A catalogue of rhetorical and other literary terms from American literature and oratory.
It was natural for me to select American literature and oratory as the subjects of this text because, after all, my field of specialization is U.S. literature and culture, but also because I believe no one has put together a text like this. Other rhetors who have catalogued the classical tropes and schemes have chosen their illustrations almost solely from ancient Greek and Roman or British sources (Shakespeare being a favorite, for good reason). Some rhetors have demonstrated that rhetoric is still very much employed in our time by quoting various twentieth-century figures (with Winston Churchill being a favorite). The typical Arts undergraduate, however, might get the impression that rhetoric is something that concerned the ancients and the British but was neglected on the other side of the Atlantic - that Americans, for instance, were so concerned with founding a political utopia, taming the wilderness, settling the land, establishing businesses, and making a buck, that the tradition of stylistic eloquence found no place in so pragmatic a culture. Less naive undergraduates may have heard of some legendary orators - Daniel Webster, Clarence Darrow - or may know something about the speeches of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King from a sociohistorical point of view. Senior undergraduates and graduate students may also be aware of detailed stylistic studies of specific American authors - may know, for example, that more has been done with Hemingway, James, and Melville; that relatively little has been done with Poe. Still, with all this, we need an introductory text that provides a survey of American speeches and prose works and that is dedicated to exploring the stylistic qualities of those readings. This way we can see that the classical rhetorical figures - used so well by the ancient Greeks and Romans, kept alive throughout the Middle Ages, employed with brilliance by Renaissance writers, resorted to as well by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British authors - this way we can see that the tradition of classical rhetoric has been integral to American culture and literature also, right from the beginnings until our own time.
We go back to the colonial era in American history for our earliest reading - Jonathan Edwards's sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." This text demonstrates, first, some typical aspects of the Puritan sermon - its appeal to reason (logos), for instance, and illustrates some rhetorical and stylistic devices that we would expect in sermons, such as dialogismus, Biblical parataxis and polysyndeton, epicrisis, cataplexis, categoria, dehortatio, adhortatio, oraculum, and protrope. At the same time, the assignment requires students to consider some idiosyncratic features of Edwards's style: his use of metaphors, antithesis, certain types of rhetorical questions, redundancy, syncrisis, enargia.
Some of these stylistic features suggest the Puritans' Manic heart mentality, as does another reading - Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown." Hawthorne's antithetic doublets, for example, often are comprised of theological terms and so give us a sense of the dualistic moral universe believed in by the Puritans. At the same time, Satan's use of diallage and other devices encourages the student to realize the extent to which rhetorical persuasiveness and stylistic eloquence are not - and have never been - solely the province of benevolent men and women seeking to bring about good, but that the wicked can use the power of rhetoric for evil ends.
Herman Melville knew this, and his ungodly, wicked, but tragic Captain Ahab is surely the most rhetorically capable figure in American literature. His speech to the crew in Chapter 36 of Moby-Dick ("The Quarter-Deck") is a rhetorical masterpiece that employs all three of Aristotle's pisteis (rhetorical "proofs"): the appeals to ethos (character), pathos (pity) and logos (reason). The questions I provide for "The Quarter-Deck" ask students to consider especially the figures Ahab employs as devices of emotion in order to persuade his crew to pity him and take up his quest to kill the White Whale. Finally, "The QuarterDeck" suggests what Melville scholars have been saying, or at least suspecting, for decades - that in the middle of the nineteenth century an American writer tried to duplicate the stylistic grandeur of Shakespearean language.
In Chapter 123 of Moby-Dick, "The Musket," we find several rhetorical devices and other stylistic qualities but study especially the rhetorical question. Starbuck's dramatic soliloquy illustrates three of the four types of rhetorical question (ratiocinatio, hypophora, erotema) and their functions. At the same time, the questions I provide get students to think about other figures of vehemence that Melville puts in the mouth of the first mate to give him a Shakespearean eloquence matched only by Ahab's (such as apostrophe, hyperbaton, deesis, ominatio, and certain devices of repetition).
While the many emotional figures used by Ahab and Starbuck reveal the inner workings of their minds, Melville also employs rhetorical devices for purposes other than to reveal character. I have designed several questions for "The Paradise of Bachelors" to show students how Melville uses particular devices as part of his satirical and contrastive (juxtapositional) techniques: syncrisis, bathos, zeugma. At the same time, I get students to think like linguists in asking them to consider certain "notional sets" and how Melville uses them as part of his bathetic strategy.
Notional sets are also important for our study of two of Poe's best tales: "The Black Cat" and "The Tell-Tale Heart." Poe believed what Ben Jonson wrote so long ago: "oratio imago animi" (speech is the image of the mind). In his tales of madness Poe uses certain notional sets to give us a sense of the obsessions of his tormented protagonists. When we list the sets we come to understand what drove his murderous madmen to commit their crimes. We also consider specific rhetorical figures in the tales that convey the psychological/emotional states of Poe's frenzied narrators (for instance, litotes, meiosis, epizeuxis, diacope). A final rationale for the inclusion of these two tales in this textbook is to rescue Poe from the old charge that he is a bad stylist - a charge based on the assumption that the stylistic excesses of his overwrought narrators are his own.
Mark Twain was an early reader who disliked Poe's prose, although in a letter to William Dean Howells (January 18, 1909) he admitted that he could read Poe on a salary. Mark Twain is represented herein to illustrate the triumph of the plain style in American literature. The chapter "All Full of Tears and Flapdoodle," from Huckleberry Finn, shows how Samuel Clemens made use of his knowledge of folk speech, the vernacular, as part of his stylistic revolution in American literature. He wanted to reproduce the ungrammatical speech of Americans as they really spoke in the nineteenth-century American south and midwest. To this end he employed errors and vices of speech that rhetors lump together under the umbrella term enallage (including solecismus, anthypallage, and anthimeria, to name a few); other vices of speech that characterize the language of Clemens's ordinary Americans are barbarismus, antistoecon, acyrologia, synalepha, aphaeresis, syncope, and apocope. In addition to these, further stylistic features we examine that characterize Huck's speech specifically include run-on sentences, polysyndeton, transitional words and phrases, linear, right-branching syntax, parelcon, and humorous similes.
Dashiell Hammett, like Ernest Hemingway and other twentieth-century American authors, wrote in the tradition of plain prose after Mark Twain. Hammett employed the gangster slang of America's Prohibition-era mean streets to create a vivid sense of time and place through his language. Certain features of Hammett's prose create a swift pace, as in the excerpt here from his novel Red Harvest (Chapter 9: "A Black Knife"), especially diazeugma and a lack of dialogue tags much of the time. Not only do the questions for reading require students to think about the stylistic qualities of Hammett's prose, they also ask students to consider thematic issues; this is true of all the questions provided in this textbook.
As well as examples of prose fiction, the textbook also includes specimens of oratory - ceremonial, deliberative, and forensic. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a splendid sample of epideictic (ceremonial) oratory. The analytical exercise accompanying that speech asks students to consider some rhetorical devices found typically in this type of discourse - anamnesis and encomium, for example. I also draw attention to the devices of sound and repetition that would appeal to an audience (anaphora, epistrophe, polyptoton, disjunction, alliteration, assonance). But the speech is as important for the figures that are not there as for those that are, for Lincoln avoids certain rhetorical devices that would alienate the South and might prevent his attempt to get both sides to consider what they have in common. Lastly, his successful appeal to ethos and simple diction show that he was indeed suitable to speak on behalf of common Americans in both the North and the South.
John F. Kennedy also was able to create a positive "paramessage" in his Inaugural Address. That is, the very style of the speech sent out positive information about the speaker: his simple diction was easily understood by Americans and his stylistic eloquence was surely admired (his antitheses, his brilliant use of antimetabole, his colorful metaphors, his auditory devices such as alliteration, assonance, and polyptoton). Additionally, the notional sets in the speech tell us much about Kennedy's dualistic, even Manichean, view of the world - so typical of Cold Warriors; and the set of nouns also suggests something important about Kennedy's way of thinking (they are typically abstract rather than concrete).
Representing an orator who spoke on behalf of black Americans is Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream." Like Kennedy's Inaugural, this might be labelled a ceremonial speech, but we can also consider both of them deliberative discourses because of their political nature. Foregrounded in King's style is his use of metaphors, the tenors and vehicles of which are grasped easily by his audience (King, like Kennedy and Ahab, understood the doctrine of decorum). King employs many abstractions, but the metaphors provide concrete visual images for those. We also see how King's use of repetition (through anaphora, epistrophe, and epimone) encouraged audience responses - vocal participation. Something else that would have appealed to the audience is the euphonious quality of King's language. Devices that appeal to the ear - alliteration, assonance, consonance, homoioptoton, syntactic parallelism, doublets, antithesis - place this speech within the stylistic tradition of Euphuism.
An excerpt from Richard Wright's novel Native Son is included here to illustrate the third type of oratory, forensic (courtroom). We witness a particularly brilliant but devious use of rhetorical devices by Buckley, the State's Attorney - devices of sound to please his auditors, devices of repetition for emphasis and vehemence. Buckley also attacks Bigger Thomas and his lawyer through such devices as indignatio and cohortatio, and through such logical fallacies as the abusive ad hominem, the genetic fallacy, the argumentum ad ignorantium, and many question-begging epithets (slanted language); but he makes his own clients look good through encomium and eulogistic epithets. Furthermore, he attempts to appeal to ethos (tries to make himself look good) through comprobatio and apomnemonysis. Buckley employs all these rhetorical strategies and more in the courtroom, and the result is a brilliantly moving - but disturbingly underhanded - speech.
Representing American Indians is "Logan's Speech," a typical example of native oratory. Unfamiliar with the language of the King James Bible and untrained in the rhetorical tradition, Logan nevertheless employs several stylistic features of Biblical prose (parallelism, hyperbaton, repetition, polysyndeton) and other classical tropes and schemes (dialogismus, proecthesis, praemunitio, polyptoton, and a strikingly pathetic instance of hypophora). Never having heard of Aristotle or his three pisteis, Logan nevertheless makes effective use of the appeals to ethos and pathos. In Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I may challenge the whole orations of Demosthenes and Cicero, and of any more eminent orator, if Europe has furnished more eminent, to produce a single passage, superior to the speech of Logan. . . ." (62). It has even been suggested that Jefferson may have imitated the oratorical flourishes of native Americans.
Jefferson's own prose inspired a superb sample of feminist rhetoric in Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions." The Declaration of Independence is a brilliant expression of American liberal values, but the structural and lexical parallelism of the feminist Declaration highlights the extent to which the U.S., by 1848, had not lived up to Jefferson's liberal promises where women were concerned. And like Kennedy's Inaugural Address, another statement of American liberalism, "The Seneca Falls Declaration" has two antithetical notional sets, one comprised of the abstractions of liberal policy, such as "inalienable rights," "equality," "representation," "liberty," "elective franchise," "priveleges," and the other pertaining to tyranny. Stanton's "tyranny," however, refers not to foreign monarchies but to the ubiquitous tyranny of the male.
Central to the textbook is the catalogue of rhetorical (and other literary) terms. When students are asked in the questions for reading or O.P.A. assignments to locate a particular stylistic device in a speech, short story, or chapter, their first task will be to consult the catalogue for the definition of that device. I have brought in exemplifications of the many rhetorical figures from a wide variety of U.S. writers and orators, from the eighteenth to the twentieth century: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Brockden Brown, Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Stephen Crane, Ambrose Bierce, Albert J. Beveridge, Henry James, Herbert Hoover, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Richard Wright, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Arthur Miller, Shirley Jackson, John F. Kennedy, James Dickey. Representing American Indians, through John G. Neihardt, is Black Elk. Two of the more notorious Americans represented are the rebellious slave Nat Turner and the fire-and-brimstone preacher Jonathan Edwards.
In addition to featuring quotations strictly from American sources, what differentiates mine from other catalogues of rhetorical devices (compiled, for instance, by Lanham, Corbett, Dupriez, Espy, Joseph, Quinn, Sonnino, and Taylor) is that it provides excerpts to illustrate all the devices listed (more than two hundred and forty); moreover - and this should also be useful to the Americanist - now and then, after defining and illustrating a device, I provide some exegetical suggestions, some interpretative clues, about how the device functions in the work from which it is taken. Sometimes I broaden the scope to comment on American culture and history more generally - in other words, to relate the linguistic to the extralinguistic. To give a sense of what can be found in the catalogue, we present versions of the definitions of over thirty devices with mini-essays.
Following other rhetors (for example, Corbett and Lanham), I provide each term in boldface but in Roman rather than italic lettering; subsequently, within each entry the names of the classical tropes and schemes are italicized according to the conventional treatment of most foreign words and phrases. Often the specific exemplifications within quoted passages are also in boldface for clarity, unless the entire passage is itself the exemplification.
ADYNATA: exaggeration that involves the magnification of an event by reference to the impossible (Dupriez 18); sometimes, a confession that words fail us (Lanham 3). This device figures often enough in Poe's tales of the fantastic; although Poe claimed to be able to convey any thought verbally, it is not unusual for a Poe narrator to be unable to express his incredible experiences - they are ineffable:
The night was as dark as it could possibly be, and the horrible shrieking din and confusion which surrounded us it is useless to attempt describing. (99)
Of a sudden, and all at once, there came wafted over the ocean from the strange vessel (which was now close upon us) a smell, a stench, such as the whole world has no name for - no conception of - hellish - utterly suffocating - insufferable, inconceivable. (111)
I am at a loss to give a distinct idea of the nature of this liquid . . . . (186)
(The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket)
Adynata also figures, for instance, four times in "Ligeia" and five in "The Fall of the House of Usher." The device is part of Poe's hyperbolic style, which many critics abhor. He is, indeed, the king of superlatives, of exaggeration (see also hyperbole, below). A fan of Poe's and a writer who was very much influenced by him is Richard Wright, who puts a nice bit of adynata in the mouth of his eloquent lawyer, Buckley:
[S]ome of the facts of this evil crime are so fantastic and unbelievable, so utterly beast-like and foreign to our whole concept of life, that I feel incapable of communicating them to this Court. (Native Son 345)
Adynata can be found several times in the writings of nineteenth-century American authors. With Emerson and Thoreau, adynata is a lament linked to Transcendental epistemology - their beliefs about how we can know what we know. Adynata is for them a complaint that human language is incapable of conveying the absolute troths of the universe, natural and supernatural, physical and metaphysical. In "Nature" Emerson writes, "Words are finite organs of the infinite mind. They cannot cover the dimensions of what is in truth" (41). Emerson's disciple, Thoreau, makes a similar complaint in Walden, noting that he must actually use hyperbole, exaggeration, even to approach expressing ultimate, supreme insights that might be picked up during moments of epiphany when in contact with the Oversoul (the Transcendentalists' name for God):
I fear chiefly lest my expression may not be extra- vagant enough, may not wander far enough beyond the narrow limit of my daily experience, so as to be adequate to the truth of which I have been convinced. . . . I desire to speak somewhere without bounds; like a man in a waking moment, to men in their waking moments; for I am convinced that I cannot exaggerate enough even to lay the foundation of a true expression . . . . The volatile truth of our words should continually betray the inadequacy of the residual statement. (214-15)
While Thoreau uses the metaphor of being fully awake to describe men open to supreme truths, Poe felt that people are only open to absolute insights during the fleeting state between waking and sleeping. Poe had great faith in the power of human language to express thoughts, but believed it is not adequate to convey those "psychal impressions" of the hypnagogic state:
How very commonly we hear it remarked, that such and such thoughts are beyond the compass of words! I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language. . . . For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words, with even more distinctness than that with which I conceived it. . . .
There is, however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language [adynata] . . . . They arise in the soul (alas, how rarely!) only at its epochs of most intense tranquility - when the bodily and mental health are in perfection - and at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with those of the world of dreams. I am aware of these "fancies" only when I am upon the very brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so. . . .
These "fancies" [are] of a character supernal to the Human Nature - [they are] a glimpse of the spirit's outer world. . . . (Marginalia 88-89)
If we can take him at his word, then, Poe himself claimed to be able to express any mere thought (as distinct from "psychal impressions") through words, but his own narrators often confess an inability to convey verbally some thoughts related to their own extraordinary experiences. This discrepancy between Poe's linguistic facility and that of his narrators suggests the objective distance that Poe keeps in relation to them. That is to say, the issue of adynata helps support Gargano's assertion, with which I agree fully, that the stylistic excesses sometimes found in Poe's works cannot be blamed on Poe (as they often are) but are the responsibility of his narrators, who therefore speak their own thoughts: "Poe's narrators possess a character and consciousness distinct from those of their creator" ("The Question of Poe's Narrators" 165).
ALLEGORIA (ALLEGORY): a rhetorical trope - "a narrative in which the agents and action, and sometimes the setting as well, are contrived so as to make coherent sense on the 'literal,' or primary, level of signification, and also to signify a second, correlated order of agents, concepts, and events" (Abrams 4); an extended analogy, a continued metaphor (cf. parable). There are two kinds of allegory: (a) the allegory of ideas, in which a concrete thing represents an abstraction, an idea; (b) the allegory of things, in which a concrete thing represents itself as well as another concrete thing.
An example of the allegory of ideas is Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"; there Hawthorne draws our attention to the allegorical significance of the name of Brown's wife, "Faith, as the wife was aptly named. . . . " (74). His wife indeed "stands for" the abstract quality of religious faith, which has thus been personified. The metaphor extends throughout the tale: when Brown meets Satan in the forest, he explains his tardiness by telling the Devil, "Faith kept me back awhile" (76); when Brown realizes that an old woman he thought was pious has in fact been in league with satanic forces and is predestined for Hell, he says, "is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith and go after her?" (80). Then the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints figures, as Brown exclaims "With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" (82). However, when the Devil's rhetorical artillery proves too much for the young Puritan, who is tricked into believing his wife is going to the witches' meeting, he undergoes a religious crisis:
"My Faith is gone!" cried he, after one stupefied moment. "There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given." (83)
The allegorical dimension of this and other Hawthorne tales was too obvious to Poe, who wrote in a review of Twice-Told Tales, "In defense of allegory, (however, or for whatever object, employed,) there is scarcely one respectable word to be said" (148). Poe disliked tales in which the allegory was too clear, too obvious. He insisted that one should have to dig for the suggested meaning; it should not lie on the surface of the tale: "Where the suggested meaning runs through the obvious one in a very profound under-current so as never to interfere with the upper one without our own volition, so as never to show itself unless called to the surface, there only, for the proper uses of fictitious narrative, is it [allegory] available at all" (148). Perhaps this is what Dupriez means when he says that, in allegory, "the tenor [the thing being suggested] may be suppressed" (21). That Poe himself did write allegories is pretty much universally accepted among Poe scholars; consider an obvious example - "King Pest: A Tale Containing an Allegory." In "The Masque of the Red Death," as well, Poe gives us both an allegory of ideas and one of things. On the level of abstractions,
(vehicle) the Phantom = the plague (tenor)
(vehicle) Prospero = Everyman (tenor)
On the level of things,
(vehicle) the Phantom = hour hand (tenor)
(vehicle) Prospero = minute hand (tenor)
(vehicle) the abbey = half of a clock's face (tenor)
Another example of the allegory of things is Melville's complicated book Mardi. There the action takes place on several levels: (1) the literal level - the ocean and the islands of a Pacific archipelago; (2) the geographical/global level - the entire planet Earth; (3) the astronomical level - the stars and planets of the Milky Way galaxy. In other words, the islands can be equated with countries on one level, and with stellar worlds on a deeper level; the Pacific Ocean represents the world's oceans on one level, and outer space on the third, allegorical level. Dupriez says that "Allegory is a feature of the 'sublime' or 'high style' of expression" (23). For other extended considerations of the device, see Lanham (4-6) and Abrams (4-7).
ANACOLUTHON: ending a sentence with a different syntactic structure (word order) from that with which it began:
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus - but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.
(Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper 10)
This statement begins with what we expect will be an "if. . . then" clause - "if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus, then I'd get well sooner"; however, Gilman's female narrator switches the syntactic structure on us - denies the second part of the "if. . . then" clause. Later the poor woman provides an even more acute instance of anacoluthon:
And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit. I wonder - I begin to think - I wish John would take me away from here! (22)
Anacoluthon is a device of vehemence: we often do not speak in calm, linear syntax when upset. The device can also suggest mental distraction and even madness (like the "derailing" that can characterize the expressions of schizophrenics - the broken, interrupted or unfinished syntax). In fact, Gilman's oppressed, mentally distraught narrator does exhibit derailing and other symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, but the anacoluthon is early evidence of her mental distress. We see, then, that such devices of emotion are not merely ornamental, are not used merely to "dress up" speech. Rather, they are rooted in psychology; they indicate the mental/emotional state of a speaker. As Ben Jonson wrote, oratio imago animi - "speech is the image of the mind."
ANTANAGOGE: ameliorating a fault or difficulty admitted by balancing an unfavorable aspect with a favorable one. In Miller's play The Crucible Elizabeth Proctor has been asked if she dismissed her maid, Abigail Williams, for sleeping with Elizabeth's husband. Goodwife Proctor knows the answer to be yes, but instead of admitting straight out that John has committed adultery - a terrible sin to the Puritans (remember The Scarlet Letter) - she balances this fault with John's virtues as a husband:
Your Honor, I - in that time I were sick. And I - My husband is a good and righteous man. He is never drunk as some are, nor wastin' his time at the shovelboard, but always at his work. But in my sickness - you see, sir, I were a long time sick after my last baby, and I thought I saw my husband somewhat turning from me. And this girl - (113)
Note also Elizabeth's use of litotes as a way of deemphasizing John's sin ("my husband somewhat turning from me"). Antanagoge can be compared to two other devices - antisagoge and compensatio - which involve a weighing, a balancing, a compensatory antithesis. See also Dupriez on compensatio (105-06).
ANTITHETIC DOUBLET: a word-pair or short phrase-pair of opposed terms, usually coordinated by and or or (cf. pleonastic, range, and simple doublets). In his tales of the American Puritans, such as "Young Goodman Brown" and "Alice Doane's Appeal," Hawthorne uses antithetic doublets often and provides them with theological weight - "good and evil," "Heaven and Hell," "angels or devils," "sinners and saints" - in order to duplicate the Puritans' Manichean tendency to see the world in terms of moral polarities. They saw the universe as a battleground for forces of good and evil - in Christian terms, God and Satan:
Once, the listener fancied that he could distinguish the accents of town's-people of his own, men and women, both pious and ungodly. . . . There was one voice, of a young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, it would grieve her to obtain. And all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.
("Young Goodman Brown" 82)
APHELIA: plainness in writing or speech. After an extended ornate passage in which Melville employs a number of rhetorical devices in the grand, the Ciceronian, style - apostrophes, alliteration, anaphora, apposition, assonance, ecphonesis, hypotaxis and rhetorical questions - he then falls back on the plain style and shows his awareness of doing so:
In plain prose, here are four whales as well known to the students of Cetacean History as Marius or Sylla to the classic scholar. (Moby-Dick 205)
Rather than to entertain, to move, to gain sympathy or to persuade, the plain style is used to explain, to teach. Melville knew this, and in "The Apple-Tree Table" he refers to the use of aphelia on the part of the Puritan, Cotton Mather, in Magnalia Christi Americana:
His style had all the plainness and unpoetic boldness of truth. In the most straightforward way, he laid before me detailed accounts of New England witchcraft. . . .
In Melville's America the plain style was clearly preferred by readers, and editors squirmed when authors departed from it - one objected, for instance, to Melville's hypotactic syntax at the beginning of "The Bell-Tower" (Sealts 501). Thoreau complained about the preference on the part of his contemporaries for the plain style: "It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so that they can understand you" (Walden 214).
Related to aphelia is the device aschematiston, which refers to the absence of ornamental or figured language, "a healthy sign of the plain style" (Lanham 23). At worst, the term means an unskillful use of rhetorical figures.
BOMPHIOLOGIA: bombastic, pompous speech. Consider the language of Dashiell Hammett's fictional lawyer, Charles Proctor Dawn:
I may say, in all justice, that you will find it the invariable part of sound judgment to follow the dictates of my counsel in all cases. I may say this, my dear sir, without false modesty, appreciating with both fitting humility and a deep sense of true and lasting value, my responsibilities as well as my prerogatives as a - and why should I stoop to conceal the fact that there are those who feel justified in preferring to substitute the definite article for the indefinite? - recognized and accepted leader of the bar in this thriving state. (Red Harvest 177)
Lanham relates this term to macrologia - long-winded speech in which more words are used than necessary. Certainly Dawn can be accused of using this figure too. Some (especially English teachers) would consider it a stylistic vice. The first sentence certainly is overly wordy: Dawn might have said simply, "You'd be wise to follow my advice." Also responsible for this copia verborum (plenitude of words) is the pleonasm - when two words are used that largely overlap in meaning: "true and lasting," "recognized and accepted." We call Dawn's style diffuse, as opposed to concise. Lanham explores macrologia at greater length (96-97). Taylor, on the other hand, prefers to see bomphiologia as a kind of hyperbole similar to auxesis (79-80).
BRACHYLOGIA: excessive brevity of diction, often with words omitted (minus additioning). Witness Hammett's Canadian detective, Dick Foley:
She showed right away. To 310 Green Street. Full of coppers. Mouthpiece named Dawn killed. Police took her to the Hall. (Red Harvest 186)
Sometimes brachylogia can indicate a stylistic vice, certainly when it leads to obscurity (see Dupriez 82-84). That Hammett can use both brachylogia and macrologia shows his stylistic dexterity.
CHOROGRAPHIA: a type of enargia - the description of a country, a nation:
And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people - the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. Seventy years ago we escaped from thrall; and, besides our first birthright - embracing one continent of earth - God has given to us, for a future inheritance, the broad domains of the political pagans, that shall yet come and lie down under the shade of our ark, without bloody hands being lifted. God has predestinated, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls. The rest of the nations must soon be in our rear. We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the New World that is ours. In our youth is our strength; in our inexperience, our wisdom. At a period when other nations have but lisped, our deep voice is heard afar. Long enough have we been skeptics with regard to ourselves, and doubted whether, indeed, the political Messiah had come. But he has come in us, if we would but give utterance to his promptings. And let us always remember that with ourselves, almost for the first time in the history of earth, national selfishness is unbounded philanthropy; for we can not do a good to America but we give alms to the world. (White-Jacket 151)
Melville's grand, Whitmanesque statement of America's "mission complex," its "city on a hill" syndrome, has an early expression in the sermon of the Puritan, John Winthrop ("A Modell of Christian Charity," 1630). This vision of America's global purpose is one motif that connects some of the earliest colonists to Americans of our own time, and it is echoed in the writings or speeches of, for instance, Teddy Roosevelt, Albert J. Beveridge, Herbert
Hoover, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. Walt Whitman and the architect Louis Sullivan also held such a "metaphysical" view of history - namely, that the U.S. was fated to evolve into a world leader.
DIALOGISMUS: speaking in another person's character (a type of enargia):
MARY WARREN: And so I told that to Judge Hathorne, and he asks her so. "Sarah Good,' says he, "what curse do you mumble that this girl must fall sick after turning you away?" And then she replies - mimicking an old crone - "Why, your excellence, no curse at all. I only say my commandments; I hope I may say my commandments," says she. (Miller, The Crucible 58)
In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" the Watson-like narrator tells us that one of Dupin's methods of detection is to achieve an identification with the mind of his opponent - whoever is involved in the crime under question. Like the analytical draughts player, Dupin as analyst "throws himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith . . . ." (147). Dupin does this very thing in determining what actions the sailor will take - and thus provides an instance of dialogismus:
He will reason thus: - "I am innocent; I am poor; my Ourang-Outang is of great value - to one in my circumstances a fortune of itself - why should I lose it through idle apprehensions of danger? Here it is, within my grasp. . . . " (184)
DIATYPOSIS: recommending useful precepts, rules of conduct, to someone. This device is surely the foregrounded one in some of Ben Franklin's writings. His famous essay "Father Abraham's Speech, or, The Way to Wealth," like his Autobiography, is an extended exercise in diatyposis. In the following excerpt, notice also the function of dehortatio, explicit or implicit:
Sloth makes all Things difficult, but Industry all easy, as Poor Richard says; and He that riseth late must trot all Day, and shall scarce overtake his Business at Night; while Laziness travels so slowly, that Poverty soon overtakes him, as we read in Poor Richard, who adds, Drive thy business, let not that drive thee; and Early to Bed, and early to rise, makes a Man healthy, wealthy and wise. (169)
Many of these precepts have become cliches by now, they are so widely known and quoted: "God helps them that help themselves"; "There are no Gains, without Pains"; "he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing." Here is one of my favorites employing chiasmos: "[If you] Keep thy Shop. . . thy Shop will keep thee." Note the connection in many of these precepts between religion and wealth, money and morality - what the German economist and social historian, Max Weber, examined at length (using Franklin as exemplar) in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. The Protestant work ethic, so clear in Franklin's use of diatyposis, is very much a part of the mainstream American way of thinking.
Since the wise maxims in "The Way to Wealth" are attributed to a character (Poor Richard), we can regard some of the above examples of diatyposis also as illustrations of chreia - a concise and useful saying or action attributed to someone.
DISTINCTIO: reference to various meanings of a word in order to remove ambiguities. While not using the term "distinctio," Patty ("Melville and Language") offers this excerpt from The Confidence-Man:
"Why, in this paper here, you engage, sir, to insure me against a certain loss, and - "
"Certain? Is it so certain you are going to lose?"
"Why, that way of taking the word may not be amiss, but I didn't mean it so. I meant a certain loss; you understand, a CERTAIN loss; that is to say, a certain loss."
Although the barber has difficulty explaining the specific meaning of "certain" that he intends, it is clear that he means a particular amount that could be lost while the cosmopolitan means an unavoidable loss. Patty concludes, quite rightly, I think, that "Melville shows an acute awareness of the intrinsically polysemous nature of most lexical items [words], whether he explicitly comments on the multiple meanings of a word. . . or plays with polysemy [diversity of meanings]" (7) Melville, she goes on to suggest, saw an extralinguistic significance in all this: "For Melville, who came to see ambiguity as surrounding all human existence and endeavor, lexical ambiguity - whether intrinsic as in polysemy or extrinsic as in the deceptive use of words - was just one aspect of the existential conundrum" (7).
ECPHONESIS: vehement exclamation expressing emotion (sometimes equivalent to apostrophe):
Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man's terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! ("The Tell-Tale Heart" 91-92)
Poe's frequent use of ecphonesis is surely responsible to a large degree for the charge that he wrote in such an overwrought style. Such critics, however, must ask themselves to what extent Poe really is to blame; they should consider that Poe's narrators are themselves responsible for their own stylistic excesses, Poe himself maintaining an objective distance from them as a craftsman in complete and conscious control. This, indeed, is Gargano's thesis in "The Question of Poe's Narrators."
ENALLAGE: when we substitute or exchange one gender, number, case, person, mood, tense, or part of speech for another. When done deliberately, this is a figure of language; when done accidentally through ignorance, it is a vice of language. In English it is difficult to understand why a speaker or writer would want to use enallage, except for ridicule (calling a man "she," for example). Normally we would expect enallage as a vice of language in English, such as a breakdown in grammatical agreement between subjects and verbs, nouns and pronouns, or pronouns and pronouns. Enallage is the most general of a cluster of similar figures:
* alleotheta (also allotheta or alloeosis): another more general term but narrower than enallage, it means the substitution of one gender, number, case, mood, or tense for another;
* solecismus (sometimes "solecismos" or "solecisme"): the ignorant misuse - presumably rather than a deliberate substitution - of genders, cases and tenses;
* anthimeria: using one part of speech for another - an adjective for an adverb, for example; Joseph refers to this as "perhaps the most exciting" scheme of grammar, certainly as it figures in Shakespeare (62);
* anthypallage: changing grammatical case (possessives, subjects, objects) for emphasis;
* antiptosis: substituting one case for another.
Enallage in its various subforms is a foregrounded device of Huck Finn and many of the other ungrammatical speakers in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Here is a sample of Huck's narrative style:
and the people all knowed everything was tip-top, and said so - said "How do you get biscuits to brown so nice?" and "Where, for the land's sake, did you get these amaz'n pickles?" and all that kind of humbug talky-talk, just the way people always does at a supper, you know.
And when it was all done, me and the hare-lip had supper in the kitchen off of the leavings. . . . (221)
We have above the incorrect tense in "knowed" as well as a subject-verb disagreement regarding incorrect number: the plural subject-noun "people" with the singular verb "does." We also have solecismus, as shown in the improper case of the singular pronoun "me" instead of "I."
ENARGIA: "A generic term for visually powerful, vivid description which recreates something or someone, as several theorists say, 'before your very eyes'"; "vigorous ocular demonstration" (Lanham 64-65). Corbett provides the following passage for an exercise in imitation, but I offer it here as a brilliantly vivid description of a man who has just been shot with an arrow - from a writer of no small power, James Dickey, in Deliverance:
I was amazed at how he did everything. He touched the arrow experimentally, and I could tell that it was set in him as solidly as his breastbone. It was in him tight and unwobbling, coming out front and back. He took hold of it with both hands, but compared to the arrow's strength his hands were weak; they weakened more as I looked, and began to melt. He was on his knees, and then fell to his side, pulling his legs up. He rolled back and forth like a man with the wind knocked out of him, all the time making a bubbling, gritting sound. His lips turned red, but from his convulsions - in which there was something comical and unspeakable - he seemed to gain strength. He got up on one knee and then to his feet again while I stood with the shotgun at port arms. He took a couple of strides toward the woods and then seemed to change his mind and danced back to me, lurching and clog-stepping in a secret circle. He held out a hand to me, like a prophet. . . . He crouched and fell forward with his face on my white tennis shoe tops, trembled away into his legs and shook down to stillness. He opened his mouth and it was full of blood like an apple. A clear bubble formed on his lips and stayed there. (102-03)
There are several types of enargia; I list and define those dealing with visual imagery:
* anemographia: description of the wind;
* astrothesia: description of a star;
* chorographia: description of a country, a nation (see above);
* chronographia: description of time;
* dendrographia: description of trees;
* geographia: description of the earth;
* hydrographia: description of water;
* pragmatographia: description of an action or event;
* prosopographia: description of the appearance of a person, imaginary or real, alive or dead;
* topographia: description of a place.
Dupriez discusses enargia under the synonymous term hypotyposis (219-20), and Lanham distinguishes between it and energia. Crowley points out that enargia is useful rhetorically to orators in order to stir the emotions of an audience - often empathy with a person being described (126).
ENTHYMEME: a rhetorical term the equivalent of a syllogism in logic and science - but an enthymeme is an abbreviated syllogism. A syllogism is a deductive argument consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion derived from the premises. An enthymeme, however, leaves out one of the premises, but it is implied:
Though he had killed by accident, not once did he feel the need to tell himself that it had been an accident. He was black and he had been alone in a room where a white girl had been killed; therefore he had killed her. That was what everybody would say anyhow, no matter what he said. (Wright, Native Son 101)
Wright supplies both the minor premise and the conclusion; he only implies the major premise, which is based on a cruelly demeaning racist stereotype - the "Brute Negro" (a rapist and murderer of white women). Here is the full syllogism:
major premise: All black men want to rape and murder white women;
minor premise: Bigger Thomas, a black man, was alone in a room where a white girl had been killed;
conclusion: Bigger Thomas killed the white girl.
It is also assumed by the general white populace in the novel that Bigger raped Mary before doing away with her. Readers of Native Son know that Bigger does not rape or murder Mary (it is a case of accidental, not deliberate, death - manslaughter); thus, in our syllogism the conclusion does not follow from the minor premise - and the major premise is untrue. The white racists of Wright's Chicago, however, are not concerned with the strict rules of deductive reasoning. The enthymeme here helps to illustrate one of Wright's major themes: the illogicalities upon which racism is based.
EPICRISIS: a speaker quotes a passage from an authority and comments, either agreeing with it, disagreeing with it, or qualifying it. We would certainly expect this device to figure frequently in sermons with the preacher agreeing wholeheartedly with the Bible as the textual authority:
The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed. . . .
(Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" 450)
Cf. oraculum and apomnemonysis. Here is an instance from Poe:
These particulars being made known to the Royal Geographical Society of London, the conclusion was drawn by that body "that there is a continuous tract of land extending from 47 [degrees] 30[minutes] E. to 69 [degrees] 29[minutes] W. longitude, running the parallel of from sixty-six to sixty-seven degrees south latitude." * * * My own experience will be found to testify most directly to the falsity of the conclusion arrived at by the society.
(The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket 170-71)
Like Pym's catalogues of nouns and his use of martyria, epicrisis adds to the sense of verisimilitude in Pym - the impression that Pym's antarctic voyage was fact and not fiction, and that Pym, with the crew of the Jane Guy, really did go beyond previous explorers toward the South Pole.
EPISTROPHE: the use of the same terminal word or phrase in successive clauses or verses, generally for emphasis. Like other devices of repetition and parallelism, epistrophe figures frequently in Whitman:
It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps, And here you are the mothers' laps. (Song of Myself 28)
The following excerpt from Arthur Miller's The Crucible shows how devices of repetition like epistrophe can double as devices of emotion:
PROCTOR: I'll tell you what's walking Salem - vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant's vengeance! I'll not give my wife to vengeance! (77)
EROTESIS (EROTEMA): a rhetorical question implying strong affirmation or denial:
Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? ("The Black Cat" 146])
The subject of the narrator's rhetorical questions here is what Poe called the "Imp of the Perverse" - the uncontrollable desire that sometimes comes upon us to act against our own best interests by harming ourselves or breaking the law. He provides this psychological theory to explain what drove him to hang his beloved cat, Pluto. Not all critics find this explanation acceptable, however, and some maintain instead that the theory of perversity is simply the narrator's rationalization - a conscious or unconscious attempt to hide the real motive for his crime. At any rate, the narrator's use of erotema would seem to be a frantic rhetorical attempt to encourage acceptance in his audience of the theory of perversity. Through erotema he is asking his auditors to think deductively (to move from the general to the specific) by saying something like this: "Look, everyone's succumbed to perverse impulses now and then, right? - so you'll believe me when I tell you that perversity overcame me, too, on the occasion when I hanged my poor cat." Poe must have known what Corbett confirms, that this type of rhetorical question "can be an effective persuasive device, subtly influencing the kind of response one wants to get from an audience. . . . By inducing the audience to make the appropriate response, the rhetorical question can often be more effective as a persuasive device than a direct assertion would be" (454).
ETHOS: the appeal of speakers or writers to their own good character (we derive the word ethics from this Greek term). According to Aristotle (Rhetoric), orators have three means of persuasion (pisteis) at their disposal: (1) logos - the appeal to reason; (2) pathos - the appeal to emotions; and (3) ethos - the ethical appeal. Ahab employs all three pisteis in his vehement speech to his crew in Chapter 36 of Moby-Dick, "The Quarter-Deck." His use of pathos is directed at the crew, especially the emotional, unreasoning pagan harpooneers. His use of logos is generally reserved for Starbuck, the man of reason rather than passion (although this appeal fails to persuade the first mate). Ahab's use of ethos is aimed at the crew but also fails to impress Starbuck.
As Aristotle taught, ethos actually involves three characteristics that the speaker must demonstrate to his (or her) auditors:
(1) phronesis - sound sense or practical wisdom;
(2) arete - high moral character; and
(3) eunoia - good will, benevolence, toward the audience (in Institutes of Oratory, Quintilian defined the rhetor as "a good man skilled at speaking").
Ahab's ethical appeal does not actually demonstrate practical wisdom, but that he is wise in the practice of whaling is a given. His practical wisdom is shown later, not in his speeches to the crew but in his actions - for instance, in his use of the quadrant and his ability to navigate without it, and in his ability to fabricate his own compass. As for arete, he does not really need to impress upon the mariners his good moral character, but that he does not demonstrate this quality is certainly telling. As Corbett says, "If a discourse is to reflect a person's moral character, it must display an abhorrence of unscrupulous tactics and specious reasoning, a respect for the commonly acknowledged virtues, and an adamant integrity" (81). It is the absence of these qualities in Ahab that so disturbs the pious Starbuck, who is a man of high moral character: "To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous" (163-64). As for eunoia, Ahab's praise of the harpooneers and Starbuck, and his offer of the doubloon and grog to the men, certainly suggest his benevolence, his good will toward his crew. Perhaps only Starbuck suspects that Ahab's interest in the welfare of his whaling men is insincere - that he is only using them for his monomaniacal ends. To Starbuck, then, Ahab's phronesis (sound sense) is lacking, his arete is absent, and his eunoia is false. For more on the three modes of persuasion see, for example, Covino and Jolliffe (52, 64, 71), Corbett (37-94), and Crowley (30-31; 81-149).
EXUSCITATIO: an emotional utterance that seeks to move the audience to a like feeling. Ahab's speech to the crew in "The Quarter-Deck" is surely one of the most noteworthy examples in the English language. He employs several devices of vehemence to get the crew to sympathize, even to empathize, with him: anamnesis, bdelygma, cataplexis, exergasia, cohortatio, commiseratio, indignatio, mempsis. Crowley reminds us about Cicero's credo regarding the appeal to emotions - namely, that it is important for the orator first to feel the emotions that he or she wants to arouse in the audience (125-26). This is hardly a matter of difficulty with Ahab. That he succeeds with the crew becomes obvious: "A sharp eye for the White Whale; a sharp lance for Moby Dick!" they cry (163). Even Ishmael, who eventually will break away from Ahab's enchantment, initially is taken in by his mad captain's exuscitatio:
I, Ishmael, was one of that crew; my shouts had gone up with the rest; my oath [orcos] had been welded with theirs; and stronger I shouted, and more did I hammer and clinch my oath, because of the dread in my soul. A wild, mystical, sympathetical feeling was in me; Ahab's quenchless feud seemed mine. (179)
HOMIOLOGIA: a tedious, uniform, repetitive style:
The Republican Party has ever been a party of progress. I do not need to review its seventy years of constructive history. It has always reflected the spirit of the American people. Never has it done more for the advancement of fundamental progress than during the past seven and one-half years since we took over the government amidst the ruin left by war.
It detracts nothing from the character and energy of the American people, it minimizes in no degree the quality of their accomplishments to say that the policies of the Republican Party have played a large part in recuperation from the war and the building of the magnificent progress which shows upon every hand today. I say with emphasis that without the wise policies which the Republican Party has brought into action during this period, no such progress would have been possible.
The first responsibility of the Republican administration was to renew the march of progress from its collapse by the war.... ("On American Individualism" 804)
Part of the stylistic monotony in this excerpt from Herbert Hoover's 1928 election campaign speech lies in the first three sentences, all three of them paratactic and linear (following the normal word order of subject, verb, object), and all three having approximately the same number of syllables. There is nothing wrong with these stylistic qualities per se, but too many consecutive sentences like these become tiresome quickly, as in many undergraduate essays. Fortunately, Hoover varies the syntax soon after with some periodicity, but the passage remains tedious for reasons other than the syntactical: I refer to the repetition of ideas and certain words: "it," "war," "policies," "American people," and especially "progress" and "Republican." Granted, orators have for thousands of years relied upon devices of repetition for emphasis and vehemence, but they must be used with caution. Perhaps had Hoover attempted some concision he would not have lost at least 5,000 people by the end of his hour-long discourse from an audience that had topped 22,000 at the beginning.
We can also consider the above passage an illustration of macrologia - a long-winded speech employing more words than necessary. See Charles Proctor Dawn in Hammett's Red Harvest.
HYPERBATON: the rearrangement or inversion of normal word order (subject, verb, object) usually for a specific effect, often emphasis:
Object there was none. Passion there was none. ("The Tell-Tale Heart" 88)
This word order allows the narrator to emphasize the usual motives for crime (object, passion) and to stress that they were completely absent through the repetition of the word "none" (epistrophe). Moreover, his syntax is more emphatic and attention-grabbing than "I had no motive, such as passion, for committing the crime." The important words "motive" and "passion" get lost in the middle of this sentence and so are deemphasized rather than emphasized. The mad narrator then follows with another instance of hyperbaton, "For his gold I had no desire," instead of "I had no desire for his gold." Hyperbaton can be used as another figure of vehemence; indeed, Dupriez says "Most theorists... have been content to return to the definition of hyperbaton as an inversion which expresses 'a violent movement of the soul' (Littre)" (214). That the confessor-narrator in "The Tell-Tale Heart" displays this, and other, devices of emotion undermines his claim that he can relate the entire story "calmly"; in other words, the only thing he proves is that he is yet another one of Poe's many self-deluded narrators.
HYPERBOLE: exaggeration, overstatement, often used for emphasis or for comical effect:
Some gamesome wights will tell you that they have to plant weeds there, they don't grow naturally; that they import Canada thistles; that they have to send beyond seas for a spile to stop a leak in an oil cask; that pieces of wood in Nantucket are carried about like bits of the true cross in Rome; that people there plant toadstools before their houses, to get under the shade in summer time; that one blade of grass makes an oasis, three blades in a day's walk a prairie.... (Moby-Dick 63)
Melville's use of comic hyperbole here is appropriate for a uniquely American type of humor, the tall tale, which often depends on gross exaggeration. When using it seriously, however, a writer must not let it become excessive - as it is sometimes in the works of Poe, who is often denounced for his frequent use of superlatives, adynata (see above), and other forms of hyperbole:
... suddenly, a loud and long scream or yell, as if from the throats of a thousand demons, seemed to pervade the whole atmosphere around and above the boat. (10)
... he found himself beneath the surface, whirling round and round with inconceivable rapidity.... (15)
I felt, I am sure, more than ten thousand times the agonies of death itself. (45)
(The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket)
Since Poe typically retains an ironic detachment from his narrators, however, we may conjecture that he was well aware of Pym's use of hyperbole here, and that, by this absurd level of exaggeration, Poe wants us to question Pym's reliability as a narrator. Or we may consider Poe's hyperbole a deliberate clue to the attentive reader that Pym is in fact a hoax (Poe loved hoaxing the public) - that Pym itself can be seen to be part of the tall-tale tradition. That the novel may indeed be a deception on Poe's part is suggested in part by the centrality of deceit as a theme in that work. Largely a story about ocean mishaps, Pym introduces one of three main characters, Augustus Barnard, who loved to relate his own stories of the ocean - "one half of which I [Pym] now suspect to have been sheer fabrications...." Thus, Augustus himself appears to be a teller of tall tales marked by hyperbole.
LOGOS: one of Aristotle's three means of persuasion or "proofs" (pisteis), logos is the appeal to reason. That Melville had some training in logic is suggested by the hidden syllogism (logical equation) in his questions to the crew in "The Quarter-Deck":
"What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?"
"Lower away, and after him!"
"And what tune is it ye pull to, men?"
"A dead whale or a stove boat!" (Moby-Dick 16)
Then Ahab moves from the general to the specific by bringing up a particular whale, Moby Dick. The disguised, the implied, logical equation is this:
major premise: As whalemen, it's our duty to chase and kill whales.
minor premise: Moby Dick is a whale.
conclusion: It's our duty to chase and kill Moby Dick.
Although Ahab relies more on the appeals to emotion (pathos) and his own character (ethos) in his speech to the crew, except where Starbuck is concerned Ahab does use this one appeal to logos with the men. What they may not realize, because their capacity for reason is severely limited, is that Ahab is essentially trapping them. Because he has forced them to admit the fundamental purpose of their vocation, they cannot with fairness back out later when and if one particular whale becomes "too hot to handle." By their own reasoning they are committed to destroy Moby Dick. Thus, even Ahab's reasons for employing the appeal to logos are sinister.
When using the appeal to logos, an orator has to ensure that he or she avoids logical fallacies. Because they are not primarily men of reason, the members of the crew are not able to point out several in Ahab's speech to them. In addition to the argumentum ad baculum, Ahab commits the argumentum ad misericordiam (appeal to pity) and the argumentum ad populum (play on the feelings of the audience).
MORPHOLOGICAL SET: a term from linguistics referring to a set of words linked on the basis of identity or similarity of shape. The shapes of words are often determined by groups of letters called "morphemes" - frequently prefixes and suffixes (groups of letters added to the beginning or end of words). In the following excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, note the morphological sets involving "re" prefixes and "ion(s)" suffixes:
He [King George III of England] has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing the Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. (69)
The frequency of "ion(s)" words suggests Jefferson's love of abstractions, for these are all abstract nouns the likes of which we might expect to find in the oratory of politicians (see also Kennedy's Inaugural Address). Others follow: "constitution," "Legislation," "Oppressions," "emigration," "usurpations," "Separation," "Declaration." Another morphological set, this one involving "ing" verbs, is used deliberately by Jefferson to stress the rigor with which George III has oppressed and injured the American colonies (and note the foregrounded anaphora as well):
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. (70)
NOTIONAL SET: another term from linguistics, this one referring to a group of words linked on the basis of semantics - meaning. The words in a notional set do not necessarily overlap in meaning, but they are related in theme, idea ("notion"). In Jefferson's Declaration of Independence we can find several words and phrases related to the idea of tyranny - what we might call a "tyranny notional set":
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.... The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. (68-69)
Other words belonging to the same set follow: "tyrants," "invasions," "harrass," "cutting off," "imposing," "depriving us," "Arbitrary," "absolute rule," "waging war against us," "plundered our seas," "ravaged our Coasts," "burnt our towns," "destroyed the Lives of our people," "death, desolation and tyranny," "Cruelty & perfidy," "barbarous," "Oppressions," "Tyrant," "usurpations." In opposition to this lexical group, we could list a "liberal values notional set" to get a sense of the antithetic political principles upon which America was founded and which are found in the Declaration and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We find the same antithetical sets in Kennedy's Inaugural Address and Stanton's "Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions."
When we observe notional sets in prose we can truly unlock the mind of the writer, giving us a real sense of his or her concerns and values, even obsessions. Attention to notional sets in a given work can also help literary interpretation considerably. Sets can even break down into subsets. Furthermore, sometimes items in different sets or subsets overlap, and this is often the reason for the richness, even the ambiguity, of literature. A rhetorical term that we may relate to a word that belongs to two or more notional sets is amphibologia, defined by Taylor thus: "Ambiguity which results from the inability of the reader to choose, from two or more meanings of a word, the one intended..." (66). Consider the sentence "Melville fell out of the tree and broke a limb." To which notional set does "limb" belong in this case - a "tree notional set" or a "body notional set"? That is, does "limb" mean arm/leg or branch? What we have here is an instance, presumably inadvertent, of amphibologia (see also Lanham 8; Dupriez 31-32; Sonnino 27-28; Espy 48; Joseph 66-67).
PARATAXIS: a scheme involving phrases or independent clauses set one after the other without subordination and often without coordinating conjunctions (such as and, but, or) - the opposite of hypotaxis and similar to asyndeton:
She presented all the ordinary appearances of death. The face assumed the usual pinched and sunken outline. The lips were of the usual marble pallor. The eyes were lustreless. There was no warmth. Pulsation had ceased.
(Poe, "The Premature Burial" 257)
While the use of hypotaxis can slow down the pace of a passage, the use of parataxis can speed it up. Note, too, that the paratactic sentences, above, are also right-branching and linear (they depend on the normal word order of subject, verb, object). Scholars and students who despise Poe for his "style" - either because of his hypotactic syntax or hyperbolic excesses - should consider the stylistic simplicity of the paratactic and emotionally low-keyed sentences, above.
PATHOS: Lanham provides subtle distinctions between what this term can refer to: (1) techniques of stirring emotions in one's audience or readers; (2) the emotions themselves; and (3) the emotions that the speaker or writer feels him- or herself, which s/he wants to evoke in others. The appeal to emotions is one of Aristotle's three traditional "proofs" (pisteis), the other two being ethos and logos (see above). The appeal to pathos is one of Stowe's central strategies in her propagandistic attack on the evils of slavery and the slave trade, and frequently she combines this approach with an apostrophe and what I call the "mother motif" in Uncle Tom's Cabin. In the following example, note also the foregrounded anaphora and the erotesis with which Stowe ends the passage:
And you, mothers of America, - you, who have learned, by the cradles of your own children, to love and feel for all mankind, - by the sacred love you bear your child; by your joy in his beautiful, spotless infancy, by the motherly pity and tenderness with which you guide his growing years; by the anxieties of his education; by the prayers you breathe for his soul's eternal good; - I beseech you, pity the mother who has all your affections, and not one legal right to protect, guide, or educate the child of her bosom! By the sick hour of your child; by those dying eyes, which you can never forget; by those last cries, that wrung your heart when you could neither help nor save; by the desolation of that empty cradle, that silent nursery, - I beseech you, pity those mothers that are constantly made childless by the American slave-trade! And say, mothers of America, is this a thing to be defended, sympathized with, passed over in silence? (Uncle Tom's Cabin 471-72)
Although Stowe is often attacked by readers for her overabundance of pathos, the above excerpt shows that she could be an immensely powerful rhetorician. To say that her rhetoric worked would be an understatement: after reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, fifty thousand women in England signed a petition addressed to the women of Dixie to stop selling slave children. As further possible testimony to Stowe's rhetorical powers, we have the alleged remark Lincoln said to her after the start of the American Civil War: "So this is the little lady who made this big war." Whether or not Stowe's rhetorical appeal to pathos actually was the single cause of the military conflagration, it very likely fanned the flames. Crowley discusses the emotional appeal at length (117-31), as does Corbett (86-94). Devices related to the appeal to emotions include cohortatio, commiseratio, indignatio, excuscitatio, pathopoeia.
PLOCE: the repetition of a word with few words in between (cf. diacope):
But this august dignity I treat of, is not the dignity of kings and robes, but that abounding dignity which has no robed investiture. (Moby-Dick 117)
Some rhetors - e.g., Lanham (39) - would consider the above example rather one of conduplicatio, the repetition of a word or words in succeeding clauses for amplification, emphasis, or to express emotion. The difference between this device and a stricter definition of ploce, then, is that ploce can involve the repetition of words within the same clause while conduplicatio shows words repeated in different clauses. Consider this example from Poe:
I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. ("The Tell-Tale Heart" 88)
We see how the reappearance of a word can suggest a speaker's obsession, and certainly this narrator is a monomaniac where the old man's eye - an eye perhaps merely covered with cataracts - is concerned. Devices of repetition are foregrounded in "The Tell-Tale Heart," and there Poe combines frequently two such devices - epizeuxis and diacope. All figures that involve repetition can be used to indicate heightened emotions, and the ploce, epizeuxis and diacope in this tale of paranoid schizophrenia undermine the frantic narrator's insistence that he can relate his story "calmly."
POLYSYNDETON: the use of conjunctions (such as and or or) in a series of words, phrases or clauses. Polysyndeton can be used to indicate not only a series of things but can emphasize an abundance either of objects or of events passing. In a tale full of catalogues, Washington Irving provides a culinary catalogue to stress the sheer abundance of food in Baltus Van Tassel's house:
There was the doughty doughnut, the tenderer oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger-cakes and honey-cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple-pies and peach-pies and pumpkin-pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them.... ("The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" 46)
Polysyndeton using and is frequent in the Bible (46,227 times according to the makers of Trivial Pursuit), and some writers (for example, Poe and Melville) have used polysyndeton to give passages a Biblical "flavor" - to suggest that what they are writing has the weight of Biblical pronouncement and truth. Here, for instance, is the ending of Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death":
And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all. (258)
Poe's one novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, similarly ends with foregrounded polysyndeton, complementing the Biblical themes in that work. Quinn suggests that "the indefiniteness of 'and' envelops biblical narratives ... in mystery. Occasionally, in the Bible and elsewhere, repeated polysyndetons have an almost hypnotic power" (12). He also notes that polysyndeton can slow down a passage, "thereby adding dignity to what we say, much like the slow motion of a ceremony" (13). Here is the figure with the conjunction or rather than and this time:
He wanted to run. Or listen to some swing music. Or laugh or joke. Or read a Real Detective Story Magazine. Or go to a movie. Or visit Bessie.
(Wright, Native Son 30-31)
Rather than adding a sense of dignity to prose, polysyndeton can sometimes have the opposite effect - that is, it can create a sense of the colloquial. That is certainly the strategy employed by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for polysyndeton is indeed one of the most heavily featured stylistic aspects of Huck's narration. Miller, like Mark Twain, knew that children often string their sentences together with a lot of ands. Anyone who has listened to children speaking knows that this is certainly true. Here is the young girl Mary Warren in The Crucible:
When she come into the court I say to myself, I must not accuse this woman, for she sleep in ditches, and so very old and poor. But then - then she sit there, denying and denying, and I feel a misty coldness climbin' up my back, and the skin on my skull begin to creep, and I feel a clamp around my neck and I cannot breathe air; and then - entranced - I hear a voice, a screamin' voice, and it were my voice - and all at once I remembered everything she done to me! (57)
The antithetical scheme is asyndeton. See also Corbett for more suggestions about how polysyndeton can be useful (435-36).
PRAECISIO: most rhetors equate this device with aposiopesis: stopping before finishing a sentence. Quinn, however, differs from them in suggesting that praecisio involves complete silence - not the unwillingness to continue a sentence but an unwillingness to start it in the first place, an unwillingness to say anything. As he rightly admits, it is difficult to find examples of this. How do we quote someone saying nothing? If we accept Quinn's definition, certainly praecisio is central to Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener," for silence would seem to be one of Bartleby's favorite rhetorical stances:
"What earthly right have you to stay here? Do you pay any rent? Do you pay my taxes? Or is this property yours?"
He answered nothing.
"Are you ready to go on and write now? Are your eyes recovered? Could you copy a small paper for me this morning? or help examine a few lines? or step round to the post-office? In a word, will you do any thing at all, to give a coloring to your refusal to depart the premises?"
He silently retired into his hermitage. (35-36)
Bartleby employs praecisio at least ten times in the course of this story. Why does Melville give him the device? "Bartleby, the Scrivener" is a tale about existential angst, about a ruin of a man faced with the wall of human misery and completely unable to tear down that wall. It is a tale of despairing hopelessness, impotence. Bartleby apparently has concluded that the only suitable response to unrelieved human calamities is silence. Melville seems here to relate to the German pessimistic philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. I quote Quinn: "Schopenhauer, who thought we all would have been better off if we had never lived, concluded his idiosyncratic treatise on rhetoric with the proverb: 'A chief fruit on the tree of wisdom is silence'" (36-37).
PRAEPARATIO: preparing an audience before telling them about something done. Dupriez (351) uses the term "praemunitio" for this, refusing to make a distinction, and offers the following excerpt as an example. I prefer to see this excerpt as praeparatio and to draw a distinction - praemunitio anticipates an attack, praeparatio does not necessarily:
For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not - and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. ("The Black Cat" 143)
Several of Poe's tales begin with short essays on various themes, concepts, that will be illustrated by the narrative accounts that follow them; thus, the narrators prepare the audience to understand the specific cases to follow by illuminating the theories first - they engage in praeparatio. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" commences with an essay on certain mental skills before we hear about their display by the amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin. "The Imp of the Perverse" begins with a short dissertation on that destructive and irresistible human impulse before the narrator provides three examples of it and finally his own case. "The Premature Burial" starts with several illustrations of untimely interment before we hear about how the narrator himself was apparently buried alive. Thus, Poe often employs praeparatio as part of his rhetorical strategies; at the same time, the device helps to build suspense.
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Brett Zimmerman (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches English, humanities, and writing at York University (Toronto, Canada). He has published articles on Nietzsche (themes), Melville (astronomy), and Poe (paranoid schizophrenia; style) in scholarly journals in Canada, the U.S., and England. His book Herman Melville: Stargazer - an examination of Melville's knowledge and literary use of astronomy - is forthcoming from McGill-Queen's University Press.