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
Today marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most significant orations in American history: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Declaration of War Upon Japan. The speech is significant for several reasons. Continue reading Remembering a Speech – 75 Years Later
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.
In her invaluable book Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, Sister Miriam Joseph tells us that, according to Shakespeare scholar T. W. Baldwin, William Shakespeare “was trained in the heroic age of grammar school rhetoric in England, and he shows knowledge of the complete system, in its most heroic proportions. He shows a grasp of the theory as presented by the various texts through Quintilian.” In fact, a contemporary reported that Shakespeare was a country schoolmaster before he came to London, and at that time the grammar school would have significantly familiarized him with the arts of language. Many passages in Shakespeare’s plays show such a familiarity with the technical vocabulary of rhetoric. Continue reading Shakespeare’s Use of the Liberal Arts: Rhetoric
One practical method of organizing arguments is to identify relationships between terms. Terms may be related as different parts of a whole (including different steps in a process) or as different species of a genus. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Martin Luther King Jr. uses both methods of relating terms to organize and clarify his arguments. Continue reading Relating Terms from Birmingham Jail
A good introductory logic course will discuss the importance of defining terms in any argument. One clear demonstration of using definition in argument is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” a letter which King directed at Christian pastors in Alabama in 1963 defending his campaign of nonviolent direct action. Continue reading Defining Terms from Birmingham Jail
The day before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, he concluded his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech with these astounding words:
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And so I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!