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Reviewed by:
  • Introduction to Rhetoric
  • Haixia W. Lan (bio)
Zheng Yishou . Introduction to Rhetoric辭章學發凡. Fuzhou: Haixia Wenyi Chubanshe, 2005. 365 pp. Paperback 40.00 yuan, ISBN 7-80640- 812-6.

Introduction to Rhetoric by Professor Zheng Yishou is a textbook for university students of rhetoric in China; it is also an invaluable resource for all students of comparative/contrastive Chinese and Western rhetoric. Its coverage is comprehensive, referencing extensively discussions by writers ancient and contemporary, Chinese and Western; its approach is systematic, centering its discussion on the concept of a four-six construction and thus facilitating the teaching and learning of rhetoric; and its scholarship is in depth, providing compelling evidence for the study of rhetorical invention throughout China's long history and thus establishing another link between rhetorical studies in China and the West.

Introduction provides a comprehensive discussion of Chinese rhetorical studies, drawing upon an array of Chinese rhetoricians' theoretical and pedagogical insights into language use in relation to language, language user, and reality. At the same time, even though language use is discussed as a dynamic and thus highly complex activity, Professor Zheng's systematic approach demonstrates that it is also an activity that can be understood and taught, as well as learned. The conceptual frame work of Introduction consists of four units (四元) and six dimensions (六維), the latter of which refer to the relationships among the four units. Professor Zheng argues that this four-six construction enables a more thorough and complete understanding of the dynamic rhetorical activities. The four units include the cosmos, language use, expressions, and reader's response, and the following six dimensions refer to the connections among the four units:

  • • How the cosmos shapes language use and language use shapes the cosmos;

  • • How language use shapes expressions and expressions shape language use;

  • • How expressions shape reader's response and reader's response shapes expressions;

  • • How reader's response shapes the cosmos and the cosmos shapes reader's response;

  • • How the cosmos shapes language use and language use shapes the cosmos; [End Page 533]

  • • How expressions shape reader's response and reader's response shapes expressions.

As seen here, the emphasis is on the reciprocal, or dialectic, relationships among all the units in discursive contexts. Throughout the book, Professor Zheng carefully discusses each of the units, traces the change among the relationships, and illustrates with clear graphs and vivid examples. The examples, which are based on Professor Zheng's lifelong teaching and research in Chinese rhetoric, combine theoretical discussions with textual appreciation and make the reading of Introduction an experience that satisfies both the heart and the mind.

Another significant characteristic of Introduction is its contribution to the study of rhetorical invention; it demonstrates that rhetorical invention is an integral part of rhetorical studies in China. Using example after example, Professor Zheng illustrates how the Chinese have had a long history of exploring the dynamic, intricate, and substantive relationship between thinking and language use, content and form. The word rhetoric has presented a challenge to translators, and I believe an important reason for this lies in the concept of rhetorical invention. As a discipline of study, rhetoric in the West has a history of viewing all five canons of rhetoric-invention, organization, style, memory, and delivery-as relational to each other and integral to rhetoric; however, it is difficult to find one Chinese concept that captures all these five canons. For many historical reasons, "rhetoric" is often translated as 修辭 (xiu-ci), which is more accurately a translation for "stylistics," a branch of study in linguistics. Last year, for example, the International Society of History of Rhetoric conference in Los Angeles brought together a panel of rhetoricians from China and a few rhetoricians from the United States, and there was an informal consensus that we did not seem to think about rhetoric "in the same way." The conference participants from China focused more on the study of language, or stylistics, while those from the United States focused more on the study of language use, that is, stylistics in its socio-cosmic context. Because rhetoric and linguistics, though related, are studied as different disciplines of inquiry here in the United States, the translation of "rhetoric" as...


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