rhetorical analysis
Rhetorical Pedagogy:
Rhetorical Analysis
Rhetorical Exercises

Within rhetorical pedagogy the rhetorical analysis of literary exemplars made possible the intelligent imitation of those models (See Imitation). Such analysis should be understood as a close counterpart to "genesis," creating one's own writing or speaking (See Rhetorical Exercises).

Rhetorical analysis begins with the appropriate choice of a given model, and such a selection would have been made with an eye both to the content and especially to the style of the author (See Content and Form). Here we see that rhetorical analysis is intimately related to larger curricular issues regarding the value of certain works or authors. Much literary criticism in antiquity and the Renaissance was devoted to assessing the merits of given authors as adequate models for imitation. Some ancient speakers or writers have remained central to rhetorical analysis and to imitation, including Demosthenes in Greek and Cicero in Latin.

The analysis of an author can be understood with respect to three discursive disciplines which provided the technical vocabulary for different (but overlapping) modes of linguistic and literary analysis: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Thus, passages from a given text could be analyzed grammatically, such as when students were taught to parse a text, identifying the various parts of speech and verifying the correspondence of accidence, etc.). Similarly, a passage would be analyzed logically for its arguments or topics of invention (the purview of both rhetoric and of logic, depending on the period). Finally, some analyses would be of a purely rhetorical character, including the identification of tropes and figures, as well as other rhetorical dimensions such as the arrangement of the entire discourse, or matters of rhythm and style.

As a practical aid to rhetorical analysis, students were taught to mark their texts, naming the identified figure or strategy, and also to use copybooks specially divided into "form" and "content" or into subject headings for general topics or commonplaces. By thus recording passages that exemplified noteworthy content or form, they could then quote or imitate these passages within their own speeches or compositions.

These analytical activities prepared students directly for the ensuing rhetorical and imitative exercises (see rhetorical exercises and imitation).

Sources: See the many primary sources for these exercises as described in Burton, 1994.


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Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
Please cite "Silva Rhetoricae" (rhetoric.byu.edu)