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Classical Rhetoric in English Poetry

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Brian Vickers


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)



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About the Book

Back in print after 17 years, this is a concise history of rhetoric as it relates to structure, genre, and style, with special reference to English literature and literary criticism from Ancient Greece to the end of the 18th century.

The core of the book is a quite original argument that the figures of rhetoric were not mere mechanical devices, were not, as many believed, a "nuisance, a quite sterile appendage to rhetoric to which (unaccountably) teachers, pupils, and writers all over the world devoted much labor for over 2,000 years." Rather, Vickers demonstrates, rhetoric was a stylized representation of language and human feelings.

Vickers supplements his argument through analyses of the rhetorical and emotional structure of four Renaissance poems. He also defines 16 of the most common figures of rhetoric, citing examples from the classics, the Bible, and major English poets from Chaucer to Pope.


Brian Vickers is the author of Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose, The Artistry of Shakespeare’s Prose, In Defence of Rhetoric, Towards Greek Tragedy, and Shakespeare: "Coriolanus."


"Brian Vickers has provided what has been missing all along, a just, evenhanded, and comprehensive treatment of this subject. . . .Vickers manages neither to despise rhetoric nor to claim too much for it as an aid to our understanding." —Russell M. Brown, Renaissance and Reformation