Burkett on Aristotle’s “Rhetoric”

John Burkett headshotTexas Christian University’s open, online thesis repository contains John Burkett’s treatment of Book III of Aristotle’s Retoric. The project is a commentary-style work on that book that strives to complete the project that William Grimaldi began with Books I and II. According to the abstract,

This new commentary on Aristotle’s Rhetoric III serves the purpose which the text held at the Classical Lyceum: elucidating Aristotle’s theory of style (lexis) and arrangement (taxis) for scholars, teachers, and practitioners of rhetoric. This commentary provides a much needed update because the last commentary, written by Cambridge classicist E. M. Cope in 1877, is now understood as a misinterpretation that reads Aristotle Platonically, takes seriously only rational appeals, assumes a mimetic theory of language that depreciates style, and misdefines central concepts like the enthymeme and common topics. Providing a new interpretation, this commentary may be summarized by three adjectives: Grimaldian, rhetorical, and accessible. First, this Grimaldian commentary applies the new rhetoric philosophy of William M. A. Grimaldi, S.J., which he explicates in Studies in the Philosophy of Aristotle’s Rhetoric (1972) and in his two-volume Commentary (1980-1988), wherein Grimaldi develops an integrated and contextual interpretation of the Rhetoric. Second, this rhetorical commentary observes the rhetoric in the Rhetoric since Aristotle typically practices what he teaches: writing with enthymemes, defining by metaphor, clarifying by antithesis, and arranging units by thesis, analysis, and synthesis. This commentary observes how Aristotle applies his three rhetorical appeals (êthos, pathos, logos), his theories of propriety (prepon), exotic (xenos), and virtue (aretê) in style, and the systems of Greek imagery, all of which develop a unified and interactive theory of invention, style, and arrangement. Attention is given to Aristotle’s creative theory of metaphor, being a tropos (turn) and a topos (place) of invention, functioning as a stylistic syllogism for creating knowledge with quick, pleasant learning. Arrangement also functions creatively with localized topical procedures for responding to the particular needs of each part of a composition. Third, this accessible commentary features text, translation, comments, and glossary for readers who may not be familiar with Aristotle’s idiom but who have an interest in his rhetorical theory and technical terms. Finally, incorporating recent scholarship, this commentary provides insights from classical rhetoric and new rhetoric, showing their interrelationship and how contemporary research in rhetoric builds on and helps to elucidate Aristotle’s expansive rhetoric as a general theory of language.

For the project’s full text, see TCU’s repository. On a personal note, I had the privilege of working for John while he was working on this project. Discussions with him about some of the more problematic approaches to Aristotle’s Retoric that are noted above proved quite enriching, helpful, and informative, and I’m delighted to see that his project is openly available for interested readers’ consumption.

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