History of Public Speaking (PT.2)

The Renaissance (1400-1600 CE)

Powered by a new intellectual movement during this period, secular institutions and governments started to compete with the church for personal allegiances. Ideas surrounding issues of style in speaking situations received significant attention during the Renaissance period.

Petrus Ramus (1515-1572) paid great attention to the idea of style by actually grouping style and delivery of the five canons together. Ramus also argued that invention and arrangement did not fit the canon and should be the focus of logic, not rhetoric. Ramus challenged much of what early scholars thought of truth, ethics, and morals as they applied to communication.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a contemporary of Shakespeare, believed that the journey to truth was paramount to the study and performance of communication. According to Bacon, reason and morality required speakers to have a high degree of accountability, making it an essential element in oration.

The Enlightenment (1600 – 1800 CE)

Neoclassicism revived the classical approach to rhetoric by adapting and applying it to contemporary situations.

George Campbell (1719-1796), a Scottish minister and educator, tried to create convincing arguments using scientific and moral reasoning by seeking to understand how people used speech to persuade others.

Finally, the elocutionary approach (mid 1700’s to mid-1800’s) concentrated on delivery and style by providing strict rules for a speaker’s bodily actions such as gestures, facial expressions, tone, and pronunciation.

Overall, the Enlightenment Period served as a bridge between the past and the present. Political rhetoric also underwent renewal in the wake of the U.S. and French revolutions. The rhetorical studies of ancient Greece and Rome were resurrected in the studies of the era as speakers and teachers looked to Cicero and others to inspire defense of the new republic. Leading rhetorical theorists included John Quincy Adams, who advocated for the democratic advancement of the art of rhetoric.

New School — 1900s and 2000s Through Today

Throughout the 20th century, rhetoric developed as a concentrated field of study with the establishment of rhetorical courses in high schools and universities. Courses such as public speaking and speech analysis apply fundamental Greek theories, as well as trace rhetorical development throughout the course of history.

The 1960’s and 70’s saw renewed emphasis and focus on the works of those from the Classical Period. Thus, the 60’s and 70’s worked to bridge together the old and new school of communication study for the first time. Communication departments had professors who studied and taught classical rhetoric, contemporary rhetoric, along with empirical and qualitative social science.

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