Tuesday, July 17, 2007

περὶ ῥητορικης

When Aristotle himself refers to the treatise in Poetics 19.2 he calls it Peri rhētorikēs (On Rhetoric).

--George Alexander Kennedy

Publication of any sort is an intrinsically social act, "I" having no reason to speak aloud unless I posit "you" there listening; but your presence is especially vital if I am seeking not to disclose the economic benefits of fish farming in Zäire, or to recount the imaginary tribulations of an adulterous doctor's wife in nineteenth-century France, but to reconnect myself—now so utterly transformed by events unlike any I've experienced before as to seem a stranger even to myself—to the human community....lending materiality to my readerly ideal, transform[ing] monologue into intercourse.

--Nancy Mairs

Then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible,
oh logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, oh, intellectual, cynical.
There are times when all the world's asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.

--Charles Roger Pomfret Hodgson

As I left the house this morning, my wife said to me, “What’s with you complicating things?!” She hummed a smile, a simple Avril Lavigne lyric: “Why do you have to go and make things so complicated?”

So there. I’ve done it again.


Let’s say περὶ lends materiality to Aristotle’s readerly ideal. Rather than his getting logic, however, we get something we’ll call rhetoric.

Let’s say we read περὶ as nothing like the “ON” that George A. Kennedy reads it as (as in the first epigraph above).

Let’s say περὶ suggests something round, or around. Perhaps that means “about” or “on” in someone’s attempts at a precise definition of a thing; perhaps it also connotes an approximation; perhaps it also hints at a surrounding (like a lover’s embrace or a parent’s arms); perhaps it also gets at a circle (as in “yonic” to the literary scholar and as in “circumcise” to the Biblical academic, or “to cut around” for the classicist). Perhaps it indicates something of the muscles, for the physician, as in “perimysium” and “perinatal,” which brings us back to writing the body and around to talking about pregnancy all over again.

Let’s say ἔστω is more than imperative, is more than being, is more than a precise abstract definition of a thing in itself, is less a monologue, and is also more intrinsically the social act of intercourse. Let’s say it’s our speculation; now where does that get us in Jeffrey Walker’s publication, his Reply to Jerzy Axer?

Let’s say πίστεις may be other than proofs and persuasion, if Homer and Hesiod (before Aristotle) and if the Septuagint translators and the New Testament writers (after Aristotle) all say to us it’s something other. What if we like how C. Jan Swearingen keeps "Pistis, Expression, and Belief" together? What if belief is something you can’t really help, like falling in love, like the movement of your tiny hairs on the back of your neck when you see a snake in front of your feet out in the woods, like Abraham’s becoming a friend of God, like Mary’s appreciating him more?

Let’s say ἐνθύμημα is the body of something we’ve already mentioned—the very passion and heart and anger inside. Let’s say συλλογισμός is some bodys’ collection of some bodys’ statements. Let’s say στροφος is some ones’ turning one way or another or is our or their turn taking.

Let’s say φέρ is less “for.m” constricted and more “ferry” and “carry” and “womb” and “basket” and “bearing” related. So let’s say μεταφορὰ could be not so much a metaphor as a carrying to full term, as a poet will attempt in meanings and a riddler in puzzles.

Let’s say βλλω is a throwing or a putting (ποβλλω -- throw off; προβλλω -- throw before (put forward) propose; πιβλλω -- throw (or cast) upon; κβλλω -- put out of; throw out of; μβλλω -- put in (embark); καταβολ -- throw down (seed) put down (a foundation); καταβλλω -- put down; overthrow). Let’s not put down anyone’s reputation (as diablo does) and let’s tell a story that lines up my reality with anothers (as the parable sower does). Let’s say περιβλλω is to throw around (is to put on clothes).

Let’s say ἀληθείας are un-veilings and dis-closures and clothes-revealings instead of the Truth.

Let’s say Οδύσσεια is Homer’s playing with words. For “Ou tis” in his Cyclops story in substance only sounds like “Odysseus.” And Οδύσσεια has as much to do with an aoidos as with a way (an odus). (And play with words has as much to do with involuntary fun as it does with intentional wiggle room). Period. (peri.od, a way around)

Let’s say ική is Homer’s or Hesiod’s word coining with what it’s like to be a virgin.

Let’s say Kenneth Lee Pike was right in saying person is above logic, that we choose our perspectives (particle, wave, or / and field), that Nelson Goodman was coming around to something when he said what we need is something like radical relativism within rigid restraints. Let’s use Pike’s (and now many scholars’ and many disciplines’ Greek-ish) emics and etics. Let’s go ahead with complications by quoting Robert E. Quinn who starts by quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes on simplicity in Quinn’s book Change the World :

I believe that in any activity there are many novices, a few experts, and very occasionally there is an extraordinary master. If you ask a novice about a topic, the novice will give you a very simple (simplistic) explanation that will be of little value. If you ask an expert the same question, the expert will give you a complex explanation that will also be of little value. If you ask a master the same question, the master’s explanation may be simple, breathtakingly elegant, and remarkably effective. But the master’s answer will only be valuable, breathtaking, and effective if you and I are ready to hear it and act on it. (xi)

Let’s say simply and with complexity, in our bodies in this place (let’s call it ὁ τοπικός) in our materiality, in our publication, in our social intercourse . . . let’s come full circle. . . let’s say it’s what Aristotle called it . . . Let’s say it’s ΠΕΡῚ ῬΗΤΟΡΙΚΗ (AROUND SPEAKERISTICS).

Let’s hear what Aristotle hears from Sappho:

Πλρης μν φανετ σελννα
α δ ς περ Βμον σταθησαν.

The moon rose full,

and as around an altar, stood the women.

Now rose the moon, full and argentine,
While round stood the maidens, as at a shrine.

Quoted by Hephaestion as an example of the metre known as the Ionic a majore trimeter brachycatalectic. Poetically the figure is a fine one, and shows Sappho's wonderful power of visualizing a scene in a few unerringly chosen words. The moon and its light had a great attraction for her, as a number of fragments shows.

and from Homer:

Illiad.1.448 ἑξείης ἔστησαν ἐΰδμητον περὶ βωμόν,
for the god in orderly fashion around the strong-founded altar.

Let’s hear another foundation, another relation-al material statement-birth:

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός γενηθήτω στερέωμα ἐν μέσῳ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ ἔστω διαχωρίζον ἀνὰ μέσον ὕδατος καὶ ὕδατος καὶ ἐγένετο οὕτως

Let’s not make this too complicated.


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