Category Archives: Rhetoric

King’s Grand Style

It has been maintained that Martin Luther King Jr. was the last American orator to use the grand level of style appropriately. In my rhetoric text Fitting Words, I define the grand level as that “in which the stylistic devices are intended to be dramatic, apparent, and impressive. Its purpose is not only to inform the mind and persuade the will, but to grip the emotions and heart. It is most appropriate for speeches delivered on formal occasions.”

Anyone who has listened to (or at least read) some of his speeches – especially his most famous “I Have a Dream” – is aware that MLK uses stylistic devices in a dramatic and impressive way, a way that can grip the mind and heart of his hearers.  Here are some quotes from my text which shows his skill in using the grand level of style. Continue reading King’s Grand Style

What will I learn in Fitting Words – 2nd half?

Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student is arranged around the five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. In the first half of this course, after laying the Christian philosophical and historical foundation of the subject, we concentrated on constructing the first two canons: invention, and arrangement (primarily the six parts of a discourse). We also studied the three artistic modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos (including the special lines of argument: forensic, political, and ceremonial oratory).

In the second half of this course, we will continue to learn about logos by constructing general lines of argument. In Unit 5 we will review the applicable parts of logic: defining terms, determining truth, employing maxims, and using inductive and deductive arguments. We will also considering the destruction of our opponents’ arguments in refutation, including identifying informal fallacies.

In Unit 6 we will learn about Style: understanding the nature of the soul, speaking with clarity and elegance, the levels of style, and figures of speech and thought. In Unit 7 we will learn the essential skills of memory and delivery.

We will continue to see examples of all of these concepts in historical and biblical speeches and other discourse. Click HERE to learn more.


In Defense of the Winter Soldier

As I teach for the first time through Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student, I am pleased with what my students are producing.

We have been learning about forensic (or judicial) oratory, including the definition of wrongdoing, the elements of proving wrong, the state of mind of wrongdoers, non-technical modes of persuasion, and more. The most recent assignment was this:


Here is the forensic speech of one of my students, Daniel Seifert, defending Bucky Barnes (from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) of the alleged murder of Tony Stark’s parents and others.

Hard Words for Homeschool Moms

While teaching my classes online, speaking with customers at conventions, and swapping stories with my son who is also a teacher of homeschoolers, I have observed a troubling tendency among homeschooling mothers of teenage sons, a tendency pervasive enough that I feel compelled to say something. I do not want to unduly offend, but I want to speak to the problem as I see it. Here it is: Continue reading Hard Words for Homeschool Moms

Fitting Words in Amazon

51+zKZSga2L._SX368_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Have you wanted to preview Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student? Well, now you can. The “Look inside” feature is now available in Amazon for this new rhetoric course. See for yourself how pleasant the single column, wide margin text is to read, and enjoy the beautiful artwork of George Harrell.

“While many good college-level rhetoric textbooks from secular publishers are available today, there is a clear need for a complete and robust rhetoric curriculum for high school students written from an explicitly Christian point of view. Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student was written to meet that need.” – from the Preface.

“Given the state of our culture, we should want our sons and daughters to be dangerous in the right cause, to possess effective weapons against the enemies of God and His people and know how to use them, because sometimes, fitting words are fighting words.”

– James Nance, Fitting Words

Paul Echoes Aristotle on Friendship

24__Paul_the_ApostleReading Aristotle’s Rhetoric II.4 on “friendship” is like reading an expanded version of  the Apostle Paul’s 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which reads:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

2__AristotleIt is not hard to show that every single phrase in this Bible passage alludes to some portion of that section from Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Read more here: Rhetoric 2.4 & I Cor 13.

Either the Apostle Paul knew his Aristotle, or they have a nearly identical understanding of the love between friends.