chapter  4
20 Pages

Appropriating Plato's Rhetoric and Writing into Contemporary Rhetoric and Composition Studies

An interpretive option for historicists of classical rhetoric and composition lies waiting: Platonic rhetoric. Two primary issues need to be reconceptualized and integrated into contemporary rhetoric and composition studies in order for this option to work: (1) what Plato says about rhetoric and writing in dialogues such as Phaedrus, Gorgias, and Protagoras and in Letter VII and (2) as significantly, the nature of Plato's writing as writing. In other words, historicists are faced not only with the familiar "what" issue (familiar because of our comfortableness with the positivism discussed in Chapters One and Two) but with the rather unfamiliar "how" issue. The latter problem of how Plato writes, including how he writes when he denounces writing itself, forms one definitive aspect of his rhetoric. Classical rhetoric, from Corax to the Sophists, to Plato and Aristotle, and on into the Romans, is consistently regarded as a faculty, an ability, as much as it is conceived of as a subject for study. Plato is not exempt from this stance toward rhetoric; he is a part of this stance.