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Prose Declaimers: British Romantic Essayists and Classical Rhetoric

Homar, Katie S. (2014) Prose Declaimers: British Romantic Essayists and Classical Rhetoric. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Prose Declaimers argues that major romantic essayists repurposed classical rhetoric in their experimental prose. Although they did not identify as rhetoricians, they repurpose practices, such as declamation, to reinvent themselves as “prose declaimers” whose texts resist easy identification with the period’s political agendas. These essayists invest literary writing with the community-building functions of rhetoric even as they differentiate themselves from political orators.
By revealing romantic essayists' adaptations of classical rhetoric, Prose Declaimers complicates rhetoricians’ conversations about epideictic rhetoric, or the rhetoric of community-building and celebration. I argue that the romantic essayists were modern epideictic rhetors who transformed the mode from the celebration of shared ideals into a means of orchestrating competing political perspectives in a modern society. My research demonstrates the versatility of epideictic rhetoric in the nineteenth century and reintroduces its resources for rhetoricians and literary scholars.
The opening chapters situate Romantic essayists in the transformations of rhetoric and literature at the turn of the nineteenth century. The third chapter argues that Coleridge’s Friend refigures literary prose as modern epideictic rhetoric. Chapters 4 and 5 trace the development of Hazlitt’s rhetorical theory and practice from his early Eloquence of the British Senate to The Spirit of the Age. Hazlitt criticizes the corrupt deployments of rhetoric in parliament, schools, and periodicals, and he repurposes the practices of these institutions to develop his politically oppositional prose. In Chapter 6, I argue that Charles Lamb adapts rhetorical exercises to magazine readers in his Elia essays. Chapter 7 examines De Quincey’s rhetorical theory and practice as responses to the innovative Blackwood’s Magazine. De Quincey’s redefinition of “rhetoric” as bravura mind-play anticipates Victorian configurations of literature and rhetoric.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Homar, Katie S.ksh19@pitt.eduKSH19
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBialostosky, Don Hdhb2@pitt.eduDHB2
Committee MemberBrylowe, Thoratpb14@pitt.eduTPB14
Committee MemberCarr, Stephen Lscarr@pitt.eduSCARR
Committee MemberKlancher, Jon
Date: 29 May 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 February 2014
Approval Date: 29 May 2014
Submission Date: 21 March 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 303
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Romanticism, Essayists, Rhetoric, Classical, Hazlitt, Lamb, De Quincey, Coleridge, Prose, British
Date Deposited: 29 May 2014 14:30
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:18


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