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Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric

Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric

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Bruce McComiskey


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
176 pages, 6 x 9

Rhetorical Philosophy & Theory


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About the Book

In Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric, Bruce McComiskey achieves three rhetorical goals: he treats a single sophist's rhetorical technê (art) in the context of the intellectual upheavals of fifth-century bce Greece, thus avoiding the problem of generalizing about a disparate group of individuals; he argues that we must abandon Platonic assumptions regarding the sophists in general and Gorgias in particular, opting instead for a holistic reading of the Gorgianic fragments; and he reexamines the practice of appropriating sophistic doctrines, particularly those of Gorgias, in light of the new interpretation of Gorgianic rhetoric offered in this book.

In the first two chapters, McComiskey deals with a misconception based on selective and Platonic readings of the extant fragments: that Gorgias's rhetorical technê involves the deceptive practice of manipulating public opinion. This popular and ultimately misleading interpretation of Gorgianic doctrines has been the basis for many neosophistic appropriations. The final three chapters deal with the nature and scope of neosophistic rhetoric in light of the non-Platonic and holistic interpretation of Gorgianic rhetoric McComiskey postulates in his opening chapters. He concludes by examining the future of communication studies to discover what roles neosophistic doctrines might play in the twenty-first century.

McComiskey also provides a selective bibliography of scholarship on sophistic rhetoric and philosophy in English since 1900.


Bruce McComiskey, a Kinneavy Award-winning scholar and the author of Teaching Composition as a Social Process, administers the advanced writing program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


Gorgias and the New Sophistic Rhetoric treats some old texts in interesting and productive ways, it covers most of the important prior scholarship with a useful and constructive view, and it foregrounds its own theoretical matrix without getting lost in the process of foregrounding. . . . McComiskey's explanation of historical and rational reconstruction offers a good vocabulary, and his analogy of a continuum serves well; it is the sort of analogy that usually grows out of the best teaching.”—Jasper Neel, author of Aristotle's Voice: Rhetoric, Theory, and Writing in America and Plato, Derrida, and Writing