chapter  1
36 Pages

THE TRANSMOGRIFICATION OF RHETORIC AND THE EMERGENCE OF COMPOSITION

In outlining the characteristics of the ideal orator, Cicero’s Crassus lamented the transformation of knowledge communities into specialized branches, for he saw the compartmentalization of knowledge as diminishing the orator and even rhetoric itself. All knowledge, for Cicero, was at the center of rhetoric. In the ideal rhetor, “the acuteness of the logicians, the wisdom of the philosophers, the language almost of poetry, the memory of lawyers, the voice of tragedians, the gesture almost of the best actors, is required” (I xxviii 37). Cicero’s De Oratore is marked by a nostalgia for the days when it seemed more possible for the orator to be a well-rounded and learned individual as well as for a time when the political conditions of the Roman republic were more favorable for rhetoric and the rhetor.