178 of 183 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2000
For 35 years I have guarded with my life, my copy of Edward Corbett's book, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, thinking it was out of print. To my delight, when I was about to recommend it for a writing class I was going to teach, I found it on Amazon.com. Since the Back to Basics education movement of the 1970's the fundimentals of logic and expository writing are seldom taught in the public schools, resulting in a generation of adults with marginal communication skills. Edward Corbett's book fills a void, offering serious writers a set of guidelines for reasoned discourse. Corbett reviews rules of logic begining with Aristotle's syllogism, that device which permits the writer to examine the premises of his or her arguments and thus test their logical validity. He further examines the common fallacies of deductive and inductive reasoning, and gives the writer practical exercises to improve his logical skills. Corbett outlines the various approaches a writer might make to win an audience over, explains how to most effectively arrange the material, and suggests methods for selecting the most appropriate style and tone. Readings of classical and modern writers illustrate the principles Corbett presents. In short, this is a serious book for serious writers. It is a book to be treasured, a reference book for a lifetime. Thank heavens it is not out of print!
149 of 154 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2000
Make no mistake. This is a textbook, not a leisurely "how to" book on how to write more creatively. The author is clearly oriented towards the classical rhetorical styles of ancient Greece and Rome, resurrected in the Renaissance, and largely a lost art after the Victorians. Despite the textbook orientation, it is a book the unschooled student of rhetoric can pick up and "study." I emphasize "study." One cannot breeze through this book. And, while many of the issues addressed apply to both writing and speaking, clearly this is a rhetorician's skillbook, not a grammarian's. The book is divided into three parts: Part I develops a strategy for speaking/writing as a cohesive whole; Part II develops the modes of argumentation, particularly the syllogism; and Part III, perhaps the least important in today's universe of knowledge, develops the tropes particular to rhetoric. There are better books on each of these three parts, but no book that incorporates all three any better. Take notes. Study. And you'll be richly rewarded.
110 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2002
Rhetoric has come to be seen as a discipline for frauds and charlatans. It has the connotation of artful trickery and deception. No matter what you may think of rhetoric, you engage in it each and every time you try to prevail upon someone to see things your way. Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. Any artform practiced by mortals can be (and is) misused by unscrupulous villains. Those who decry rhetoric for its susceptibility to misuse overlook this point: Rhetoric, properly understood and applied, is the best defense against misused rhetoric.
For a good grounding in the basics of rhetoric, the student need look no farther than this textbook. It is not easy reading, but diligent study will equip the reader well for the tasks of analyzing, defending, and making arguments. The book aims at the written word, but the principles apply as well to the spoken.
The book divides itself into six chapters:
2. Discovery of Arguments (Deciding what to say).
3. Arrangement of Material (Marshalling your arguments for greatest effect).
4. Style (How best to speak/write your arguments).
5. The Progymnasmata (Exercises in rhetoric).
6. A Survey of Rhetoric (History of rhetoric from Ancient Greece to modern times).
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2007
I'm writing this review as a high schooler who wanted to learn more about this fascinating topic, but was not given the opportunity in school to learn it. I studied rhetoric using a dozen or so books on the topic, with this book as my main staple. The book is 'comprehensive', meaning it covers the basics and the theory, but not the actual application, although a few sections within this book intends to do just that. So if your English teacher is doing a great job on making your essay sound better, you might not want to trouble yourself with 80% of this book's content, although the section on exemplary works and figures of speech may be a great boon to your writing style. Certainly the best way to learn rhetoric is to read exemplary works by many different authors and learn from their different styles. However, if you want to learn rhetoric, but don't know where to begin, I would strongly recomment this book.
57 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2001
I bought this book after reading several articles written by Corbett. As a GTA, I hoped it might be useful in teaching freshman composition. Although I found it helpful, it is certainly not written for most of today's college freshmen. Although Corbett uses fairly simple language, the text fails to use principles of document design to present the information effectively. Although this text was originally intended to be used in teaching freshman composition, I do not believe that it will be as useful to me in the classroom as I had hoped. I would not, for example, be able to assign readings from directly from this text and expect my students to grasp the material. Today's college students appear to be far less willing to work to get the information they need from a text, and this text definitely requires work.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2010
Having digested all 543 pages of this magnificent work, I can say that it has proven invaluable in teaching speech and writing. So much is accomplished in these pages--syntheses of Aristotle's Rhetoric, Cicero's topics, invention, arrangement, types of appeal, schemes and tropes--that one wonders if Corbett himself does not belong in his rhetorical history survey. Take this content and bring it to students to watch them flourish. The five valuable pages of the "progymnasmata" itself will give a teacher writing or speech material for a year.
So much food for thought and opportunity for imitation lies herein that one who is intent upon improving his or others' writing cannot but keep reading. Additionally, the selections are superb! The analyses of the envoy's appeal to Achilles, Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and Huxley vs. Arnold from a rhetorical perspective is quite invigorating.
I hope to read this again in a score, but definitely will keep applying its principles as I develop professionally.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2008
This book is a must-have for all those who wish and need to grasp the essentials of rhetoric and logic. Corbett and Connors allied erudition and teaching experience to guide readers through the maze of terminology and concepts that would elude even the most hard-working, self-taught students. But they practice what they preach: they are clear, simple, thorough and convincing, and they provide you with exercises as well. Now I think I will go back to Sister Miriam Joseph's The Trivium better equiped to understand what she was talking about. Enjoy!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 19, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is filled with commentary on classical understandings of rhetoric. The use of language is shown to be bound in the logical strength of the argument. Critical thinkers, educators, and writers of all genres will find value in these pages.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 30, 2008
In spite of the fact that I have a bachelor's degree, I never learned how to write until after college. This book opened up a whole new world to me that I didn't know existed. This book could have been a little better if the author included commentary along with some of the very long essays he used for examples.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2007
I've looked through so many writing guides, from ones on usage to style to advanced grammar. Finally after a long, long search I stumbled across this one. It's really, really amazing. It presents the methods designed 2000 years ago to transmit the knowledge and experience of any skilled speaker. It works for those of then and those of today.
So check it out. It's pretty straightforward. The only thing is, you still need to practice in speech and in writing. Lord knows the interactive speech part I have had far fewer opportunities than I would need to really grow. Still, the useful abstractions are here.