The Forest of Rhetoric
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T his online rhetoric, provided by Dr. Gideon Burton of Brigham Young University, is a guide to the terms of classical and renaissance rhetoric. Sometimes it is difficult to see the forest (the big picture) of rhetoric because of the trees (the hundreds of Greek and Latin terms naming figures of speech, etc.) within rhetoric.
This site is intended to help beginners, as well as experts, make sense of rhetoric, both on the small scale (definitions and examples of specific terms) and on the large scale (the purposes of rhetoric, the patterns into which it has fallen historically as it has been taught and practiced for 2000+ years).
If you'd like an overview of the entire "forest" of rhetoric, consult the "trees" (major categories) in the left frame.
If you'd like to look up specific terms of rhetoric, either scroll through
the list of figures of speech (or "flowers" of rhetoric) on the right, or Search
the Forest (above or here ).
Cross-references throughout the website will help you see the relationship
between, for example, a topic
of invention , such as "comparison" and its related figures of speech, " metaphor ,"
For students of rhetoric, literature, or communication, don't forget to look at the examples of Rhetorical Analysis (at the bottom of the "trees").
A forest is the metaphor for this site. Like a forest, rhetoric provides tremendous resources for many purposes. However, one can easily become lost in a large, complex habitat (whether it be one of wood or of wit). The organization of this central page and the hyperlinks within individual pages should provide a map, a discernible trail, to lay hold of the utility and beauty of this language discipline.
Don't be scared of the intimidating detail suggested by the odd Greek and Latin terms. After all, you can enjoy the simple beauty of a birch tree without knowing it is betula alba and make use of the shade of a weeping willow tree without knowing it is in fact salix babylonica . The same is possible with rhetoric. The names aid categorization and are more or less conventional, but I
encourage you to get past the sesquipedalian labels and observe the examples and the sample criticism (rhetoric in practice). It is beyond the definitions that the power of rhetoric is made apparent.
Your input (contributions of examples, explanations, links, and bibliography, or your clarifications and corrections) is heartily welcomed.
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This site was awarded the Wise Owl Site of the Month for September, 1997 "in recognition of exemplary design and educational excellence."
Featured in the Scout Report, January 2, 1998
Paine compares the attempts to reconcile with Britain after the Battle of Lexington and Concord to an old almanac. What does he mean?
He means the idea of reconciliation is now preposterous and that no rational person could support it. No one would use last year’s almanac to make plans for the current year! Also, as an almanac ceases to be useful at a specific moment (midnight of December 31), Paine implies that reconciliation ceased to be a valid goal at the moment of the first shot on April 19, 1775. (Paine often alludes to aspects of colonial life, like almanacs, that would resonate with all readers. They include references to farming, tree cutting, hunting, land ownership, slavery, biblical scripture, family and neighbor bonds, maturation, and the parent-child relationship; see “The Metaphor of Youth” below.) By referring the matter from argument to arms, a new area for politics is struck; a new method of thinking hath arisen. All plans, proposals, etc., prior to the nineteenth of April, ., to the commencement of hostilities [Lexington and Concord], are like the almanacs of the last year which, though proper [accurate] then, are superseded and useless now. Whatever was advanced by the advocates on either side of the question then, terminated in one and the same point, viz. [that is], a union with Great Britain. The only difference between the parties was the method of effecting it — the one proposing force, the other friendship; but it hath so far happened that the first hath failed and the second hath withdrawn her influence.