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Aspects of Reference in Literary Theory

Poetics, Rhetoric and Literary History


Alina Silvana Felea

The book presents the various viewpoints that poetics, literary history and Western rhetoric have adopted throughout Western history. The aim of poetics is to render the specificity of the literary discourse by either highlighting the extra literary generative forces or by focusing on the intrinsic study of literary works. Rhetoric chiefly places emphasis on the verbal effects of discourses whereas literary history predominantly examines the temporal succession of the literary systems or of the literary institution. The author focuses on the three sections: poetics, rhetoric, and literary history and provides an introductory study on the subject of reference.

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2. Rhetoric


2. Rhetoric

2.1 The glory and oblivion of a millenary discipline

Definitely one of the most prestigious and valued disciplines of knowledge in antiquity, rhetoric almost disappeared afterwards or was assumed into related domains (poetics, stylistics). The causes of this state of affairs lie, on the one hand, in the circumstances of its development and, on the other hand, in the meaning and incorrect definitions conferred on it later on, which were the reasons for its becoming discredited. Luckily, today rhetoric is not a discipline which belongs exclusively to the past, but it no longer resembles what it was in antiquity.

Rhetoric’s beginnings, its success

It appeared out of necessity, its birth being consistently bound up with important historical events. The change of cities followed by the fall of the hereditary aristocracy in the 5th century BC, the fall and expulsion of the tyrants from Sicily and Greece gave the opportunity to recover some land that had been expropriated in favor of the mercenaries. Making property claims posed difficulties due to the absence of lawyers, and of people specialized in defending their causes in the court. Therefore, the citizens were forced to make compose their own pleas1 and, as they had no experience, finding the best means to build up a discourse that should convince became a necessity for very many. Theoretically, every citizen could become a rhêtôr; practically, there were very few who knew to write and read and...

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