Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students

Sharon Crowley / Debra Hawhee  
Total pages
September 2011
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Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students
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Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students revives the classical strategies of ancient Greek and Roman rhetoricians and adapts them to the needs of contemporary writers and speakers.


This fresh interpretation of the ancient canons of composing--invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery--shows that rhetoric, as it was practiced and taught by the ancients, was an intrinsic part of daily life and of communal discourse about current events. The book presents stasis theory, common and special topics, formal topics, ethos, pathos, extrinsic proofs, and Aristotelian means of reasoning, and it places particular emphasis on the classic balance between principles and practice by offering ample opportunities for students to develop habits of rhetorical thinking and composing. The authors' engaging discussion and their many contemporary examples of ancient rhetorical principles present rhetoric as a set of flexible, situational practices. This practical history draws the most relevant and useful concepts from ancient rhetorics and discusses, updates, and offers them for use in the contemporary composition classroom.






  • Lively, contemporary examples show rhetoric in everyday practice in civic discourse.
  • Ancient means of invention, including kairos and stasis theory, receive extensive treatment.
  • Discussion of argument includes logical, ethical, and pathetic proofs.
  • Exercises at the end of chapters helps students learn and apply concepts:  Rhetorical Activities encourage students to think about how rhetoric works in the contemporary world and offers opportunities for discussion and informal writing, and Progymnasmata are explained and illustrated throughout the book with special opportunities for practice.
  • Relevance of classical commonplaces to American political ideologies is thoroughly discussed.
  • A brief history of ancient rhetorics gives students necessary and interesting background information about their course of study.
  • The chapter on Delivery addresses page design and layout as well as electronic delivery systems such as e-mail, web sites, and blogs.


New to this Edition



  • Examples drawn from current events are updated throughout, showing ancient rhetorical principles at work in viral Facebook campaigns, sustainable living activism, tuition tax protests, blogs about concealed weapons on campus, and even Congressional outbursts in order to help students recognize rhetoric in the world around them and understand how it works.
  • New examples of rhetoric at work in visual texts in contemporary culture range from an advertisement for a world hunger organization to flag lapel pins, illustrating how images and words can work together or even how images can stand alone to convey meaning in different rhetorical situations. 
  • A new chapter on Imitation, culled from sections previously appearing in chapters on arrangement, style, and memory, presents a more unified discussion of this ancient practice and its modern applications (Ch. 11).
  • Explanations have been revised and lengthy examples streamlined to improve clarity and readability throughout the text and usability overall.
  • The progymnasmata have been reorganized so that each exercise better fits the chapter in which is appears. 
  • Coverage of memory has been shortened and added to chapter on delivery to better reflect current usage (Ch.12 ).
  • The expanded glossary includes more terms and allows students easier access to complex topics at a glance.


Table of Contents

Table of Contents




Part One: Invention


Chapter 1: Ancient Rhetorics: Their Differences and the Differences They Make

Ancient Rhetorics: The Beginnings

Comparing Ancient and Contemporary Rhetorics

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Proofs

        That's Just Your Opinion

On Ideology and the Commonplaces

Language as Power; Language as Action

Practice, Practice, Practice


Progymnasmata I: Fable

        Composing Fables

Progymnasmata II: Tale

        Composing Tales


Works Cited


Chapter 2: Kairos and the Rhetorical Situation: Seizing the Moment

Ancient Depictions of Kairos

Kairos, Change, and Rhetorical Situations

Kairos as a Means of Invention

        How Urgent or Immediate is the Issue?

        Arguments and Interests

        The trigger and the damage done

        Freedom, yes, but which one?

        Power Dynamics in a Rhetorical Situation

        A Web of Related Issues

Rhetorical Activities

Progymnasmata II: Chreia

Progymnasmata: Chreia

Works Cited


Chapter 3: Achieving Stasis by Asking the Right Questions

On Inventing: How to Proceed

The Importance of Achieving Stasis

Theoretical Versus Practical Questions

The Four Questions

        A Simple Example

Expanding the Questions

        Questions of Quality: Simple or Complex

        Questions of Policy

Using the Stases

Rhetorical Activities

        Pro-life Arguments

        Pro-choice Arguments

Progymnasmata III: Proverb


Rhetorical Exercises: Proverb


Works Cited


Chapter 4: The Common Topics and the Commonplaces: Finding the Available Means

Aristotle's Topical System

The Common Topics

        The Common Topic of Past and Future Fact (Conjecture)

        The Common Topic of Greater/Lesser (Degree)

        The Common Topic of Possible/Impossible

Commonplaces and Ideology

Commonplaces in American Political Rhetoric

Using Common Topics and Commonplaces to Invent Arguments

Rhetorical Activities

Progymnasmata IV: Common-place

Rhetorical Activities for Progymnasmata: Common-place


Works Cited


Chapter 5: Logical Proof: Reasoning in Rhetoric


Aristotle on Reasoning in Rhetoric




        Rhetorical Examples

        Historical Examples - Brief and Extended

        Fictional Example


        Similar and Contrary Examples

        Using Examples



Rhetorical Activities

Progymnasmata V: Confirmation and Refutation

Exercises in Progymnasmata: Confirmation and Refutation

Works Cited


Chapter 6: Ethical Proof: Arguments from Character

Ethos in Ancient Rhetorics

Invented Ethos

        Demonstrating Intelligence by Doing the Homework

        Establishing Good Character

        Securing Good Will

        Situated Ethos

Rhetorical Activities

Progymnasmata VI: Character

Progymnasmata: Character

Works Cited


Chapter 7: Pathetic Proof: Passionate Appeals

        Ancient Teachers on the Emotions

        Emotions as Rhetorical Proofs

        The Characters of Audiences and Rhetors

        Composing Passionate Proofs


        Honorific and Pejorative Language

Rhetorical Activities

Progymnasmata VII: Encomium and Invective, Description

Exercises: Encomium and Invective


Exercises: Description

Works Cited



Chapter 8: Extrinsic Proofs: Arguments Waiting to Be Used

Extrinsic Proofs in Ancient Rhetorics


        Community Authorities

        Evaluating Community Authorities

        Proximate Authorities


        Evaluating Data

Rhetorical Activities


Progymnasmata VIII: Introduction of Law

An Opposition of a Law That Permits Assault Weapons

Rhetorical Activities: Introduction of Law

Works Cited


Part Two: Arrangement


Chapter 9: Arrangement: Getting It Together

Ancient Teachings about Arrangement

The Exordium, or Beginning


        Topics for Making Audiences Attentive and Receptive


The Narrative (Statement of the Case)

The Partition

The Arguments: Confirmation and Refutation

The Peroration (Conclusion)

        Composing a Summary

Exciting Indignation Toward an Opponent Or the Opposing Position

        Enhancing Ethos

An Extended Example

Rhetorical Activities

Progymnasmata IX: Thesis

Rhetorical Activities: Thesis


Works Cited


Part Three: Style, Memory, and Delivery


Chapter 10: Style: Composition and Ornament



Appropriateness: Kairos and Style


        Sentence Composition

        Paratactic and Periodic Styles

        Figurative Language

        Figures that Interrupt Normal Word Order

        Figures of Repetition

        Figures of Thought

        Figures of Thought That Enhance Ethos

        Figures of Thought That Involve Audience

        Figures of Thought That Arouse Emotion

        Figures of Thought Borrowed from Invention and Arrangement











Voice and Rhetorical Distance

Rhetorical Exercises


Works Cited


Chapter 11: Imitation

Imitation I: Reading Aloud and Copying

Imitation Exercise I: Reading Aloud and Copying

Imitation II: Inhabiting through Practice

Imitation Exercises II: Imitation

Imitation III: Translation and Paraphrase



        Paraphrasing Poetry

        Examples of Paraphrase

Paraphrase Exercises

Works Cited


Chapter 12: Delivery and Memory: Attending to Eyes and Ears

Ancient Commentary on Delivery

Delivery of Oral Discourse

Ancient Memory

Ancient Memory Systems

Delivery of Written Discourse


        Correctness: Traditional Grammar and Usage

        Visual Rhetoric

        Ocular Demonstration

        Textual Presentation

        Klavika: A sans for the 21st century

        Picture Theory

        Digital Rhetors

Rhetorical Activities


Works Cited




Appendix: Signposts in Ancient Rhetorics


Suggestions for Further Readings





Instructor Resources