Howell, Wilbur Samuel.  Poetics, Rhetoric, and Logic : Studies in the Basic Disciplines of Criticism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975. Print.  (Selections)


  • H. is making an argument for an expansive theory of literature in his introduction.  This theory would not only take into account conventional literature but also include the whole of nonfiction – “rhetoric and logic as well as poetics” (19).  That being said, Howell only intends to include rhetorical pieces that have an element of “magic” or reference the world of the imagination (Following Wellek and Warren – New Critics).
  • How does rhetoric works its way into the imagination?  Ask Bacon!  Francis states that rhetoric is the ability to “apply reason to imagination for the better moving of the will.”

Renaissance Rhetoric and Modern Rhetoric: A Study in Change

  • Difference between poetics and rhetoric (from big pappa A):  poetry is effective when it is mimetic – it reproduces life in a state of poetic reflection or fiction toward the movement of the imagination.  Rhetoric instead is often oratorical and achieves efficacy through statement and proof (22).
  • This chapter describes how the Enlightenment and scientific revolution were responsible from moving rhetoric away from just the art of oratory and toward a more scientific, learned theory of communication (24-5).
  • H. identifies 5 key changes between Renaissance Rhetoric and Ancient Rhetoric in this chapter:  1)  Logic is no longer bound to the communication arts and is, instead, now considered part of a theory of scientific investigation; 2) since the Renaissance, rhetoric has “attempted to expand its interests so as to become the theory of learned discourse while remaining the theory of popular discourse” (147).  Or, said differently, because logic was pushed out of rhetoric, rhetoric now attempts to teach the expert to communicate with expert as much as the individual to communicate with the populace (specialized and non-specialized discourse); 3)  H. recognizes that “external realities” (read: invention as social act) are now emphasized much more than the internal mental interpretation (invention as Romantic act); 4) arrangement has changed – moving away from the ascending/descending model of specific-general/general-specific and even classical oration (the parts of a speech) toward what H. calls a more “natural organization” characterized by “organization unobtrusively into sequences suggested by the relations of their units in space, time, logic, or causality” (157); and 5) Stylistically, discourse has moved away from the “imperial dress” of elite culture toward the economized, instrumentalized stylistics of capitalist enterprise (158).

The Declaration of Independence and 18th Century Logic

  • This chapter argues that Jefferson’s Declaration paid close, special attention to the work of Bacon and Locke in order to create a document that wasn’t bound by the ancient rhetorical tradition.  Specifically, Duncan’s Elements of Logick provided a “synthetic method” of composition that was much more suited to the time of the Declaration’s composition.  The synthetic method consisted of instruction, exposition, communication, and proof and moved the listener from he realm of the known to the realm of the unknown.  In this sense, the writer is something of an “investigator,” tracking down the components of an argument.
  • This chapter also argues that rhetoric isn’t merely style but can also be thought of in much more comprehensive, rich, and varied ways.
  • H. claims that 18th century logic was a blending – “Reasoning in logic meant the combination of terms and propositions into syllogistic or inductive structures, and this part of logical theory blended traditional Aristotelian doctrine with insights from the philosophy of Bacon, Descartes, and Locke” (167).
  • H. notes that the classical cannon of rhetoric was also abandoned during the 18th century.  Apparently, nowhere in Campbell’s PoR do you find the six parts of classical oration.

De Quincey on Science, Rhetoric, and Poetry

  • This chapter considers DeQuincey’s distinction between the two literatures: literature of knowledge and literature of power.  The literature of knowledge is interested in subject matter, thought, and reasoned judgment.  The literature of power is concerned with the public communication of form, emotion, and intuitive (inductive) insights (28).  H. claims that DeQuincey’s rhetoric is dangerous because the force/power of an argument is often given precedent/power over the subject matter.  In other words, H. is accusing  De Quincey of being guilty of the Platonic charge against rhetoric:  Can you both represent your subject truthfully while also attempting to win the soul of the listener/reader by discourse?  This makes sense considering how the binary mirrors the classical distinction between rhetoric and poetics (and we all know where Plato would have fallen on that scale).  H. eventually points out that DeQuincey himself failed to make an adequate distinction between the literature of power and the literature of knowledge because, in reality, both poetic and nonpoetic literature have a knowledge and a power . . . they’re just different genres/forms.
  • Main goal of this chapter:  demonstrate how the DeQuncian literature of knowledge and literature of power binary is different from the Aristotelian nonimitative – imitative binary (193).  For H., DeQuincey’s distinction is “less satisfactory” than Aristotle’s for the division between poetical and nonpoetical literature (193).

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