Eloquence and Rhetoric of Language
A prolific and eminent critic of the English language in the name Denis Donoghue of holds that the common assumption which places eloquence as simply a subject of rhetoric andthe path to realize a rhetorical end to be ambiguous and erroneous.Donoghue adopts the general meaning of rhetoric as the manipulation of words with the aim of persuasion so that the audience may do one thing instead of another.He adopts a definition of eloquence that is aimed at creativity in the writing. In fact, in his book On Eloquence He gives examples of cases where eloquence has been well articulate in words so as to differentiate them from rhetoric, and suggests the manner in which we ought to appreciate them.
Eloquence is the play of words or other expressive means without an aim. Its special aim is creating and embodying another and different form of life which goes beyond the already established forms. Rhetoric in language can persuade people into doing something they did not intend (Donoghue). An example of a work of rhetoric is Hitler’s Mein Kampf. We use these rules eloquently to discover the certitude of being alive in our own bodies and to imagine new forms of life beyond the already existing and known forms, and not using language only for upholding and maintaining our traditional narratives concerning the world. This means transforming rhetoric into eloquence.
Donoghue is critical in the manner in which eloquence has been brought out by characters in plays. His argument is even clearer as he is able to explain why eloquence matters and gives reasons why we should indeed be concerned about it. He states that “since we have to be keen on such matters as independence, liberty, sprezzatura, force which is creative, in a culture that is prone to featuring official attitude, typecasts of the sedated language, formallyprescribedstandards, a pacificationkind of politics.” (Donoghue). The application of Donoghue’s line of reasoning is evident in various pieces of works. This paper will focus on Job Chapter 6-16, Proverbs Chapter 1-9, the Girl and Ovid.
DISCUSSION REVIEW: JOB CHAPTER 6-16
An eloquent moment has to be a moment where a person speaks when they are certain of being alive within their own bodies and uses language in imagining new forms beyond the already existing and known forms of life. Job speaks eloquently about how he feels to belong in the world and the picture that he sees in front of him.
This is contrast with his friends who recite old and stale proverbs about the justice of God. This makes him more engaged immediately with the creation of God than his friends. This plays a major role in earning Job an audience with God, and in return, he receives his eloquence from God. Job uses his eloquence to tell his friends that they are afraid. He asks them“would you bargain over your friend in order to preserve your ideas and ignore God’s justice and reality?” Job also eloquently converts a psalm into a question when he asks the meaning of being human. Job beseeches his friends to have a look at nature to be able to notice that even beasts in the field and birds recognize the presence of the world’s injustice and suffering.
Job challenges his miserable comforters that they claim God to be the creator of all things yet they deny an aspect of his creation probably because it does not suit their desires and needs. When asked by Job to imagine being a human and what it would be like to suffer like a human, it is suggested that this makes God to assume the form of human as Jesus. Job criticizes his friends that they speak falsely for God and calls their proverbs “proverbs of ashes.” This is because they do not apply to what he sees any longer. This extinguishes the fire in their rhetoric. Job also applies eloquence to express the anxiety of his fate and death, and even though he is troubled, he speaks from the certitude of his of still having life in his body. He says “Man born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.”
An example of rhetoric is when Eliphaz, one of the miserable comforters, asks Job what he knows that they don’t. God also applies rhetoric when he asks Job rhetorical questions which screen the power of having life onto the imagination of God. This does not happen physically but by the power of figurative and poetic language whose strength allows Job to visualize the causes of his laying down his argument.
DISCUSSION REVIEW: PROVERBS CHAPTER 1-9
The main section of the Proverbs is characterized by folk wisdom which generates from an oral culture extended to many generations. Chapter 1-9 consists of experience which offers guidance and insight to many people especially the young who are in need of its advice. The introduction of the Proverbs sets out the purpose of the book which entails learning about instruction and wisdom. Instruction involves educational role and a genre of literature of the teaching. The moral aspect of this teaching includes learning about justice, righteousness and equity.
The idea of fearing the Lord for the beginning of knowledge impacts positively on the divine dimension for the apparent human quest for wisdom. This shows recognition of god as the author of all understanding and wisdom. Therefore, this explains that anyone who seeks wisdom has to fear the Lord first. Wisdom is personified as a woman and seen as the mediator of the divine wisdom and the fruits that she offers to human beings. Woman Wisdom is described to having been in existence with God during creation and delights in all his creation. Wisdom makes known to human beings an order set up by God to help them lead a moral, virtuous and successful life. Living wisely rewards with offspring, longevity, a fulfilled existence and the respect of other people.
The Hebrew which reads “my son” actually addresses the materials to men who would have been the favorites of receiving education in schools and education. This orientation is balanced by the involvement of the mother in the process of teaching. The two types of proverbs are antithetical and synonymous proverbs. Antithetical proverbs provide for a contrast in the line falling second in a two-line conveying the truth while the synonymous proverb extends the thought contained in the first line. Interpreting proverbs entails an intellectual discipline.
Even though the arrangement of most parts of the Proverbs seems random, there are some thematic clusters and evidence of plays on words, catchwords, assonance and alliteration which may have assisted in memorization. Proverbs have a binary form where they relate their perspective to the world and also put stress on opposite types of words or meaning. These types have a schematic organization which matches the perspective of divine retribution where those who are wicked are punished and the good get rewarded.
DISCUSSION REVIEW: “GIRL”
Imagining a language means imagining a form of life. This means firstly that language refers to a given set of rules. Each language has a grammar which refers to a set of rules structured to govern the composition of phrases, clauses, and words in any natural language. Such rules include morphology which means the formation of words from small sounds, lexicon which is the catalogue of words, rules that govern the meaning of those words and semantics which is the meaning of words and how this meaning can change with time.
There are rules in each language for fitting together words into phrases, clauses and sentences and the manner in which they should be ordered and arranged. This is referred to as syntax. Usage is the way in which a given word or language used generally.
What makes rules is when the speakers in a community agree to apply them. If everyone was to create a new language in togetherness, there would be an agreement pertaining to the rules of naming things, for example, inventing basic speech parts, and how the words would form sentences. Everyone would have to reach a majority consensus if we wanted to use our new language to speak to each other. This consensus would say something defining us and the way we think as a collective class of individuals and the values shared by us and not as particular member of our class.
Form of life means that these rules agreed upon to make a language have a reflection of all the values, customs, assumptions, behaviors, superstitions, practices, and traditions agreed upon and shared with social beings (Ludwig Wittgenstein).The rules of a language are a reflection of the form of life inhabited.
The self is a story extracted from language as depicted by Jill Bolt Taylor in her book called MyStroke of Insight. She says that this is a story that plays endlessly in the center of language of the human left brain. The difficulty faced here is that while the self is a story partly made by our brains out of language, every language comprises a set of rules that other people impose on us. Therefore the ideas of language being the selfhood substance and language being a set of rules that other people decide upon brings about a basic paradox when reading “Girl” and to be a human being.
The girl asks herself the kind of a woman she would be. She interrogates and wonders about the language her form of life comprises. Kincaid may possibly be arguing that this enables us to access the possibility of eloquence and empowerment.
DISCUSSION REVIEW: OVID
Publius Ovidius Naso (shortly known as Ovid) was among the most prolific, smartest and always entertaining Roman poets. His father wanted him to be a lawyer and therefore took him for training in rhetoric. The polished, witty style of Ovid’s writing is evident of the influence that rhetoric technique has. It is his lack of interest in law that made him change to poetry. Ovid uses his poem Ars Amatoria eloquently to point out the hypocrisy of the Roman elites in their sexual practices. This deliberately aims to enrage the emperor.
Ovid finished his greatest work, the Metamorphosis when he was exiled by the emperor, which means Greek for changes. Just like his love poetry, Metamorphosis gives a radical challenge to Augustan political and moral values and to the norms of traditional poetry. It is seen as a critical response to the order written by Virgil as instructed by Augustan. Ovid says that the major metamorphosis that came first is the transformation of living bodies from matter.
Ovid talks about human beings having changed into animals, trees and flowers. This is an expression of eloquence as he views human beings to have assumed and adopted new forms. Ovid eloquently describes the stories of Rome before and during his existence and his hope for Augustus to be become a god as well in the far future.
Ovid persistently changes his direction of views as he tells a story from one character’s view then looks at another character’s perspective. One story is piled on top of another where he uses immediate and larger contexts in giving different shades of meaning in the same story. In many of his stories, the common element is the male gods’ lust for female humans. Most of the human victims are defenseless women and this shows how it is easy for the powerful gods to abuse their authority.
However, women and goddesses can become sexual predators when overwhelmed by desire. Ovid’s complex presentation of sexuality and gender shows the many ways desire distorts our perceptions, causes pain and the end is a disaster. The poem shows the strength of the irresistible power endowed by a well-told narrative shaping the imagination and drawing the attention of those reading and listening to it. This is an essential purpose of eloquence.
Summarily, Donoghues ability to make the distinction between eloquence and rhetoric is wise and pleasurable. It has unique ability to give pleasure and facilitate meditation ads to its intrinsic value. The book of Job portrays how the characters (Job and his friends) employ eloquence other than rhetoric. Proverbs, the Girl and Ovid also have aspects in them that approve of Donoghue’s line of reasoning in the subject of eloquence and rhetoric.
Donoghue, Denis, The Practice of Reading: On Eloquence. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. Print
Hebrew Bible, The Norton Anthology World Literature: Vol.11650.
Naso Publius O., Ovid A3 B.C.E-17 C.E
Forsyth, Mark. The Elements Of Eloquence. Print.