Oratory in the Age of Obama

A course in rhetoric for the Honors College of Rutgers Camden

Readings and Activities for Thursday, February 18

Posted by William FitzGerald on February 16, 2010


Habinek, Chapter Three

Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address

Resources: LOC, the Powerpoint Presentation


Due: choice of speech text for paper due next week

Response to Habinek: as a comment to this blog entry post a brief response of commentary or inquiry to a portion of Habinek, Chapter Three. You might engage even a single paragraph that raise a point of interest or speculation.


13 Responses to “Readings and Activities for Thursday, February 18”

  1. Robert Wentworth said

    on page 40, towards the end of that long paragraph, it shows what geniuses these speakers are. There is definitely no better way to appeal to someone than to relate to them.

    • Here, I’d like you to engage the text in a bit more detail. What’s the specific quote that you would build upon to make your own corroborating claim that there is “no better way to appeal to someone than to relate to them”? What form(s) does this relating take? In other words, say more… (You can edit your own comment to do so, or you can reply to my reply.

  2. Zach Camerieri said

    I have read and reread chapter four of Habinek’s book several times, but I still cannot grasp the concept of the five parts of rhetoric, specifically the first part: invention. I know that Habinek says the use of the word “invention” is misleading, but simply cannot understand the definition he is trying to give it. This chapter is very challenging to read and understand.

    • Invention is the biggest canon of rhetoric. It means coming up with arguments to use in support of a claim. The five parts (or canons) assume that there is a process of oratory in which one invents first, then decides on the order (arrangement), adapts the argument to the audience (style), commits the speech to memory, and the finally delivers it. The term assumes that one has a storehouse (or inventory) of usable arguments or spare parts of arguments to turn to for making a particular case, e.g., an appeal to time or authority or the use of comparison, or an appeal to the generosity or self-interest of the audience. Invention, is short, is figuring out what one wants to say. The other parts of rhetoric take it from there.

      Good point to highlight!

  3. Jason Hewitt said

    What interested me the most in Chapter 3 was the way Aeulius Aristide looked past the most common way people view Rome(the city as a whole), and focused on individual aspects of its citizens. Instead of focusing on the power of Rome, he breaks down the individual efforts that makes Rome the powerhouse it was at that time. He touched upon the categories of political, military, economic, and spiritual aspects. To me it’s just interesting to look at Rome in a completely different perspective.

  4. Peter Pantelides said

    On page 39, Habinek makes an interesting point about how rhetoric was brought to Athens by others, but I do not understand why he claims rhetoric is “corrupting” Athens.

    • I made reference in class today to rhetoric as a non-elite art, something servile. You might say it was also in Plato’s time a kind of immigrant art, something foreign and thus suspect. It’s difficult to exaggerate how xenophobic many were at the time. Perhaps the analogy for our time would be to ideas and practices of culture that we associate with some country that are proving to have an influence of a younger generation. It was easy to play the anti-foreigner card against something one didn’t like.

      Good observation!

  5. Jonathan Randall said

    In the text, the topic of recycling the same material comes up. An orator may speak of the same topic of an important issue as another orator, to the same audience, and would use rhetoric to re-hash the same argument with minute differences. The first orator, originally, may not have been as appealing to the audience, but the second orator would want to perhaps take the credit for the argument by using rhetoric to make it attractive. On page 45, it says, “…the whole point is not to be comprehensive but to prod the student into finding the most appropriate means of persuasion,” meaning that that to keep the audience’s attention, an orator might cut out some of the details and glorify just a few with the use of rhetoric and accomplish his task.

    • Driving in today, I heard someone say that the smallest differences to any tradition, in his case jazz music, were regarded as significant, perhaps more than larger differences. But in an age when books were literally handwritten and handcopied, it’s not hard to see how they get easily changed to make them continually relevant.

  6. Westley Propati said

    The idea of style seemed interesting to me. The author wrote about how mastery of style could help express ideas to others that they didnt know of.

    • I’d like to hear more about what’s interesting about style. We left that for another day, I know, but style is my favorite topic in rhetoric, so you might point out something of particular interest to you.

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