Everything Worth Mentioning: Extensions of Bryant's Nature, Function and Scope of Rhetoric

Karen A. Foss
2004 Journal for the History of Rhetoric  
When I went to find a copy of Donald Bryant's essay on "Rhetoric: Its Functions and Its Scope," I knew just where to look-in Douglas Ehninger's Contemporary Rhetoric book, which I used in the first semester of my doctoral program at the University of Iowa. My eye went immediately to a passage I had underlined in the second paragraph of the essay: "I am almost forced to the position that whatever we do or say or write or even think, in explanation of anything, or in support, or in extenuation,
more » ... in despite of anything, evinces rhetorical symptoms. Hence, either everything worth mentioning is rhetorical, or nothing is" (Bryant [ 1953 (Bryant [ ] 1972, 15), 15). I underlined this segment because it seemed to perfectly capture my budding sense of rhetoric, and I remember the anticipation I felt as I plunged into this essay. I was quickly disappointed. Bryant dismissed this comprehensive approach to rhetoric without really exploring its possibilities-a move that disappoints me today as much as it did then. This opportunity to respond to Bryant's essay, fifty years after its publication and thirty years after I first read the essay, is an opportunity for me to follow through on some of those possibilities that Bryant ignored. In fact, it seems as if I have been doing just that for most of my career-looking at the rhetorics that someone else has overlooked. My task here, then, is twofold: to describe my basic approach to rhetoric; and to discuss how my approach can extend Bryant's definition, nature, and scope of rhetoric so that in the end it is indeed that ubiquitous rhetoric that Bryant once dismissed. In terms of my general definition of rhetoric, my work in the discipline of communication has been about defining rhetoric broadly-staying with all of those rhetorical symptoms that Bryant so quickly dismisses. I define rhetoric simply as human symbol use-as
doi:10.5325/jhistrhetoric.7.1.0211 fatcat:l2yx7nyh2fgwvg4p6ciyvgxusm