11 September 2011

The Burden of Persuasion

Thus begins a new and intermittent serial post: a compilation of rhetorical devices, tropes, tactics, and strategies. It is the skeleton of a non-fiction work I've been compiling for several years intended primarily for writers and arguers. At the end, the reader should be able to click the Label 'Rhetoric' or 'Burden of Persuasion' and produce the whole thing either for review or copying and pasting.

First up, one device which should be familiar to us all. Many, though, will be quite obscure.

Alliteration is a figure of speech which repeats the same sounds at the beginning of, or sometimes within, several words in close sequence. Alliteration calls attention to a phrase and fixes it in the reader's mind, and so is useful for emphasis as well as art. Sometimes several words not next to each other are alliterated in a sentence. Here the use is more artistic. Alliterations may also be employed to emphasize antitheses as well as similarities. Alliteration can be overused—and dreadfully so.


• Alliteration can produce a satisfying sensation in the listener.

Veni, vidi, vici. Julius Caesar

• Let us go forth to lead the land we love. J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural

• The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,/The furrow followed free.  Coleridge

• The moan of doves in immemorial elms,/And murmuring of innumerable bees.  Tennyson

• Ah, what a delicious day!

• I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or see the stars twinkle, in the company of men to whom Nature does not spread her volumes or utter her voice in vain. --Samuel Johnson

• In some cases he could establish a first rough draft, with versions following in well-spaced succession, changing in minute detail, polishing the plot, introducing some new repulsive situation, yet every time rewriting a version of the same, otherwise, inexisting story. --Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things

• O brood O Muse upon my mighty subject like a holy hen upon the nest of night.
 O ponder the fascism of the heart.
 Sing of disappointments more repeated than the batter of the sea, of lives embittered by resentments so ubiquitous the ocean’s salt seems thinly shaken, of let-downs local as the sofa where I copped my freshman’s feel, of failures as frequent as first love, first nights, last stands; do not warble of arms or adventurous deeds or shepherds playing on their private fifes, or of civil war or monarchies at swords; consider rather the slightly squinkered clerk, the soul which has become as shabby and soiled in its seat as worn-out underwear, a life lit like a lonely room and run like a laddered stocking. William Gass, The Tunnel

• Yes, I have perused that puny packet of purple prose, but I shall proffer no pronouncement upon it at present.

1 comment:

Randal Graves said...

Yay for alliteration. It's musical, something I dig, & it helps cover up crap versification. Or highlights it. Well played, language!