Halloran, Michael S. "On the End of Rhetoric: Classical and Modern"

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In his essay “On the End of Rhetoric, Classical and Modern,” Michael Halloran lays out a well-organized argument that proceeds logically from part to part, ultimately resulting in the validation of his dissertation, of which this essay was originally a part of. First Halloran defines classical rhetoric as resting on wisdom and the availability of cultural knowledge, going so far as to say that the Renaissance was a rhetorical period based on the model of the “Renaissance man” who is perceived to know everything. Halloran then uses this definition to say that because of our lack of shared worlds and common knowledge, classical rhetoric cannot exist in the world today. He goes onto say that rhetoric can only be possible when speaker and audience “enter into the rhetorical transaction as a serious existential commitment” (338). All of this sets up Halloran’s argument that literature (as distinguished from propaganda by ethos) can be rhetorical for a number of reasons: literature is our means through which we become knowledgeable of the world, it gives shape to one’s self and world, and creates a shared world through which speaker and audience can existentially interact through shared lexicon and grammar. Literature is also concerned with audience, as all rhetoric is, and we can tell this through the use of conventionalized, repeatable patterns, without which literature would be chaotic and privatized.

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