Although the first theories of rhetoric span more than 2500 years, clear methodologies or guidelines used to analyze rhetorical texts did not exist prior to the 20th century. In 1925, Herbert A. Wichelns outlined some of the basic features of the first method of rhetorical criticism, the neo-Aristotelian approach. In the essay titled “Literary Criticism of Oratory,” Wichelns defined rhetoric as persuasive oratory and attempted to distinguish rhetorical criticism from literary criticism. According to Wichelns, rhetorical criticism is unique because it highlights the effects of a speech on an audience. Literary criticism, on the other hand, is more concerned with identifying the aesthetic qualities associated with written texts. The purpose of this entry is fourfold: (1) to explain the significance of the neo-Aristotelian ...
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