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When one wonders on the mutual relations between rhetoricy and the cultural changes one should consider thinking about new social and cultural conditions where the rhetoric dwells now. The diagnosis of the contemporary challenges threatens the practice and theory of literature is done by the researchers representing different fields of research and scientific background. What changes in practice and theory of rhetoric the modern culture brings? The answer to these questions is provided by historians of literature, philologists, lawyers and media specialists.


Maria Barłowska
Zakład Historii Literatury Baroku i Dawnej Książki
University of Silesia

For many ages the rhetoricy was transforming the face of European culture, so the statement of C.S.Lewis brought to light by Walter Ong sounds a bit paradoxically: “the rhetoric is the biggest barrier between us and our ancestors”. The situation of rhetoric has changed and maybe the Outlook from the perspective of old culture sharpens the image and lets to see the differences better.

The emotion known to every reader of rhetorically organized old literature is the overwhelming feeling of different rhythm of its time. The text flows broad and slow and its character is co-created with amplification aspiring to fullness. The text of speech needs time to realization, it demands stopping and rooting deep into the past, what can be seen in contemporary models of literature.

The statement that today the world is rushing is trivia, but the same thing is happening to culture. As stated Zygmunt Bauman (at the European Congress of Culture) “if there’s something for which the culture functions now as a homeostatic, it isn’t the conservation of the actual state, but the overwhelming rush to unrelenting change…” Time is rushing, time deceptively multiplicities by fragmentary and symultanic media gives also to the rhetoric. One can say in the most general way, that the different experience of time inscribed in contemporary culture is weakening the rhetoric’s traditional areas of stabilization and strengthening the categories of fragmentary nature, individuality, innovation.

The last instance, the always certain reference was for a rhetorician the community of the world bonding him with the audience. Through the ages the basis of its stable center was humanistic tradition, founded on Christianity and the heritage of classical era, being a kind of source of inventio in every rhetorical situation. In our times, the world is easily approachable in its universality, linked with global net of communication and dependencies, variance and open, multi-voiced and multicultural and one can ask about the possibilities and basis of rhetorical finding of community. Not only in the most numerous situations of computer (or other media) mediated communication but always towards to a human being used to unhindered freedom of choice, many offers, independence (especially the declared one) of statements, having potentially infinite knowledge of the global network, every-time-defining the world is hard. It’s the forever-going process which theoretical description can be a challenge to the modern rhetoric.

The stabilizing element in the process of persuasion was always the ethos of the speaker.

Finally every argument and every word is referred to him and can be modified by him. In classical presentation the image of the speaker was gaining the basic rooting by the reference to the obligation of the philosopher, in practice every of his speeches in the old culture situated the rhetorician in the whole net of social references: of family, state, territorial i.e. and his image was receiving fulfillment and over individual stability. In consequence the use of authority was much easier. The contemporary „speaker” not only because of the heritage of the romantic individualism but also by the constant bumping into different spaces, sheering many discussions, limited time, uncontrolled echoing of his voice in the media it is probably reduced. And, what follows, is the force with which his ethos becomes the subject of his creation, game, focusing on incidental, special element. When the right to speak is everything and it is given to everybody, the ethos becomes the first way of receiving and justification of speaking in such a manner, that everybody would like to listen.

Where the decisive point is a specific case of consciousness, the individual proof, language games steered by the individual conditions and the bet is victory – there sophistry is the queen. The contemporary culture is perfect for that and, as the practice shows (both of the teaching and the discourse), eristic measures are very popular. The fundamental question of the meaning and the mutual relation of sophistry and rhetoric are therefore unavoidable.


Iwona Bartoszewicz
Zakład Języka Niemieckiego
University of Wrocław

It’s really hard to tell what the modern culture is without the reference to the results of sociological and cultural research. The same thing is with the significance of its manifestations and the reference to which language group is really import ant. If we use some stereotypical expressions when can assume that we live in times of commercialization, egalitarisation and trivialization of everything, even that what sometimes appeared not-changeable. On the other side the possessions of culture, by their almost non-limited availability, have presumably deeper, but not necessary very deep influence on the (modern way o calling them) customers.

I don’t think that one could speak on the import ant changes in the foundations of theory and rhetorical practice. Ars rhetoric, by its multi-dimensionality and complexity and the holistic way of describing the role of a person in his references to other people with whom he connects and to the world, which on the one side he wants to discover and define and, on the other side he wants to change according to his intentions and needs, still depicts the actions of man very efficiently and obviously together with his communication activities, especially on persuasive character.

In the German area of research on rhetoric (here the majority of publication on this subject is being published) we can observe a very distinct, constantly growing and interesting participation of texts of language or, one should say: language and pragmatic profile, engaged with rhetorical problematic. One could even risk a statement that these works had given a new, also practical dimension to the rhetorical research by linking the rhetorical theory and the methods with theoretical, analytical and methodological solutions, resulting from the achievements of contemporary linguistics.

This peculiar takeover of the linguistic field was becoming a fact in the very time, when the trend of researching the aesthetic values of elocutio-centered texts of literature, whereas almost to the end of the last millennium the belief of the death of rhetoric was very common and the reasons for it were found in the accusations of degeneration of form, content and function. Ernst Robert Curtius1 speaks about it in his work on European literature, Publisher in 1948:

Rhetoric was the second of liberated arts. It directs us even deeper into the medieval culture than the grammar. It became strange to us. We don’t have it in schools […] In our culture there is no place for it. It would seem that the Germans are inborn with this kind of suspicion towards it. (Curtius 1997: 68)

The classical rhetoric is a revolting subject. Where are such readers like young Goethe who would assume that “everything that’s dealing with poetry and rhetoric, in any possible way, is delightful”? (Curtius 1997: 86)

In 1992 however, another German and an exquisite expert on rhetorical problematic, Josef Kopperschmidt, Publisher the text under a significant title: Rhetorica rediviva oder Totgesagte leben langer (Rhetorica rediviva or the pronounced dead live longer) 2. And it isn’t just the expression of his strong faith in the possibilities and the vitality of this art. This article is also the trial of describing the state of works written in so-called “New Rhetoric” school.

Rhetoric seems to be having some kind of a Renaissance in Germany, what is a happy thought, especially knowing that in the XIX century it wasn’t even present in schools. Now one should admit that it is present in the programs of many philological studies of many German universities. The students are taught not only the knowledge of history and theory of literature but there are also workshops being organized which aim at training the ability of proper construction of the statement of persuasive character, being a member of public debates, convincing to one’s position, discussing, argumenting and reading and interpreting the expressions of rhetorical and manipulative character.

Basing on a lecture of the papers on the German philology one could say, that the linguistic research, and especially of the empiric character and directed in the following fields of interest:

  • Theory and practice of argumentation3, especially the typology of arguments and topoi, research on the kind and frequency of the topoi in authentic texts, mostly of utilitarian character, but also in oral statements, research on argumentative structures, mistakes in argumentation, argumentative and persuasive strategies and their cultural conditions;
  • Research on the field of so-called politolinguisticsi4, especially research on the persuasive strategies in the whole area of officia oratoria with the emphasizing of the image problematic (what in different area is referred to the research of these elements in the area of commercial advertisement);
  • The research on the strategies of self-presentation (of people less or more public) and the presentation (of products by the TV ads), especially in the media;
  • Intercultural aspects of the process of rhetorical communication, including the problematic of politeness, strategies of resolving the issues of intercultural discord, language, cultural and communicative norms;
  • Argumentative mistakes, their typologies and positive and negative role in the process of communications, especially in rhetorical communications (persuasion);
  • Crossing the borders set by different disciplines in the area of linguistics5;
  • Testing the persuasive role of stylistic measures and stylistic structures of the texts (especially the utilitarian texts).

Of course next to the publications on academic character there are also these, which in popular way deliver the information on the persuasion on the addressee for different goals (self-promotion, communicative success – during job hunting, strategies of negotiation, NLP, non-verbal actions and their persuasive character) or improvement of the process of learning the text (mnemonics) and are used i.a. as material in different courses in training sessions but we omit them because of their character which doesn’t tally with the goal, essence and area of rhetorical problematic.

  1. Curtius, Ernst RobertLiteratura europejska i łacińskie średniowiecze. Tłumaczenie: Andrzej Borowski. Cracow 1997.
  2. Josef Kopperschmidt (1992): „Rhetorica rediviva oder Totgesagte leben langer. Ein Forschungsbericht“. Muttersprache 102: 238-267.
  3. One should point out the book by Dieter Wunderlich, published in 1974, being an intended introduction to the basic linguistic problems, in which most of the pages were devoted to the theory of argumentation and syllogisms (Dieter Wunderlich [1974], Grundlagen der Linguistik. Hamburg).
  4. Comp. Armin Burkhardt (1996) Politilinguistik. Versuch einer Ortsbestimmung. W: Josef Klein/ Hajo
  5. Diekmannshenke (Red.), Sprachstrategien und Dialogblockaden. Linguistische und politikwissenschaft liche Studien zur politischen Kommunikation. Berlin-New York, p. 75-100.
  6. A perfect example can be this following publication: Cordula Schwarze (2010) Formen und Funktionen von Topoi im Gesprach. Eine empirische Untersuchung am Schnittpunkt von Argumentationsforschung, Gesprachsanalyse und Sprachwissenschaft. Frankfurt/M. 2010.


Barbara Bogołębska
Katedra Dziennikarstwa i Komunikacji Społecznej
Universit of Łódź

  1. The noticeable culture of abbreviation is projected on the rhetoric of the text (understood as theory and construction), for shortening the text.
  2. The dominating tendency to competent educating (multi-competence) and not the erudite educating is the chance for rhetorical didactics on many levels of education and in many different dimensions.
  3. There is an overuse of terms, which don’t mean the use of rhetoric: rhetoric of feelings, things, kitsch, junk, fall, and presence.
  4. The world of nonfiction (out-literature media, according to R.Nycz – documentary, autobiographical and essay discourse) influences the interest in rhetoric. From the other side, there are still texts inspired by rhetorical art of the word.
  5. The domination of carnavalization of culture, its ludic dimension connecting it with delectare, is influencing many texts of culture (the genres “of play”
  6. The art of discussion is vanishing from the social and political life together with common communicative situations – polemic loses to the rhetoric of the fight, power, eristic, agony, domination, rabulism.
  7. The culture of image is influencing the visual rhetoric (domination of visual level).
  8. The development of electronic culture limits the rhetorical mnemonics (memoria).
  9. The culture of repeating (clichés, copies) makes the category of mimesis still actual.
  10. The poetic/culture of transgression is the leasing from the closed forms preserved by rhetoric.


Leszek Drong
Instytut Kultur i Literatur Anglojęzycznych
University of Silesia

As an English philologist engaged with theory of literature I observe very keenly the expressions named as academic discourse. Seeing the evolution of the register and the level of comminicativity of English language used by contemporary humanists (because I cannot understand works by physics, biologists or nanotechnologists, alas…) I recognize with pleasure that more and more of them start to use the advice of Gerald Graff, who was one of the most prominent scientists and American lecturers. Graff deals with something quite mundane – the efficient and clear transmitting of the thoughts with help of the text. In his books he’s openly criticizing the pompous, over-formalized language of contemporary humane studies. On the other side he is encouraging the scientists to reaching for the rhetoric arsenal which is used by the mass culture – by referring to film, sport, new music or even slang used by young people.

The contemporary culture is mainly the mass culture and the last years brought not only import ant changes in the way it should be hierarchies (the dissolution of the categorical diversification for high and low culture) but also new way of describing it. I have in mind the creation and development of cultural knowledge as a separate academic field, which by help of such people as Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall or Dick Hebdige (all closely connected with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham) have elaborated its own language and set a new research field, which hasn’t been touched by any anthropologist of culture, sociologist or ethnologist. Although in works of the culture specialists the very term of rhetoric is not very frequent, they are bringing up the issues connected with social communication and ideological and political dimension of culture, analyzing its influence on the image of reality, which is being created in the conscience of a man.

The contemporary knowledge of culture have brought to the academic halls many forms and phenomena of mass culture, indirectly and sometimes in a very direct way pointing out attention to its rhetorical dimension. What was impossible even to think about in the past – scientific papers on TV series, visual pleasures of shopping in big malls or the ethnical movies (I refer here to the well-known work by Barry Brummet, Rhetoric in Popular Culture) – became a fact in large measure with help of culture specialists, who saw the interpretative potential in these ostensibly trivial pieces of everyday life. Because this potential seems limitless, I think that the broadest understanding of mass culture (and one should point out that very often the culture as a whole has been identified with the idea of civilization by many researchers as Edward Taylor or Bronisław Malinowski) and for a long time it will be the main challenge both for the practitioners and the theoreticians of rhetoric.

In the same time we observe the process of different vector – growing interest in rhetoric from the side of the very mass culture. The examples of the proper use of rhetorical techniques can be found not only in the verbal level, but also in not-verbal one: visual, sound and even… olfactory! From the longest time the culture uses some rhetorical measures not only in literature, but also in the cinema – that masters of persuasion are the main characters of such movies as The Suspects (directed by Bryan Singer) or The Negotiator (directed by Gary Gray). A different icon of contemporary culture can be Gregory House (from the TV series House MD), an exquisite doctor, but also a keen manipulator. The example of a clean scientific approach to body language can be Dr. Lightman, the main character of the other American TV series (Lie to Me).

I’ve mentioned about rhetorical techniques which can affect the audience even by the sense of smell. Of course one can give here some trivial examples of cosmetic trials which should convince the readers of female magazines to buy some perfume or the moisturizing cream that smells of jasmine. I will refer to the field that is closely connected with the mass culture – to sport. In 2003 the Polish volleyball team was a big success, winning the European Cup with the help of their Rainer, Andrzej Niemczyl. Niemczyk has told later that one of the ways to deprive the rivals from the former Soviet Bloc (especially the Russians) was the skillfully prepared… make-up of the contestants – so they could feel confident and feminine when confronted to the terrorized and cosmetic – lacking pupils of strict trainers of other representations.

The representatives of other sports have also used many different rhetorical techniques. Famous Italian acting on the football stadium is known by every football fan. The simulated fouls play on time, forcing the penalty kicks are nothing other than the methods of manipulation using the body language, onomatopoeia as and even sometimes more complex drama techniques. Less agonistic example of using rhetoricy in sport is the interpersonal Communications used to motivate the competitor to use more effort of more concentration – and it can be observed in tennis courts, when the player yells to himself or explains to the imaginary friend how this very game should been played.

The majority of the phenomena I have listed were popularized in the past few years by electronic media. They are now the subject of special interest of the specialists of social communication and – the rhetoric. I’ve had to focus only on the practical aspects of mutual influences between the contemporary culture and the development of techniques of influencing our attitudes, behavior and Line of thought, to emphasize their unbreakable connection and two-way character. Undoubtedly the contemporary culture is still present in thoughts (also there of academic type) about the rhetoric and, in the same time, the rhetoric in the last years have become the separate and important subject on mass culture and, thanks to that, it gained a new, numerous circle of enthusiasts.


Wiesław Godzic
Katedra Medioznawstwa
Warsaw School od Social Sciences and Humanisties

Can rhetoricy be verbal – today? The reader should excuse me the paradox – because the first sentence has to sound like it. I can also understand the irritation of the listener – because rhetoric is connected with both the written and spoken language and so-called visual rhetoric was to this time only an addition which was interesting to only a little circle of researchers. So why ask such a question? But – I will try to show that it’s always worth to ask about possible borders of traditionally understood rhetoric.

I remember very well my little battles with visual metaphor, described in a book from 1984 (“Film i metafora”, Katowice). I started the work on the subject as a diligent student of rhetorical tradition. I based on the belief – very common in the theory of film – that visual metaphor is founded on the verbal one, and the latter always preceded the image. I’ve found many such cases in the history of the cinema – so I could have started to feel satisfied with the work I’ve already done. But, in the cinema after 1979, there other verbal-visual connotations started their predomination which in any way I couldn’t include in my explanations. I claimed that the name of visual metaphor should be changed into the significance supporting the basis (and later I’ve tried to construct and explained four types of such connotations).

But later it was worse – at least for the rhetoric, which source is always in the word. Because the word was spoilt: it became redundant, too little sophisticated and for most of the time – the user just used what was closest to him. The competence in creating the meanings from such a material were also drooping – little was enough and any lousy one was sufficient. But there a big palette of amazing and unknown to this time pictures with sound was created. They were done by professional transmitters, half-professional and total amateurs. In case of the latter their intentions of creating the meaning were additionally tangles, because we’ve had to ask as receivers if the specific connection was intended or it happened, when one cannot use the proper tools (and in addition – in time the mistakes – visuals and verbal – were becoming common and were considered a new norm).

And this, what happened when the internet approaches, we can surely name a Revolution. Namely: it deprived us of knowledge about the „zero level” of communications. Everything became Expressive, nothing was normal anymore. How to create rhetoric, when there is no more „normal” and „strange”? Everybody became an artist capable of using rhetorical tropes and at the same time no one was an artist according to good old norms. The artists run away to the descriptions of the triumphing reality and common people had spinned (imperfect) divagations on transcendence (experienced normality). If one adds that both the visual and the verbal rhetoric were used by the politicians in an extreme instrumental way, we have a total picture.

Let’s change the colors to a more optimistic palette. Still hundreds of researchers dwell on relations of meanings started by all of we speak, listen to, write and read. I’m emphasizing the duality of this communicative process – because this feature is the most important; the visuality seems subdued to it. The current rhetoric, based on a word demanded less interactivity – because the visual terms, to which the word referred to, very visual ideas subdued to strong stereotypization. That what awaits us and of what I am really scared (with my almost full acceptation of mass culture as the source of contemporary meanings) is the possibility of breaking the connection between the verbal and visual rhetoric. The “verbalists” will set in their trenches and close in the traditions and the “visualists” in the contrary: with slogans on unavoidable victory of the image, they will not try to formulate any innovative theses, because “we all live in the empire of the image”. Let’s try to find out the ones eager to connect this opposition. The image means together with the word and on their ideal balance that depends the future development of culture. Today the image wins abut it doesn’t mean that our obligation should be boosting its confidence – it should be enough to understand better who the moving pictures impact on us and what are we doing with them. Or – what are them doing with their users.


Jolanta Jabłońska-Bonca
Katedra Teorii i Filozofi i Prawa
Kozminski University Warsaw

In the rhetoric of law from the classical times the main role plays the argument of authority. Traditionally and also from a long time, the circle of lawyers (both the practitioners and the academics) is non-egalitarian and the establishment has the key meaning. Non-egalitarian are also the outside relations of the law environment with other social groups – the authorities of law (people regarded as such) act in the general social and political hierarchy in specially set places.

The subjects considered as authorities of law are functioning in the stable political system as an important, political “safety breaks”, because they consolidate the law and political axiology of the system and reform the law in a way that does not endanger the fundamental changes of the centers of political decision.

In the same time their own positions is a result of complicated social interactions in the field of power. The Authorities of law work also on the security of their own professional and personal success. It’s in some range the area of environmental taboo.

The political pressure of the contemporary government on the constant institutalisation and standarization of the procedures of gaining the best results from work, the stiffening of the rules of letting one to the main thread of discourse by the definition, where and how one can reveal the acknowledged results, paradoxically – it doesn’t waken this hierarchy – but leads to holding up the constant position of the acknowledges law authorities. This pressure lets the authorities to control the already gained power in the discourse. If one approbates the public control (ministry, corporation), it’s possible to limit any methodological discussion and the protection of traditional paradigms thanks to defining the already known results. It means the stabilization, safety and comfort for the very authorities and for the rules of political system.

The opinions of privileges authorities have (had?) therefore bigger meaning in persuasion, and are the elements setting the discourse on; they can also close it, for ex ample for the protection for the traditional, acknowledged paradigms of argumentation and strategy of use and interpretation of the law.

Lately the Internet starts to break the hierarchy and questions it. Is seems that the stability of the interior orders in law environments starts to crumble together with the hierarchy of the authorities. The virtual environment, social media, web forums, blogs and new measures of communication offered, especially to young lawyers, such a new levels of contacts which made the argumentation possible and able to be evaluated as non-cohesive with the “environmental” recognition, destroying borders set by the “cohesive opinion of authorities”.

In weblogs and portals there are numerous texts of very critical nature towards the arguments of known law authorities and towards themselves. These texts are anonymous in most of the cases. Could they, although and maybe even because, convince anyone to many actions of legal and law character? The specific of legal argumentation was always a high rank of the argument of traditional, known authority. Is this still on?

Because of the new, alternative, egalitarian space of public discourse available to „niche” lawyers who don’t have many chances to argument in mainstream journals and in key media. Is it without any meaning at all for the stability of traditional, legal, cultural centre?

Gradually there arises an egalitarian space of public conversation on the subject of the law for everybody who to this Day didn’t have any chance to participate in the public debate because of limited access to traditional media and the legal environment. Can this influence the model of interpretation of the law? On the other side the Internet, but also other media, contribute to the creation of the popularity. The lawyer has to be credible and visible, because the “personal brand” (“face”) he tries to create also in the Internet. In this Internet popularity also the acknowledged legal authorities are looking for additional legitimization and strengthening of their influence in the group and in the outside world. How important is such an image for the legal culture? If and how is it enhancing the substantial argumentation?

Is the „brand” being similar in quality to the „personal brand” gained in the legal environment traditionally chosen by printed literature and the formal situation? The internet seems to contribute to the egalitarian attitude: everybody can try to dispute with a prominent scientists and the lawyer, who writes a blog. There is no place for elite and excellence. The Internet gives one an impression that the „creation” of gaining the knowledge is so easy that one can get it very quickly and convince other to his opinions similarly quick.

The assumptions signalized here – of changing situation of the legal authority are of fundamental meaning for the changes of legal culture, practice of legal rhetoric and demand interdisciplinary research in the nearest time possible.


Jakub Z. Lichański
Zakład Retoryki i Mediów
University of Warsaw

I will begin with the recollection of two opinions; the first one will be Jose Ortega y Gasset. The Spanish researcher pointed out that the rhetoric lets one to evaluate things in objective and balance way; it’s the rational approach to any problem. Kenneth Burke observed, that “where is the meaning – there is persuasion; where is persuasion – there’s the rhetoric”. Other researchers spoke in a very similar way, so let me return to Aristotle who in the first chapter of his Rhetoric emphasized that it’s not only similar to dialectics, but, above all:

[…] They both concern the same kind of cases, which to some point are known to every human being and are not the basis of any school subject. Therefore we all are using the first and the second art, because every person has something to do with undermining or proving some opinion, with offense or defense [Aristotle’s, I.1.1354a1-5, transl. Henry Podbielski].

In the commentary to this fragment Henryk Podbielski points out that Aristotle thinks about “the methodology of proper use of the speech”. I would say that it should be rather the language, but this issue is quite irrelevant.

Because the rhetoric is an ability of creating texts which main goal is the argumentation for some hypothesis – this opinion of Dionysius of Halicarnassus is the basis of lecture on rhetoric which was given by Richard Emil Volkmann in the end of the XIX century – it’s a real problem, if it considers only the language or every art is a bit barren and unnecessary subject of discussion. If we create something of persuasive character (also work of architecture, music, picture, sculpture, movie, radio or television broadcast, advertisement, webpage and so on) – then we always deal with rhetoric.

The cultural changes which happened to the human civilization did not influence the rhetoric so much to undermine or question its rules. The peculiar revolutions which happened to us from the fall of the Roman Empire have rather strengthened than questioned the position and meaning of the rhetoric. Not only the works of Chaim Perelman are the confirmation of this thesis, but the whole school and Rather a method of rhetorical criticism or the permanence of rhetoric as a subject of teaching from elementary school to the universities (Poland seems to be a sad exception of this rule).

The changes in culture or the development of the civilization are still connected with the fact that today Plato would fly a plane and Aristotle would use a computer. The essence of it – the relation of a man towards other man, the want to convince or persuade the other, defending his rations, attacking the position not cohesive with my outlook – these activities all needs the knowledge of the theory of rhetoric. If we don’t change the language to the different way of transmitting the information – rhetoric will not be forgotten or will not fade.

If we read the remarks of Quintilian on the upbringing of a „proper citizen” [Quint., I, intr., 9-10: „this man, the real citizen, created to direct the public and private causes, who could prudently rule other countries, legalize them, reform them with a jury, is no other than a rhetorician”] and the definition of rhetoric [Quint., V.10.54: „Rhetoric est inveniendirecte et disponendi et eloquendi cum fi rma memoria et cum dignitate actionis scientia– The rhetoric is a knowledge/art. Of how should one property find, put in order and speak (in a sense of proper grammar form), with (use of) good memory and proudly present (any text)”] we will clearly see that he speaks about a science, an art that we can name an n universal one.

I pointed out once that the rhetoricy reminds of mathematic in a sense that is describes the general rules of generating any given text; maybe both of them are a product of our culture, but – although we don’t want to agree with it – they are independent on its changes. The resignation on rhetoric is a resignation on one thing that describes one of important features of our humanity. I will finish these remarks with the image of Abraham who „barters” with God of the future of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah [Gen., XVIII. 20-33]. The close reading of this fragment an analysis of the text will tell us many on what was and still is – rhetoric, how to construct a speech, how to use arguments, to achieve a success. This very fragment is a really remarkable praise of rhetoric, real Queen of Arts and Science, who could save both of the cities of the annihilation; she didn’t lose, the inhabitants did, because they couldn’t find ten just people among them. And this is the end – Madame Rhetoric is always described with a sword in her hand; she is one of the images of wisdom, and it is one of the attributes of God. Or Gos.


Małgorzata Lisowska-Magdziarz
Instytut Dziennikarstwa i Komunikacji Społecznej
Jagiellonian University

As a media specialist I will not attribute myself with a competence so high to make a statement on the perspectives of development of theory of rhetoricy as a science. I can however make some wishes and postulates towards this art…

On the very place and role of rhetoricy in contemporary world I look from the point of view of someone who is interested, above all, with media practice and what are the contexts for the public debates and private little narratives and how are they created by the measures of mass communication. I think that the rhetoric as a common day communication practice of people is created in most of the ways that what we hear on every day and what can we read in mass press. Therefore the theory of rhetoric cannot omit rhetoric of medial statements; it should be its most important, and in any case most vast and multi-dimensional subject. In the meanwhile in the beginning of the changes in content, form and technology in media both the practice of rhetoric and its research and contraction of new theories is challenged with new adventures – connected both with the form and technological nature of the media and the changes in the contents of rhetorical statements.

On one side it Gould seem very import ant to formulate and test the theory of rhetoricy in the area of multi-modal media. The research on the rhetoric of the image are conducted – with very interesting results – at least from the half of the last century, nowadays it has to be something more than the possibility, forms, visual structure of rhetorical measure. It would concern the big sphere of relations between word, image, music, natural sounds, movement and time and the persuasive goals of the statement and the very statement destined to quick receive in the conditions of many noises, lack of concentration, dissolution and multitasking of memory.

From the point of view of the content however it occurs a question of the conditions of existence and the efficiency of rhetorical statement in mass media, which are being ruled by content, formal and technological convergence. Among numerous consequences of convergence processes is also the mixing and transgression of the discourse of political, promotional, educational, entertainment nature 0 on the conditions described, above all, by the hedonistic demands of the audience. The public demands on the media, and therefore on the rhetorical statement dwelling inside de – of political, point of view, commercial, educational nature – the maximal attractiveness and strong stimulation, emotional and sensual. It’s impatient, skeptical, careless but also active; it has a vast store of multimedia, intertextual competence and seeks the possibility of participation in the public discourse (culture 2.0!) In this situation the real challenge is to formulate and create the conditionis to present the opinions and efficient persuading in a reasonable way, referring to reasonable premises and with use of these arguments, tropes and rhetorical measures which refer to the intellect and not to emotions and ludic needs.

Without it would be impossible to maintain the high level of substantiate and reasonability of a public debate. What can be the consequences, we can clearly see (with help of the mediated media) in our political and social life.


Cyprian Mielczarski
Instytut Filologii Klasycznej
University of Warsaw

The general rhetorization of Euro-American is a challenge for Polish education, because it is the tendency, which influences almost the whole functioning of our civilization. Cultural ideal of homo loquens created in classical times by the sophists, Aristotle and Cicero never will lose his actuality. This very ideal has nowadays the persuasive character in both positive and negative way. Most often a word is a tool of peaceful influence or subduing to the will and thoughts of other individuals.

I think that in XXI the term of interpretation and not the truth will be the Real basis of the innovative humane arts which explain the essence of democratic culture and the society put under ever-going pressure of different symbols and signs. From this very reason the relation between the word and the „truth” functioning is a given cultural environment and between Word and the communicating subjects is the Basic problematic of the newest theoretical humane arts and philosophy – one should remember neopragmatists as Rorty, postmodernists, Perelman, Gadamer or Habermas. The latter wants to “deretorize” the democratic society and tries to create such an ideal „communicative situation” when every words, theses, statements and formulas have purely objective character which express the “rational will” in reference to the common interest of the communication members, without any elements of persuasion. May theoreticians claim that this is impossible – we are destined to individual and collective persuasion, which, as the negation of obligation and force; it’s the essence of every real democracy.

Liberal idea of “competitive society” concerns also the competitiveness in Communications. The contemporary man is being bombed with vast amount of information and cultural facts, creating his behavior and personality. That’s why we should change the goals of our school education, which brings only the understanding of mechanisms of education and rules of mutual relations between the individuals in the world based on opposition of interests, ideas and attitudes. The competitiveness is the essence of European culture from the times of ancient Greece, where the relations between the citizens had agonistic character.

The problem of contemporary general education is preserving the individuality, independence and creativity of the individual towards the broadly understood pressure from anybody who have the instruments of persuasion at their disposal, such as science, religion, national and political tradition and other values treated as norms generally approved in given cultural environment or as the rules being the foundation of our identity or outlook orientation. The drama of eternal cultural oppression is showed by Gombrowicz in his all works, which in this sphere precedes the intellectual achievements of the most contemporary postmodern philosophers. The genius author and observer of the reality have artistically presented what later became a core of many academic theories and social and political orientation (many new leftist movements, for example every alter-global movement).

In our reality of state and culture every experience of reality is of language character and we are destined to the overwhelming rule of logos. The understanding of its rhetorical essence is a necessity of our civilization which should be translated to special academic practices. It concerns both the general education and the sublime humane subjects which are drifting in the direction of methodology based on interpretation. The contemporary pedagogy recommends the selection of information and such education which teaches like „not to live a thought of the other”. The forming of self-expression in the brad meaning of the word will be the foundation of education in this century.


Przemysław Nehring
Katedra Filologii Klasycznej
Nicolaus Kopernicus Univeristy, Toruń

If we will, after Aristotle, consider rhetoric as an art of convincing, it – as it would seem – is doing really well nowadays. One could say that from the ancient times it wasn’t so important. To the traditional fields, where it was practiced for the ages – or the sphere of politic and law – one should add the next fields, connected with liberal commerce and an idea of so-called open society. It’s really hard to dispute with the statement that the skilful use of rhetoric tools lets one also efficiently form the demand on some products and services and form specific social attitudes. The ubiquitous and for every year more intelligent media ease the process of reaching with the transmission both the big groups of people and the specific, selected groups or even individual people who are to be especially prone to this kind of persuasive influence. The possibilities which are opened by this situation are then vast, both for the range and the efficiency of persuasion, which can be measured with innovative sociological tools.

There is no doubt that in contemporary world we use this potential in general and often without a moment of reflection upon the moral aspect of persuasion. The old definition by Cato, the one of the “rhetorician”– vir bonus dicendi peritus so the honest man skilful in speaking – which, as an image of ideal, was quoted by Cicero and then by Quintilian doesn’t describe, even in the ideal dimension neither the most valued contemporary theoreticians nor the most skillful practitioners in this area of interest. One shouldn’t be so surprised – that natural in ancient world connection of rhetoric and the upbringing and the general education has nothing in common with the modern systems of education. The place of the teacher-rhetorician was taken by renting a couch (trainer, PR specialist, expert on political marketing) to the day of achieving the temporary effect. The set of presentation, the suitable foreword and ending of the meeting, selection and construction of the arguments of, in the end, the way of speaking and even the gesticulation is being written down in handbooks and use them during the training for managers, politicians, PR specialists or just sellers. The knowledge known to classical theoreticians and the practitioners of pronunciation, gained by several years in rhetorical school, is often reduced to the set of techniques of purely manipulative character. Less and less place is left for traditional arguments of syllogistic nature; more often, as it would seem, the persuaders refer to the affective sphere of the persuaded.

This kind of persuasion, practiced obviously in the ancient world and it was recommended for such cases which were hard to defend because of its dubious character. It doesn’t mean that in our times one doesn’t use the rhetorical knowledge for forming the noble social attitudes of propagating the directly good moral models, but it means that one doesn’t see any kind of connection of morals and rhetoric. This situation has to worry, because in the peculiar game, which is player between well-trained specialists of persuasion and lacking the elementary rhetorical knowledge, often selected addressed of their persuasion and the latter are completely defenseless. One doesn’t have to, like In ancient handbooks; put the vigilance of the listener to sleep, when he perfectly knew that somebody skilful in art of persuasion can change him into the victim of manipulation.


Antoni Smuszkiewicz
Instytut Filologii Polskiej
Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

The classic rhetoric, or the theory and art. of speech, including also the set of rules f perfect pronunciation (ars bene dicendi) in the end of XX and in the beginning of XXI century still relives its unusual renaissance. New conditions of social and cultural life in Poland together with increase of popularity and meaning of multimedia measures, influencing the members of the “great agora”, as the contemporary world would seem, called sometimes, following McLuhan, “a global village”, have started the need of reaching the models of effective persuading to the very arsenal of old rhetorical measures.

The rhetoric, as a subject of school education under the name of „speech education”, impoverished by the important fields of formulating and realizing the expression (speech, oration) as inventio, disposition, remembering and pronouncing, brought just to elocution, have ended its existence together with the XIX century, leaving only the last bridgeheads in court rhetoric and the homiletics. The driver away from school education by the knowledge of literature and the language, the subjects modeled on scientific arts like history of literature and descriptive grammar began in the common language the pejorative synonym of the ornament verbosity, destined to contempt and prohibition. Later there were times of many different totalitarianisms where the whole public discourse consisted of listening to one-sidedly mediated imperative and prohibitions. The way of efficient persuading were reduced to the absolute

Only with the fall of the totalitarianisms and with the development of democracy, similar like In ancient Greece, in contemporary Europe the meaning of rhetoric has increased. The necessity of gaining followers and convincing the opponents to one’s own reasons has caused the need for different methods of persuasion. Therefore in contemporary, broadly understood culture, the classical rhetoric slowly regains its important place there, where it is needed to influence the listener, addressee of the statement, gaining him and convincing – both in the common advertisement and the electoral political propaganda.

In the last case, when the main language measure is the natural spoken language, every rule of rhetorical persuasion could be (and generally, are) used dependently on the speech abilities of the specific politician, although it can happen that they not always are used with full conscience of their rhetorical provenience.

The meaning of knowledge and rhetorical ability in this field is obvious and doesn’t need a specific commentary. The situation changes were in place of the natural language comes another “language” of , when – to put it in the different words – persuasive statement is formed in a different code, when the transmittant of the communicate operates in different code but – what is obvious – known the addresses of his “statements”. Because we deal with rhetoric always when there is a necessity of influencing the listener, there is also a need of observing the “different communicates” on the point of view of rhetorical theory and – what’s highly plausible – on the one side it leads to perfecting the forms of persuasive influencing, and from the other one – start and strengthen the assertivity of the listener, “vaccinate” him for captivating influences of forever attacking, diverse propaganda.

In the contemporary world, full of broadly understood consumption of material and social foods, the special meaning is added to the advertisement, which is the modern form of persuasive influencing. It convinces the listeners both to buying the recommended product and to voting for recommended candidate. It persuades to accepting the given attitudes, forces a specific way of behaving, proper from the point of view of the speaker. One shouldn’t be so surprised that many rhetorical tricks are alive again, mainly In the range of figures of thought (figurae sententiae) than figures of words (figurae verborum, figurae elocutionis), because in new forms of persuasion we generally have to deal with the language a bit different than the common one. In the era of the end of Gutenberg’s galaxy, thought its fate isn’t destined yet, the more and more meaning gains the culture of pictures, what is happening because of the development of multimedia measures (television, comic books, Internet, video games). To put it in different words, the image language of contemporary culture seems to be driving away the natural ways of communication.

The number of codes of social Communications, being a consequence of development and dissemination of mass media, is the important feature of contemporary culture. From this very reason the interest in rhetoric is increasing, although its image is a bit different. By offering the measures that could influence the listener in a smaller percent is close to oratorical art, and in bigger – to argumentative techniques. In any case it is still a trial of influencing of one’s own new measures on the intellect (docere), emotion (movere) and esthetic tastes (delectare) of the audience.

There are many examples of using the rhetorical theory to different features of contemporary social and cultural life. For some of them, especially on the advertisement, the pressure was put by Umberto Eco in The Semiotic Landscape6 (See U. Eco, Pejzaż semiotyczny, transl. A. Weinsberg, Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warsaw 1972, p.234-267). Another way of influencing the audience can be also the creating of products which by their look communicate content close to the listeners and therefore they favorably predisposing the client to this product and in consequence they persuade to buy it. Among aspects of this kind, compelled so to speak for buying the product, accented i.a. by overwhelming practicality, manifested by a vast number of different functions (for example: kitchen robot, cell phone or TV decoder), which the average user cannot use fully. It recommends its buying, because the multi-functionality is show as a feature of positively marked modernity and as a visual for the environment factor of standard of the user’s life. The buying of a given product is supported not only byte logic of the statement, pointing its utilitarian value, so the appeal to the intellect (docere), but also the distinctive reference to the emotional sphere (movere). The contemporary indicator of the modernity, maybe more felt than realized, is the fluidity of the shapes, necessary in the constructions of rockets, planes or fast cars, but unnecessary in radio adapters, computer printers or digital cameras which are not flying and this kind of shapes cannot be explained – like Stanisław Lem told us many years ago – “neither the conditions of their work not the goal of their work” (S. Lem, Summa technologiae. Wydanie II poszerzone, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Cracow 1967, p.29). Although very often they have the very shapes because the fluidity in our times (as a peculiar synonymous of the modernity) is marked positively and appeals to the esthetic sphere (delectare) of the buyer.

Other measure appealing to the esthetic sphere can be also a proper coloring or – more generally – the packaging. It concerns both the simple products, many different devices, apparatuses, tools and books with the distinctive reference to not only the collector abilities of the buyer but rather to the fitting the new thing to the already possessed set, being one system chosen by color. The artisan will buy the tool with a handle of chosen color if the has similar colored things at home. The reader also will buy the book with more pleasure, even when he doesn’t like it, if it’s published in the same way that the books he already has at home in a series (especially if the series is numbered). Undoubtedly he wouldn’t buy it in a different cover. One can then say that the contemporary design is using its specific rhetoric too, the one being on the pay of commercial persuasion, which actuality doesn’t mean the actuality of its persuasion.


FAR 2011 No. 2 (25) April-June

Rhetoric and cultural transformations



(Instytut Polonistyki Stosowanej UW)