Upstart Talents: Rhetoric and the Career of Reason in English Romantic Discourse, 1790-1820

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University of Delaware Press, 2004 - Literary Criticism - 292 pages
This study examines the use and abuse of rhetoric in English public life from 1790 to the end of the Regency. It begins from the premise that the period's rhetoric can employ reasoned arguments while also exhibiting regressive tendencies not so much supplanting rational discourse as using it in unexpected ways. Its underlying premise is that, however distinct were the positions taken by various political constituencies at this time, these positions could be advocated by means of rhetorical techniques common to all. The materialist emphasis of current cultural studies provides a useful corrective to the grand schemas of intellectual history but overcompensates by employing only the most nominal generalizations. While revisionist treatments of the public sphere have succeeded in breaking the concept down into divers political constituencies, this study examines assumptions about public discourse shared by these constituencies.

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Designing Eloquence The Rhetorical Context
Whiggish Energies The Ethos of Technical Mastery
Critical Stratagems AntiJacobin Imposture and Periodical Reviewing
Systematic Opposition The Case of William Cobbett
Reason in Extremis Narratives of Regressive Rationality

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Page 28 - But yet if we would speak of things as they are, we must allow that all the art of rhetoric, besides order and clearness, all the artificial and figurative application of words eloquence hath invented, are for nothing else but to insinuate wrong ideas, move the passions, and thereby mislead the judgment, and so indeed are perfect cheats...
Page 190 - Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetick.
Page 269 - There was a mighty ferment in the heads of statesmen and poets, kings and people. According to the prevailing notions, all was to be natural and new.
Page 25 - It cannot but be injurious to the human mind never to be called into effort : the habit of receiving pleasure\ without any exertion of thought, by the mere \ excitement of curiosity and sensibility, may be,/ justly ranked among the worst effects of habitual novel reading.
Page 254 - The error of those who reason by precedents drawn from antiquity, respecting the rights of man, is that they do not go far enough into antiquity. They do not go the whole way.
Page 136 - We have not arrived (to our shame perhaps we avow it) at that wild and unshackled freedom of thought which rejects all habit, all wisdom of former times, all restraints of ancient usage, and of local attachment, and which...
Page 170 - It is not so. We are not in arms against the opinions of the closet, nor the speculations of the school. We are at war with armed opinions...
Page 207 - I shall not live to behold the unravelling of the intricate plot, which saddens and perplexes the awful drama of Providence, now acting on the moral theatre of the world.

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About the author (2004)

James Mulvihill teaches in the area of English Romanticism at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

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