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The Rhetoric Companion

This textbook is designed for students of classical rhetoric who are old enough to drive, and young enough to still be breathing. It is offered in the conviction that God in His common grace bestowed a great deal of practical wisdom about public discourse on the ancient practitioners of rhetoric, and that we must hold what they taught up against the final standard of Scripture.

Definitions of rhetoric vary in the classical writers, but adapting one of them, with a peculiarly Christian backdrop and understanding, provides us with our working definition of rhetoric: "the art of a good man speaking well." And in this "art," you want three things to line up. You want convergence of ethos, pathos, and logos.

LOGOS: Logic is the foundation for logos. Logic deals with statements and their relationships with one another. For diligent speakers, and especially for those diligent students who are not all that confident, the inclination is to put all your eggs in the basket of content preparation. Logos is a great place to begin, but ethos and pathos are just as important.

ETHOS: Give yourself to the cultivation of your character, but beware of the dangers of affectation. The problems attendant to this will be avoided if your first concern is that of worship, study, helping, giving, and so forth. If someone goes off to a good liberal arts college and comes back home with a tweed jacket with patches on the elbows, a pipe, and faux accent, and is twice as much of a snot as when he left home, the problem is ethos. Remember, a person cannot be a good speaker without being a good person, and this means that in the Christian worldview, ethos is holiness.

PATHOS: We do not play with words, we work with them. And because we live in a fallen world, we fight dragons with them. Believe what you say, and say what you believe. And if you do not feel it at any level, this means you do not really believe it. This means there should be a correspondence between the content of what you are saying and how you are affected by it. If you shed false tears, then you are a manipulative, deceitful, treacherous hazard to the republic. Do not try to affect a group of hearers by anything that does not affect you first.

As a stand-alone text, this book can be used over the course of a term or semester. As a supplement or companion, it can be used in conjunction with some of the historic texts for the study of classic rhetoric, extended over the course of a year. Besides ethos, pathos, and logos, this book also covers the five canons of rhetoric, fallacies, the composition of arguments, copiousness, and presentation, among other things. Each of the thirty-one chapters contains a lesson, exercises, and review questions, along with suggested reading material and excerpts from the classical masters of the art of rhetoric.


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"As the classical movement matures, teachers and parents need more resources to carry us through rhetoric and toward the quadrivium. The Wilsons provide an easy overview for those trying to gain access to rhetorical skills and a great review for those of us already digging in." ---- Leigh Bortins, CEO, Classical Conversations and author of The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education

"Rhetoric, the capstone of a classical Christian education, is well-explained and well-taught herein. It is not necessary that a teacher who writes be able to "do" what he teaches--but is routinely much better if he can. In this text we have authors who have learned, in fact, mastered their subject and then share the wisdom, tools, and techniques they have learned." ----Marlin Detweiler, President, Veritas Press


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