- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: David R Godine; 7.2.2010 edition (November 1, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1567923852
- ISBN-13: 978-1567923858
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric 7.2.2010 Edition
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"The most immediate pleasure of this book is that it heightens one's appreciation of the craft of great writers and speakers. Mr. Farnsworth includes numerous examples from Shakespeare and Dickens, Thoreau and Emerson, Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln. He also seems keen to rehabilitate writers and speakers whose rhetorical artistry is undervalued; besides his liking for Chesterton, he shows deep admiration for the Irish statesman Henry Grattan (1746-1820), whose studied repetition of a word ("No lawyer can say so; because no lawyer could say so without forfeiting his character as a lawyer") is an instance, we are told, of conduplicatio. But more than anything Mr. Farnsworth wants to restore the reputation of rhetorical artistry per se, and the result is a handsome work of reference." --Henry Hitchings, Wall Street Journal
"Not only educational but delightful." --David Mamet
"Every writer should have this book." --Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly and CEO of wordnik.com
"I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (praeteritio). Farnsworth has written the book as he ought to have written it -- and as
only he could have written it (symploce). Buy it and read it -- buy it and read it (epimone)." --Bryan A. Garner, author of The Elements of Legal Style
An engaging and accessible guide, valuable to all who wish to improve their rhetorical skills or better appreciate the abilities of others. ----Library Journal
So, dear reader, I say it even if I say it myself -- get this book! No, really, get this book! Read clever Farnsworth, and read him again, and you may become more clever yourself. --Carlin Romano, The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Many things, from dictators to advertising, have made modern people suspicious of and cynical about language mobilized to move us. Fortunately, Ward Farnsworth's delightful swim in a sea of well-chosen words should help to rehabilitate the reputation of rhetoric." --George F. Will, syndicated columnist
From the Back Cover
Advance Praise for Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric:
Not only educational but delightful.
- David Mamet
I must refrain from shouting what a brilliant work this is (præteritio). Farnsworth has written the book as he ought to have written it - and as only he could have written it (symploce). Buy it and read it - buy it and read it (epimone).
- Bryan A. Garner, author of The Elements of Legal Style
Many things, from dictators to advertising, have made modern people suspicious of and cynical about language mobilized to move us. Fortunately, Ward Farnsworth's delightful swim in a sea of well-chosen words should help to rehabilitate the reputation of rhetoric.
- George F. Will, syndicated columnist
Every writer should have this book.
- Erin McKean, editor of Verbatim: The Language Quarterly
Ward Farnsworth's invaluable review of classical English rhetoric is not only a vital tool for aiding clear expression, but a timely reminder that, despite the confusion of the present technological age, human nature, and our ability to communicate in clear and often beautiful ways, are unchanging.
- Victor Davis Hanson, co-author of Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education & the Recovery of Greek Wisdom
Top customer reviews
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My University professors, who teach English, introduced me to the subject of Rhetoric, and explained that in times past, everybody used to receive education in Rhetoric, and now, almost no one does. Although those Professors teach at one of the top Universities in North America, even that University nowadays offers no courses devoted solely to Rhetoric. Accordingly, my University Professors slipped what little they could about Rhetoric into classes mandated to teach subjects such as Poetry, but they were unable to devote enough time sufficiently to cover the subject of Rhetoric.
Since no courses in Rhetoric are readily available to me, I realized that I will have to study the subject independently by acquiring and reading books written by experts in Rhetoric. Because Farnsworth's "Classical English Rhetoric" received glowing reviews on Amazon, I bought it with the impression that it will help me gain expertise in Rhetoric.
The reason I have sketched for you the information above is so that you realize: (1) I author this review as a serious student with a vested interest in Rhetoric; (2) I know a thing or two about Rhetoric due to having learned about it in an excellent University; and, therefore, (3) I know enough about Rhetoric to objectively point out the flaws with Farnsworth's book in ways that many other reviews of this book on Amazon do not.
That is to say, I wish to tell you in this review what is wrong with Farnsworth's book so that if you are like me, a serious student of Rhetoric, you can make an informed decision based on knowing its shortcomings--a decision that I myself could not make because the reviews published at the time I bought it, and the official description of the book, fail to make its shortcomings clear.
Farnsworth himself admits the shortcomings of his book, although he frames them with a positive spin.
Concedes Farnsworth in his book's Preface: "This book does not...come close to discussing every...Rhetorical figure. It just covers the eighteen or so that, in my judgment, are of most practical value."
In other words, Farnsworth has arbitrarily decided for his reader that his reader needs only to know a meager few Rhetorical Figures, and if all he or she reads is Farnsworth's book, that reader will remain ignorant of the rest, because Farnworth's book ignores them.
That problem is compounded exponentially because Farnsworth book covers, almost exclusively, Rhetorical Schemes--not Rhetorical Tropes. Any competent authority on Rhetoric will invariably tell you that Rhetorical Tropes are far more important than Rhetorical Schemes. Farnsworth tries to gloss this point by dumbing-down the difference between Schemes and Tropes. Farnsworth says that he is not interested in the difference, and tries to erase it by labeling the Rhetorical Schemes his book covers with a term that is less-specific, "Rhetorical Figures." By reframing "Rhetorical Schemes" with the less-specific label, Farnsworth tries to teach his ignorant reader the untruth that the "Rhetorical Figures" which his book discuss are as good as any other "Rhetorical Figure."
Please note, I do not say "ignorant" in the pejorative sense--the reader cannot be blamed for modern educational institutions' failure to teach him or her Rhetoric. But Farnsworth *can* be blamed for compelling his reader to remain in ignorance, by not making clear the difference between Schemes and Tropes, and the superior value of Tropes over Schemes. My hypothesis is that Farnsworth undermines the difference because if he acknowledged it, he'd likewise be acknowledging that because his book covers Schemes instead of Tropes, it is far less valuable of a book than it should be.
Farnsworth does make one honest concession in this regard. Admits Farnsworth, again in his Preface: "Metaphor and simile are omitted...because they are too important; they are large enough topics to require separate treatment of their own."
Indeed, metaphor is the most important Rhetorical Figure/Rhetorical Trope of language, and the 250 pages of Farnsworth's book certainly cannot cover it in sufficient depth. But, why then, did Farnsworth not write a 2000 page book? That would give him sufficient space to cover metaphor, and all the other important Rhetorical Tropes.
250 pages is not even enough space to cover the subject of Rhetorical Schemes in sufficient depth, which is why Farnsworth discusses only eighteen of them, and ignores legions of others.
Even if we accept that Farnsworth did not have enough space to cover Metaphor or Simile, he still must be held to account for why his book, inexplicably, also ignores the other vital Rhetorical Tropes such as: Irony, Metonymy, Personification, Paradox, etc. If he did not have enough space for those either, again, he should have written a longer book. Alternatively, with a 250 page book, he could have given space to the Tropes instead of Schemes.
The title, "Classical English Rhetoric" is one of hyperbole. Hyperbole is, by the way, an essential Rhetorical Trope, and as such, of course, Farnsworth's book ignores it. In his Preface, Farnsworth uses a non-sequitur logical fallacy to justify the title (even though sound Logic is an essential tenet of Rhetoric). First, Farnsworth admits that most of the demonstrations in his book are taken from the years 1750-1900. Then, says Farnsworth: "rhetorical tradition...is fast becoming more distant as a cultural and stylistic matter. (Thus the word classical in the title)."
The definition of "Classical" is not the one that Farnsworth has made up to justify his hyperbolic title. "Classical" refers to ancient Greece and Rome and the wisdom of those cultures, which Farnsworth's book ignores. Therefore the word "Classical" in the title is a misnomer. Classical Rhetorician's, like Aristotle, were champions for the Rhetorical Tropes, like metaphor, as the most important tools of language. Farnsworth, instead, pays no attention to them. In other words, if you want to learn about "Classical English Rhetoric," you cannot do so from this book. An *accurate* title for this book would be something like: "Discussion of A Few Rhetorical Schemes, As Used Between 1750-1900."
Note too, how Farnsworth's parenthetical sentence, quoted in the last sentence of the paragraph two above, is in fact a sentence fragment with no verb. Why does a book about Rhetoric contain sentence fragments? Rhetoric is about persuasion; sentence fragments will persuade no one of anything, except of the writer's inability to use grammar. Farnsworth likewise hurts his own credibility by starting sentences with "It is," with the "It" not referring to anything. "It," when not coupled with a referent, is a meaningless word. Those with sound post-secondary educations will have been instructed never to use "it" when "it" has no referent, yet Farnsworth does that in this book.
Farnsworth's "Classical English Rhetoric" may be useful to a reader with a casual interest in Rhetoric, who may learn from it how advantageously to use a few Rhetorical Schemes. But for the serious student of Rhetoric, because Farnsworth's book ignores the far more important Rhetorical Tropes, it is woefully insufficient. Farnsworth's neglect of Rhetorical Tropes reveals him to be a poor arbiter of what Rhetorical tools are "valuable." His book ignores all of the Rhetorical tools that are in fact the most valuable. To learn about those tools, the student must seek out a better book. I do not know what that book is, but I do know that it is not Farnsworth's "Classical English Rhetoric."