The concept of ethos in Tudor rhetorical theory and practice
School: Purdue University (0183)
Date: 1993 pp: 285
Advisor: Lauer, Janice; Ross, Charles
Source: DAI-A 54/07, p. 2556, Jan 1994
Subjects: Language, General (0679); Literature, English (0593)
ProQuest Document Number:
UMI Number: AAT 9334436
Ethos, the persuasive appeal to the character of the speaker, was an important concept during the Renaissance; many writers in this period evinced a concern for the self-presentation of the rhetor. It is therefore curious that modern histories of rhetoric ignore (and sometimes actively deny) the relevance of this concept for Tudor England. This present study fills this gap by examining the ways in which ethos was conceptualized in Tudor rhetorical theory and the practice of English Renaissance rhetors.
Attempting to demonstrate the importance of ethos to every period, the dissertation first defines the concept and argues that it is a culturally bound phenomenon. Each society in each historical moment conceives of ethos in different terms. To discover how the sixteenth-century English located the concept socially, culturally, and politically, this study examines its theorization in major rhetoric texts of the Tudor period, including those by Thomas Wilson, Angel Day, Leonard Cox, Henry Peacham, and George Puttenham.
The latter half of the dissertation investigates the practice of ethos in the realm of diplomatic discourse. After probing the responsibilities and position of Renaissance diplomats, I analyze the credibility strategies employed in the ambassadorial dispatches of Francis Walsingham and Thomas Wilson. This inquiry reveals a number of similarities in the goals these statesmen had for establishing their credibility, suggesting that certain requirements existed for ambassadors to prove their skill and usefulness to their country. The specific strategies Walsingham and Wilson drew upon, however, differed, which implies that the ambassadors had a good deal of latitude for demonstrating their proficiency. This study is the first step in a larger project for developing a general theory of ethos in Renaissance England. That many writers during this period explored the power of the rhetor’s personality shows the need for such a theory.