Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rhetoric and Story

I posted yesterday about the importance of story.  Today I want to follow that up with my interest in rhetoric.  My interest in rhetoric parallels the the story I told yesterday.  I began studying rhetoric, specifically rhetoric in the New Testament in my second year of Ph.D. studies.  Since then my interest in the subject has grown, culminating in my recent dissertation Figuring Jesus: The Power of Rhetorical Figures of Speech in the Gospel of Luke.

Rhetoric usually gets a bad name.  It is often used pejoratively in the news, and usually refers to someone covering up lies of half truths with flowery language.  While that is one use of rhetoric, I believe that rhetoric is much more akin to storytelling, and all good storytelling uses good rhetoric. Both story and rhetoric are tools used to convey a message, to convey truth.  Both attempt to persuade their audience of their position. When stories are told well, the elements of the story are unobtrusive and not heavy handed.  I believe the same can be said about good rhetoric.  When someone uses a well crafted rhetorical device or strategy, it should not stand out as rhetoric, it is just effective communication. 

In my teaching I want to make use of both good storytelling and good rhetoric. For what is a teacher doing but conveying a message?  Shouldn't they strive to convey that message well?

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