker
Rhetoric and Poetics in Antiquity
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
From Kirby’s Review

•    An era obsessed with text and textuality, a book on rhetoric and poetics has emerged urgently central
•    Hesiod and Aristotle conceived of poetics in rhetorical terms
•    Walker’s interpretation of mimesis too narrow:
o    Doesn’t account for the verbal mimesis of poetry
o    The rhetor is performing a version of himself from a script provided by the logographer.  Rhetoric has mimetic aspects, just as Aristotelian mimesis is rhetorical
•    Walker misinterprets houtos ekenios:
o    Doesn’t refer to the noetic experience of poetry
o    Does mean the cognitive connection between visual images and the things they represent
•    While Walker tries to downplay the role of Aristotle, he relies heavily on the Aristotelian system
•    Throwback to Schiappa’s question of whether and how the naming of a thing alters our understanding of it
580: “what came to be called rhetoric was neither originally nor essentially an art of practical civic oratory-rather . . . it originated from an expansion of the poetic/epideictic domain, from ‘song’ to ‘speech’ to ‘discourse’ generally … although there certainly were changes in sociopolitical conditions and rhetorical practices, there was no ‘decline of rhetoric’ in any meaningful sense in either the Hellenistic or the Roman period” (ix). In parts 3 and 4 he develops “a notion of rhetorical poetics that can be found embodied in archaic poetry” and discusses “the gradual occlusion of this notion in the grammatical tradition and the ‘grammaticalized’ rhetoric and poetics transmitted from the Middle Ages to early modernity” (x).  This history is recounted from a “‘sophistic’ or neosophistic rather than a neo- Aristotelian perspective” (xi); as Walker says, Plato and Aristotle “play less central roles in my discussion than some readers might expect”
581: But for Walker, the Poetics embodies a “double vision” by which Aristotle, on the one hand, presupposes a “fundamentally rhetorical conception of poetic discourse” (281) while,  n the other, simultaneously occluding its “rhetorical, argumentative, suasory character.”
From Hill’s review:
•    A sophist’s history of rhetoric
From Enos’ review:
•    Rhetoric and poetry share a common origin and are tied together as epideictic discourse
•    Insofar as epideictic is the primary form of rhetoric, and poetry is the original and ultimate form of epideictic, poetry is also the original and ultimate form of rhetoric
•    This book would benefit by stressing how all oral poetry is rhythmical and how euphony is an important feature for memory and arrangement would help readers to understand what Ong calls the “psychodynamics” of orality
•    If rhetoric was in ‘decline’ (as many historians of rhetoric describe) whey does it actually prosper?

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