Class Notes page 2: Rhetoric Class

These are just my class notes from the Rhetoric Class I’m taking. You are more than welcome to read them, but know that they’re simply notes, rather than a creative thoughtful insightful writing. Notes that I’m adding to my compost heap.


Tropes are any sort of figurative or evocative language

Examples of Tropes:

Allusion– Reference to another artistic work, person, place or idea well known to the audience in order to use its message or characteristics to illustrate the author’s message. 

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower, ‘Farewell Address to the Nation,’ January 17, 1961. Eisenhower warns against the “military-industrial complex.” The reference is to the Biblical prophets Isaiah and Joel; the latter urges the nations to beat their plowshares into swords (Isaiah 2:4; Joel 3:10). The phrase’s long Old-Testament history subtly reinforces the idea that a standing army is a relatively new innovation.

Metaphor – The use of a word or phrase to symbolically represent another word or concept in order to highlight the similarities between them.


Variations on sentence structure.

Examples of Schemes:

Parallelism – A pairing (or grouping of several) related words, phrases, or sentences with the same or similar grammatical structure.

“We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground.”
—Abraham Lincoln, ‘Gettysburg Address,’ November 19, 1863

Anaphora – A form of parallelism, anaphora refers to the repetition of words at the beginning of successive clauses in a sentence. Such insistent repetition leds emphasis and builds momentum.

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”
—Winston Churchill, ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches,’ June 4, 1940, House of Commons, arguing to Parliament and the British people that they must continue to confront the Nazi threat. 

Patterns of Sound

Writing for speaking means paying special attention to the sound, cadence, and rhythm of words and phrases.

Alliteration – Repetition of consonant sounds, especially at the beginning of phrases.

Assonance – Repetition of vowel sounds.

“Why is mob murder permitted by a Christian nation? What is the cause of this awful slaughter? This question is answered almost daily—always the same shameless falsehood that ‘Negroes are lynched to protect womanhood.'”
— Ida B. Wells, ‘Lynching Our National Crime, Address at the National Negro Conference,’ 1909. The “aw” sounds in “awful” and “slaughter” echo a cry of pain. And the long “a” sounds in “daily,” “same,” and “shameless” feel drawn-out and weary, lamenting the violence and injustice that has been perpetuated for so long.

Sibilance – The word “sibilant” comes from a Latin root meaning “hissing.” Sibilance refers to the repetition of sibilant consonant sounds, like “s,” “sh,” “z,” and “j.”

“They have something to say to us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the Gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism.”
—Martin Luther King Jr., ‘Eulogy for the Martyred Children,’ 1963. Here, the pronounced sibilance hisses, snakelike, and sometimes even spits (when paired with the plosive consonants “p” and “t”), suggesting to the listeners everything that is sneering, subtle, sinister, sneaky, or sly.