Theses Doctoral

The Rhetorical Ethics of Antiquity and Their Legacy in American Higher Education

Shanley, Brett Richard Jacinto

The question as to where ethical philosophy ought to end and oratory begin was an abiding interest for the rhetorician-philosophers of Antiquity. This study considers the relationship between the two now distinct disciplines in the theory and practice of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and the United States, through the lens of transformative education. A “classical,” primarily Roman model of rhetoric that centered the teaching of ethics predominated in American higher education until the late 19th century; as evidenced through both qualitative and quantitative data, when the classics fell it took the ethical model of rhetoric along with it.

Discourse around rhetorical ethics has not ceased, however, and there is indication that interest might be on the rise. Relevant scholarship among compositionists gives a glimpse as to the direction of that still nascent discipline. Given their complex influence on later theory, the focus of this study remains on the treatment of ethics and rhetoric among ancient sources, namely Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. By examining both their theories and the complex socio-political circumstances in which they wrote them, we can develop a richer understanding of the role ethics play in the teaching of rhetoric, past, present, and future.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Blau, Sheridan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2022