Ward Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric

My friend Ward Farnsworth (a law professor at Boston University) just published Classical English Rhetoric, which I read and much enjoyed. Ward explains various rhetorical devices and how they work in modern English, and gives lots of vivid examples of each — the examples are what makes the book work. I think any lover of great writing and great oratory will enjoy this; my view is that writing should usually be plain and simple, but “usually” isn’t “always,” and if you do want to occasionally throw in some rhetorical devices, a book such as this one is an excellent guide.

Here’s the Amazon summary:

Masters of language can turn unassuming words into phrases that are beautiful, effective, and memorable. What are the secrets of this alchemy? Part of the answer lies in rhetorical figures: practical ways of applying great aesthetic principles — repetition and variety, suspense and relief, concealment and surprise — to a simple sentence or paragraph. Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric recovers this knowledge for our times. It amounts to a tutorial on eloquence conducted by Churchill and Lincoln, Dickens and Melville, Burke and Paine, and more than a hundred others. The book organizes a vast range of examples from those sources into eighteen chapters that illustrate and analyze the most valuable rhetorical devices with unprecedented clarity. The result is an indispensable source of pleasure and instruction for all lovers of English.

Oh, and the first jacket blurb is from David Mamet. Cool. (Bryan A. Garner, George F. Will, Victor Davis Hanson, and several others also provide blurbs.)

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