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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Rhetorical Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0237  Thursday, 1 February 2001

[1]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 12:49:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0226 Re: Rhetorical Question

[2]     From:   Gideon Burton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 11:46:02 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.0226 Re: Rhetorical Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 12:49:46 -0500
Subject: 12.0226 Re: Rhetorical Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0226 Re: Rhetorical Question

Brian Vickers intervenes with his considerable authority in this
question as follows:

>The difficulty that discussants have had locating the appropriate figure
>should have alerted them to the fact that phrases such as 'words of woe'
>and 'kingdom of glory' are not rhetorical figures at all but
>straightforward grammatical constructions. They are either the normal
>genitive (expressing an appurtenance of a thing or quality to a person,
>for instance), or what linguists call a 'partitive genitive', where the
>first noun expresses the relationship of part to whole, having the
>essential form 'X of Y'.

I'm not convinced that there is no rhetorical figuration here.  Consider
"He spoke words of woe" -- this seems to me a distinctly rhetorical way
of say "He spoke woeful words", in which case we can recognize a kind of
anthimeria (substituting one part of speech for another).  The same
goes, perhaps less obviously as the phrase is more familiar, for
"kingdom of glory" = "glorious kingdom".  The figures originally
inquired about though, such as "The King's name is a tower of strength",
seem to combine this procedure with a logically earlier simple metaphor
"The King's name is a strong tower". Perhaps it is this combination
which is causing the difficulty. Re-parsing the adjective in effect
presents it as a kind of abstract quality, which may take over primacy
of attention in the figure as a whole. Compare the "arrows of outrageous
fortune" with taking arms "against a sea of troubles and by opposing end
THEM." [i.e. "My troubles are a sea which is ITSELF a troublous sea and
hence a sea OF troubles"]. Allegory is born from just this kind of
mobile concretizing, which is why the given examples often suggest an
allegorical or emblematic mode.

Something similar, but even more complex happens when Donne says "He
ruined me and I am rebegot/Of absence, darkness, death: things which are
not." Here "not" becomes a positive attribute (like "red") shared by the
listed elements instead of merely negating them, leading to the creation
of an imaginary "negative universe" with its own antimatter, and even
antipeople, of whom Donne is now one, for whom the winter solstice is
midsummer.

Is this helpful?

Tom Bishop

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gideon Burton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jan 2001 11:46:02 -0700
Subject: 12.0226 Re: Rhetorical Question
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.0226 Re: Rhetorical Question

Brian Vickers is correct to identify the grammatical form of phrases
such as "sea of despair" for which some of us have been debating
rhetorical nomenclature.  However, as is too often the case in grammar
texts both renaissance and recent, the rhetorical nature of the
grammatical construction is not elucidated in the grammatical label (in
this case, simply calling this a genitive or partitive genitive
construction).  This is why I have begun calling such constructions
"genitive metaphors" and "partitive metaphors." The grammatical term
suggests a simple part-whole relationship, but in a phrase like "sweet
smoke of rhetoric" (LLL 3.1.62) it is hard to believe the first noun
holds a simple "X of Y" part-to-whole relationship with the second noun
(as though rhetoric is made up of many parts, one of which is smoke).
There is a metaphor implied in the grammatical construction (that
qualities of this tangible noun, smoke, are transferred to the
intangible abstraction, rhetoric); it is not simply synecdoche.  This is
why I believe a rhetorical label is in order (whether or not such a
figure has been previously named).  Anything short of this would be--if
you'll forgive me--the "sweet smoke of grammar."

By the way, some welcome exceptions to the exclusion of rhetoric from
contemporary grammar can be found in Martha Kolln's _Rhetorical Grammar:
Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects_, 2d ed. (Allyn & Bacon, 1996);
Virginia Tufte and Garrett Stewart, _Grammar as Style_ (Holt, Rinehart,
and Winston, 1971); and especially Brock Haussamen, _Revising the Rules:
Traditional Grammar and Modern Linguistics_ (Kendall Hunt, 1993).

In the Renaissance this odd disparity between grammar and rhetoric--at a
time when both grammarians and rhetoricians shared common philological
acumen--can be seen in the contrastive way that Thomas Linacre and
Erasmus handled the figure "enallage" (the substitution of grammatically
different but semantically equivalent constructions).  In his grammar
text of 1524 Linacre provided an exhaustive register of the permutations
of enallage (a descriptive grammar of classical usage of this figure),
whereas in his De copia Erasmus not only categorized the permutations of
enallage (a noun substituted for a verb; passive voice for active,
etc.), but he also illustrated the rhetorical differences attending the
use of differing kinds of enallage.

Gideon Burton
Brigham Young University
http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/silva.htm
 

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