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Rhetoric is the art of persuasion through language. Because skillful use of language can be used in argument to persuade others of things that aren't well-supported by reason, the term came to be used for such empty or deceptive language, or for contentious arguments where clever words are more prominent than actual facts. However, the term is used in a deeper and more constructive sense in the study of human communication.

(Definitions, discussion of conflicting opinions, ending with synthesis: a working general definition of rhetoric for this article)

  • Classical (Greek)
    • Corax (5th century BC) -- produced first written manual of rhetoric
    • Gorgias (483?-376? BC) -- father of systematic study of rhetoric
    • Isocrates (436-338 BC) -- foremost teacher of oratory in the ancient world
    • Plato (427-347 BC) -- outlined the differences between true and false rhetoric
    • Aristotle (384-322 BC) -- created most influential systemization of rhetoric ever written -- The Art of Rhetoric
  • Classical (Roman)
    • Cicero (106-43 BC) -- Great Roman orator and philsopher
    • Quintilian (AD 35-100) -- Imperial professor of rhetoric, complete system of rhetorical education
  • Medieval
  • Renaissance
    • Desiderius Erasmus (AD 1466?-1536) -- Dutch scholar, wrote on style and composition
    • Juan Luis Vives (AD 1492-1540) -- established pattern of rhetorical education in English
    • Leonard Cox (AD ??-??) -- produced first rhetoric handbook in English --Arte or Crafte of Rhetoryke (1530)
    • Thomas Wilson (AD 1525?-1581) -- neoclassicist, wrote most popular English Renaissance rhetoric handbook - The Arte of Rhetorique (1553)
  • Modern
    • (there's quite a few here; I need to do a little sifting first)
  • Contemporary
    • (insert some contemporary rhetorical and communication theories and theorists here)

Current State of Rhetorical Study

Rhetorical theory today is much more heavily influenced by the research results and research methods of the behaviorial sciences and by theories of literary criticism than by ancient Rhetorical theory.

See also; Further reading