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Voting and Rhetoric

October 8, 2008

Here are two recent videos that use rhetoric to encourage (or do they?) people to vote in the upcoming election. The first is another celebrity-infused compilation reminiscent of will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song & video (and will.i.am is in this video, too). Here’s “Don’t Vote”:


The second is from the Colbert Report, and it takes a slightly different approach. This is “Voter Abstinence”:

Now, for everyone who wonders why I don’t do more work with classical rhetoric in my work (and for the grad students in Robyn’s theory seminar who recently read an article by Richard Lanham), here are a fun list of many (but not all — not by a long shot!) of the classical rhetorical figures and tropes* employed in the “Don’t Vote” video:

  • aetiologia: giving a cause or reason
  • amphidiorthosis: to hedge or qualify a charge made in anger
  • anaphora: repetition of the same word at the beginning of successive clauses or verses
  • antistrophe: repetition of a closing word or words at the end of several successive clauses, sentences, or verses
  • apophasis: pretending to deny what is really affirmed
  • commoratio: emphasizing a strong point by repeating it several times in different words
  • contrarium: one of two opposite statements is used to prove the other
  • dehortatio: dissuasion; advice to the contrary
  • diallage: bringing several arguments to establish a single point
  • epimone: refrain: frequent repetition of a phrase or question
  • homiologia: tedious, redundant style
  • indignatio: arousing the audience’s scorn and indignation
  • palilogia: repetition for vehemence or fullness
  • paraenesis: warning of impending evil
  • pleonasmus: needless repetition
  • sarcasmus: a bitter gibe or taunt
  • tautologia: repetition of the same idea in different words

Can you find them all?

(X-posted to the Composition Practicum.)

* All figures and tropes can be found in: Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms Second Edition. Berkeley: U of California P, 1991.

Categories: Rhetoric
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