Copia Rerum: Histories and Theories of Rhetorical Arrangement

Thumbnail Image


Leon_umd_0117E_23248.pdf (1.23 MB)
No. of downloads:

Publication or External Link





Many rhetoric and composition scholars concentrate on developments in argument and expression. Form, however, receives comparatively less attention, leading scholars to ask “Who Took the Form out of the Process?” and to argue for “Re-fusing Form in Genre Theory.” “Copia Rerum” responds to these invitations by reframing the history of rhetoric and composition as a history of rhetorical arrangement. Drawing on primary sources from several fields and attending to terms of art, I account for previously proposed theories of arrangement in composition studies, noting how arrangement is often conceptualized as a matter of intersentential or interparagraph linkages, organizational frames, or a series of moves; and as such, modern approaches to arrangement often reduce arrangement to a matter of argument or expression. Inasmuch as these scholars have found such inspiration from the history of rhetoric, and recognizing that many of these structural concepts are critiqued for their nineteenth-century assumptions and sometimes restricted focus on linear or static form, a turn to the history of rhetoric can enrich our understanding of arrangement.

The following chapters turn to ancient rhetoricians from Greek and Roman rhetorics to Medieval and Renaissance rhetorics. Along the way, I attend to terms of art such as ideai, kephalaia, modi positionum, and figura rerum to explore the multidimensional, responsive, synthetic, distributive, variable, and transformational possibilities of rhetorical arrangement. I find that ancient Greek discourse theorists understand arrangement as integral to composition; that other Greeks and Romans recognize the responsive and embeddable potential of mesostructures; that Medieval rhetoricians extend these practices and blur distinctions between the parts of an oration, invention, and the figures of thought; and that the Erasmian tradition clearly combines the figures of thought with the parts of an oration to show how the parts of an oration can be considered discoursal figures.

In terms of the history of rhetoric, this dissertation recovers and traces pre-modern and early-modern structural concepts and their explicit and implicit theories and pedagogies. By attending to these examples of pre-nineteenth century units of discourse, my study adds to discussions among historians of rhetoric concerning the Sophists, stasis theory, progymnasmata, Medieval composition, and Renaissance stylistics. In terms of rhetoric and writing studies, this dissertation situates rhetorical arrangement among writing studies, linguistics, psychology, and communication studies; accounts for shifts of structural concepts from writing studies to adjacent fields; and offers new theoretical and methodological ways of thinking about and teaching genre moves. The theories I recover and principles I explore can serve as a fresh basis for thinking about arrangement and form in composition for scholars, teachers, and students.