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|Classical Rhetoric 101: The Five Canons of Rhetoric|
Welcome back to our series on Classical Rhetoric. Today we’re kicking off a five-part segment on the Five Canons of Rhetoric. As you remember from our brief introduction to classical rhetoric, the Five Canons of Rhetoric constitute a system and guide on crafting powerful speeches and writing. It’s also a template by which to judge effective rhetoric. The Five Canons were brought together and organized by the Roman orator Cicero, in his treatise, De Inventione, written around 50 BC. 150 years later in 95 AD, the Roman rhetorician Quintilian explored the Five Canons in more depth in his landmark 12-volume textbook on rhetoric, Institutio Oratoria. His textbook, and consequently the Five Canons of Rhetoric, went on to become the backbone of rhetorical education well into the medieval period.
Enough with the history. What are the Five Canons of Rhetoric? Glad you asked.
The Five Canons of Rhetoric are:
1. Inventio (invention): The process of developing and refining your arguments.
2.Dispositio (arrangement): The process of arranging and organizing your arguments for maximum impact.
3. Elocutio (style): The process of determining how you present your arguments using figures of speech and other rhetorical techniques.
4. Memoria (memory): The process of learning and memorizing your speech so you can deliver it without the use of notes. Memory-work not only consisted of memorizing the words of a specific speech, but also storing up famous quotes, literary references, and other facts that could be used in impromptu speeches.
5. Actio (delivery): The process of practicing how you deliver your speech using gestures, pronunciation, and tone of voice.
If you’ve taken a public speaking class, you were probably taught a version of The Five Canons. They also form the foundation of many composition courses.