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Trust in Texts

A Different History of Rhetoric

Susan Miller

Publication Year: 2007

Trust in Texts: A Different History of Rhetoric challenges the accepted idea of a singular rhetorical tradition poorly maintained from the Athenian Golden Age until the present. Author Susan Miller argues that oratorical rhetoric is but one among many codes that guide the production of texts and proposes that emotion and trust are central to the motives and effects of rhetoric.

This groundbreaking volume makes a case for historical rhetoric as disbursed, formal and informal lessons in persuasion that are codified as crafts that mediate between what is known and unknown in particular rhetorical situations. Traditional, unified histories of rhetoric ignore the extensive historical interactions among discourses— including medicine, drama, lyric poetry, philosophy, oratory, and literary fiction— that have operated from antiquity across cultures that are historically and geographically joined.

Drawing not just on traditional rhetorical works, but also on texts from philosophy and literature, Miller expands the body of works to be considered in the study of rhetoric. As the first book-length study that calls into question the centrality of logos to rhetoric, Trust in Texts will change the way the history of rhetoric is viewed and taught and will be essential to scholars and students of communications, rhetoric, English, classics, and literary studies.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

My mother had ways of describing people that I never hear now. She meant to teach us human standards, an agreed-upon code that everyone already knew. For instance, she would approvingly call someone “personable.” Dictionaries define it as “attractive,” but I gathered it meant “able to be a person among persons,” that is, comfortable with people in an easy, confident, ...


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pp. xiii-xvi

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pp. 1-32

It is obvious to many who focus on rhetoric’s history that there is no longer one entity that fits that term, and some think that there never was, that no unified rhetorical tradition ever existed. The ways we refer to rhetoric make it for once easy to agree with Gorgias that nothing exists that this word refers to. One frequent response to this situation is to claim that the way I use the...

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1. Decentering Rhetoric

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pp. 33-72

Scientists still disagree about whether Earth is one of many planets like it that orbit many stars like our sun that nurture life much like ours. We may not be the center of the universe. We are in any case much like each other, even if Copernicus’s hard-won mediocrity principle is false and we are unique creations inhabiting a unique planet given life by one special sun. So...

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2. Trusting Texts

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pp. 73-105

Certainly Renaissance/early modern histories of rhetoric recognize discrete forms of metadiscourse. Examples include attention to a revived poetics, rediscovered oratorical pedagogies, and a long epistolary tradition held over from church and other administrative chanceries, which is enlarged and complicated by the retrieval of Cicero’s familiar letters. Histories of these separate...

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3. The Mobility of Trust

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pp. 106-144

So far I have attempted to disrupt the default historiography that regularly narrates rhetorical theory and practices through one oratorical root metaphor. This traditional approach prevents accounting for the historic multiplicity of metadiscursive pedagogies that constitute cultures, seeing them as separate theories and practices. This current-historical tradition in rhetoric studies...

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pp. 145-156

Paul Bénichou closes The Consecration of the Writer: 1750–1830 by pointing out that the secular spiritual power he has been describing only begins in the mid-nineteenth century; his book unfolds the prehistory of that power and engages a point of view whose full narration might begin where his ends and continue to the current moment. He identifies this power as “critical in...


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pp. 157-164

Works Cited

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pp. 165-188


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pp. 189-203

Author Bio

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p. 221-221

Back Cover

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p. 222-222

E-ISBN-13: 9780809387670
E-ISBN-10: 0809387670
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327881
Print-ISBN-10: 0809387670

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2007