Bryant, Donald C. "Rhetoric: Its Functions and Its Scope"

From RhetorClick

Jump to: navigation, search

Donald C. Bryant’s purpose is to discuss the “functions and scope which any system will embrace” (268). Scholars hold many conflicting definitions of rhetoric, making it difficult to actually analyze; even Bryant himself seems to espouse multiple views at once. The widespread modern definition of rhetoric is the use of empty language - “language used to deceive, without honest intention behind it” (269) - but rhetoric can also mean any communication. Bryant writes, "I am almost forced to the position that whatever we do or say or write, or even think, in explanation of anything, or in support, or in extenuation, or in despite of anything, evinces rhetorical symptoms" (267). However, he does note that certain symbols such as pictures without context and traffic lights are not rhetorical. He understands rhetoric to be the “rationale of informative and suasory discourse” (271).

Bryant argues that the study of rhetoric is essential for both rhetoricians and their audiences in order to prevent tyranny. He writes, "If enlightened and responsible leaders with rhetorical knowledge and skill are not trained and nurtured, irresponsible demagogues will monopolize the power of rhetoric, will have things to themselves" (291). If we do not train leaders to be rhetorically responsible, they will exploit it, and if we do not have at least a basic knowledge of rhetoric, we can easily be taken advantage of.

Bryant also talks about rhetoric being unavoidable, and that it helps validate the “relations in the idea-audience-speaker situation” (282). The function of rhetoric is to adjust ideas to people and people to the ideas; this has to be done without modifying/distorting the ideas, and the audiences must be prepared “through the mitigation of their prejudices, ignorance, and irrelevant sets of mind without being dispossessed of their judgments” (282). Rhetoric, therefore, works alongside psychological and logical studies and uses imagination and emotion to support reason. Rhetoric is “the organizer of all such for the wielding of public opinion” (285). Rhetoric is used in inquiry and in education (we should teach people rhetoric). Regarding poetry, Sir Philip Sidney claimed poetry can’t lie because it only presents. Rhetoric, however, presents and affirms, so it is characteristic (297).

Bryant's Definitions of Rhetoric

For various definitions and wordings Bryant proposes, see the following pages:

Related Articles

Personal tools
Site Navigation
Wiki Help