7 Pages


Given the enormous new demands for educational, work, and recreational literacy, one cannot help but ask why didn't rhetoric expand to fill those needs instead of contracting so sharply? The answer is far too complex, being well beyond the scope of this discussion, to explore in any depth here. However, part of the answer lies in how rhetoric was conceived during this time. In a persuasive account of the influence of the modernist epistemology on rhetoric, Crowley (1990) traced how the tenets of 17th-century thinkers such as Bacon, Descartes, the Port-Royal logicians, and Locke were incorporated into and came to dominate the 18th-and 19th-century views regarding rhetoric. She pointed out that "the allegiance of eighteenth-century discourse theory to psychology and logic permitted two relatively new features to emerge within rhetorical theory: the privileging of a single authorial mind, rather than community wisdom, as the source of invention and the concomitant privileging of texts as reflections of this sovereign authorial mind" (p. 12). The modernist conception of knowledge contributed to the demise of rhetoric and specifically to the dismantling of the five canons (invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery) that had traditionally formed the core of every rhetoric since the time of the ancient Greeks.