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SCIENCE OF DISCOURSE

A RHETORIC FOR HIGH SCHOOLS
AND COLLEGES

BY

ARNOLD TOMPKINs

PROFESSOR OF PEDAGOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY of Illinois, Author of
“PHILosophy of TEACHING,” “Philosophy of school
MANAGEMENT,” AND “literary
INTERPRETATION?"

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MAN continually speaks or writes, reads or gives audience. Rhetoric deals with all these universal and lifelong processes; hence, its practical importance is obvious and emphatic.

This study, however, got its name from the one exercise of speaking — from the Greek rhetor, speaker—because, in the political life of the Greeks, so much depended on the art of public address. If this study should be named now, and after the most effective means of formal communication, the term would come from reading or writing; and it would not matter which, as each presupposes the other. But we care now nothing for the name except to insist, in obedience to the demands of both life and logic, on its extension over all phases of the discourse process.

Until quite recently it has been customary to organize this subject under the literal meaning of the word, attaching it to the chair of oratory in college and confining its practical value to those engaged in public address. Thus, as with the Greeks and Romans, it became the hidden art of the few by which fickle masses were to be swayed. But now it is not so much the swaying of masses that is needed as masses who can critically estimate and appreciate the utterances of others. And these utterances are comparatively seldom made now in the form of public address, but in that of the book, the newspaper, and the magazine.

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Practical life demands the art of discourse in every phase of its process, and the interest of logic as well as life is subserved by the discussion in unity of all phases of the process. Guiding truth in any one can be found only in the unity of all. The distinction between speaking and writing, and also between reading and giving audience, is one of form and instrument, and involves no valid principle; and the four processes reduce to two, - the process of interpreting and that of constructing discourse. The principles controlling one of these processes control also the other. In fact, discourse is grounded in the relation of constructer and interpreter. He who makes discourse does so in conscious recognition of the process of interpretation, and he who interprets does so in conscious recognition of the process of construction. Discourse without both author and auditor is unthinkable. Hence, to treat one process to the exclusion of the other, as, for instance, to write a book on composition and then one on reading, would not only be bad economy, but would defeat the search for the highest guiding truth in either. It is hoped, therefore, to take care of both phases of the discourse process by a central movement in the process itself; the relation must take care of the terms related by including them. Holding, then, that the demands of life and logic must finally be the same, this book is formed under the twofold thought (1) that rhetoric is not a study for the special few who may chance to speak from the platform or at the bar, in the senate or in the pulpit, but for the mass of mankind who all need to communicate thought effectively and to interpret with accuracy and appreciation; that whatever be the vocation or profession of the student, discourse in all phases of its process remains a constant necessity to him, however variable to his needs other subjects may be ; and (2) that the most practical results follow from holding the obverse phases of the discourse process into the unity of a single discussion, thus giving skill in all phases while reaching more deeply for the principle controlling each. If any one phase of discourse study should have prominence above another, it is that of literary interpretation. The school does not exist for what it can do for the pupil while he is simply a pupil, but for what it can influence him, by self-direction and self-propulsion, to do for himself after the days of formal tuition. And no opportunity of the teacher is, perhaps, so great as that of influencing the pupil through an appreciation of good literature to read through life to his soul's salvation. Rhetoric must influence strongly in this direction by making the pupil conscious of, and sensitive to, the elements of beauty in literary productions. Literature is rapidly gaining its place in the high school course, and everywhere teachers are asking how to make the most of it. It is hoped that the following discussion may aid in the solution. To this end much attention has been given to the principles and practice of literary analysis, which is also theoretically, as well as practically, proper; for beauty, while an essential element in all discourse, is its highest outcome and crowning glory. While urging strongly that rhetoric should bear its fruit — that it should take possession of the pupil’s life for the future and not be finished and put on the shelf as having no relation to life — it must not be supposed that the treatment is necessarily unscientific, a mere collection of rules and recipes, such as is generally found in so-called practical and elementary books on the subject. The more closely organized becomes the discourse process in thought, the more efficient becomes the theory in practice. It would be strange

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