Ehninger, Douglas "On Systems of Rhetoric"

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In his essay, On Systems of Rhetoric, Douglas Ehninger argues that the only way to study rhetoric productively and thoroughly is to conceive of it as various, reactive systems. Ehninger propels the contextual nature of rhetoric, maintaining that rhetorics of different ages focus attention on issues pertinent to that particular age. To show the systematic nature of rhetoric, Ehninger simplifies popular theories from three pivotal moments in rhetorical history – the classical or Greek rhetoric, the “new” rhetoric of eighteenth-century England, and the social rhetoric of today. Respectively, the three periods are characterized by an emphasis on the grammar and components of oratory, the emotional responses of the audience, and the understanding of language as a concept-making tool. By viewing rhetoric as systems and connecting these systems with generalized summations, the modern rhetor can better prescribe a course for the field and navigate interpersonal communication, both on a grand and minute scale. Ultimately, Ehninger calls for historical approach to the study of reactionary communication as exemplified through rhetoric.

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