Ward Farnsworth writes in his 2011Classical English Rhetoric “figures sound splendid when used to say things worth saying,” and nineteenth century Americans, it seems, had many things worth saying. The nineteenth century was a high-water mark for oral and written rhetoric in English; this was especially true in America. Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison wrote eloquently and passionately on abolition, even as the nation plunged into Civil War. Abraham Lincoln articulated his vision for the reunification of a country shattered by that war, while Henry David Thoreau explained the ethical need for the occasional disobedience to civil law – a concept that would later influence Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. And Margaret Fuller reminded the country and the world that slaves were not the only group in America with rights being suppressed.
This lesson introduces students to some key rhetorical figures, challenges students to research, define and provide modern examples of them, and tasks students in a paper with analyzing these techniques in important nineteenth century informational texts.
Kotlarczyk, Adam, "19th Century American Rhetoric: Figures, Techniques, and Informational Texts" (2013). Rhetoric Unit. 5.