Introduction: Rhetoric Defined

  • Robert Cockcroft
  • Susan M. Cockcroft


This book has been written in accordance with a very definite order of priorities. Its main purpose in studying persuasive techniques is to encourage you to develop them for yourself. Its secondary purpose is to analyse persuasive practice both written and spoken, because you need to analyse the persuasive language of others, before you can adequately synthesise your own. This will involve the development of a variety of critical skills. And in order to form judgements about the effectiveness of any kind of persuasion, we shall need to place it within its functional, structural and socio-historical context. In practice, this means looking at extracts ranging from Shakespeare to the newspaper cookery column, from John Keats’s poetry to John F. Kennedy’s speeches. Progressing through a range of examples from successive periods, we shall examine how persuasion is used for many different purposes — at one extreme to create the ultimate tragic emotion, at the other to sell us a car. In so doing, readers will have the opportunity to learn to recognise the flexibility of persuasive techniques, and to develop this skill for themselves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    M. Billig, Arguing and Thinking: A rhetorical approach to social psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Aristotle, The ‘Art’ of Rhetoric, trans. J. H. Freese, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann, 1959) pp. 14–15. All further quotations from The Rhetoric are from this translation.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For example, Herbert W. Simons (ed.), Rhetoric in the Human Sciences (London: Sage, 1989).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Wayne C. Booth, The Rhetoric of Fictionn (Chicago, 1961);Google Scholar
  5. 4a.
    Christine Brooke-Rose, A Rhetoric of the Unreal: Studies in Narrative & Structure, especially of the Fantastic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    G. A. Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times (London: Croom Helm, 1980).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Brian Vickers, In Defence of Rhetoric (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Plato, Gorgias, trans. W. Hamilton (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See A. J. Minnis (ed.), Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages, 2nd edn (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    William Langland, Piers the Ploughman, trans. J. F. Goodridge (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1959).Google Scholar
  11. 10a.
    This is a prose translation: for the effect of the verse see Tom Paulin’s version of lines from the Prologue in his Faber Book of Political Verse (London, 1986), pp. 58–9, or (for the original)Google Scholar
  12. 10b.
    E. Salter and D. Pearsall (eds), Piers Plowman, York Medieval Texts (London: Arnold, 1967).Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    See T. W. Baldwin, William Shakspere’s small Latine and lesse Greeke, 2 vols (Urbana: Illinois University Press, 1956), andGoogle Scholar
  14. 11a.
    Sr. Miriam Joseph, Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947).Google Scholar
  15. 12.
    See the political readings of Marlowe and Shakespeare by Simon Shepherd, Marlowe and the Politics of Elizabethan Theatre (Brighton: Harvester, 1986), andGoogle Scholar
  16. 12a.
    Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (Brighton: Harvester, 1984).Google Scholar
  17. 13.
    For two phases of rhetorical subversion and propaganda see L. A. Schuster et al. (eds), Works of St. Thomas More, Vol. 8 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), andGoogle Scholar
  18. 13a.
    G. E. Duffield (ed.), The Work of William Tyndale (Philadelphia, 1965), and (for the later Marprelate controversy), The Marprelate Tracts, 1588–1589, facs. (Menston: Scolar Press, 1967), andGoogle Scholar
  19. 13b.
    Thomas Nashe, An Almond for a Parrat, in Works, ed. R. B. McKerrow (Oxford: Blackwell, 1958) III 337–76.Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    In the Cambridge comedy The Pilgrimage to Parnassus, Act III, the Puritan Stupido has been tutoring himself with the aid of Ramus (see J.B. Leishman [ed.], The Three Parnassus Plays [London, 1949] pp. 110–6); and in John Brinsley’s Ludus Literarius, or the Grammar Schoole (ed. E. T. Campagnac [Liverpool: University Press, 1917] pp. 182–3), the Ramist Art of Meditation is recommended as the most promising way of enabling ‘Schollers . . . ‘[to] invent plenty of good matter’ (though a further clarification and exemplification is desired to make the book fully suitable for school use).Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    See Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, new edn by S. H. Jones and R. McKenzie (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973) s.v. logos, senses III.1, 2, 4, 5; IV; V.4; VI.Google Scholar
  22. 17.
    As summarised (with the elaborations of Bach and Harnish) by Martin Steinmann Jr., ‘Speech-Act Theory and Writing’, in Martin Nystrand (ed.), What Writers Know: the Language Process and Structure of Written Discourse (London/New York: Academic Press, 1981/2) p. 296.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    H. P. Grice, ‘Logic and Conversation’, in P. Cole and J. L. Morgan (eds), Speech Acts (New York: Academic Press, 1975) pp. 41–58. Summarised by Marilyn Cooper in Nystrand (see above) p. 112, and inGoogle Scholar
  24. 18a.
    David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) p. 117.Google Scholar
  25. 19.
    Quoted by Christopher Butler, Systemic Linguistics: Theory and Applications (London: Batsford, 1985) p. 149.Google Scholar
  26. 20.
    See Malcolm Coulthard, An Introduction to Discourse Analysis, 2nd edn, Applied Linguistics and Language Study Ser. (London: Longman, 1985).Google Scholar
  27. 21.
    John J. Gumperz, Discourse Strategies, Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), pp. 187–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 22.
    Quoted by M. V. Jones, ‘Bakhtin’s Metalinguistics’, in Essays in Honour of Walter Grauberg, ed. C. S. Butler et al., University of Nottingham Monographs in the Humanities, VI (Nottingham: 1989), p. 108.Google Scholar
  29. 23.
    See M. A. K. Halliday, Explorations in the Function of Language, Explorations in Language Study Ser. (London: Arnold, 1973) pp. 36–42.Google Scholar
  30. 24.
    Joseph Heller, Catch 22, Corgi edn (London, 1961), p. 54.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Cockcroft and Susan M. Cockcroft 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Cockcroft
    • 1
  • Susan M. Cockcroft
    • 2
  1. 1.University of NottinghamUK
  2. 2.Derby Tertiary CollegeMackworthUK

Personalised recommendations