Chapter

Amplification

Jeanne Fahnestock

in Rhetorical Style

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199764129
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918928 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199764129.003.0019
Amplification

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The all-encompassing goal of an effective rhetorical style was amplification. To amplify a point or line of argument meant to endow it with stylistic prominence and hence with conceptual importance in a text and salience in the minds of the audience. The rhetorical tradition offers two senses of amplification, first as heightening and second as expanding. Quintilian lists methods for heightening through word substitutions (auxesis), comparisons, series constructed to scale items (including topping a series or verbalizing inarticulateness), and the inclusion of details that invite leading inferences. Amplification is also achieved by simply occupying more textual space with a point, and here Erasmus is the best guide. His influential sixteenth-century manual De Copia blends all five rhetorical canons into prompts for having more to say about more things. How these devices construct expanded units is illustrated through the creation of epicheiremes. The opposite of amplification, namely diminishing, is achieved through reversing the methods that heighten and expand; e.g., weaker words are used, comparisons or series lessen, and arguers exercise brevity or fall silent. A consummate mixture of amplification and strategic brevity can achieve sublimity, a style that overwhelms rather than simply persuades. This chapter analyzes the last paragraph of Darwin's The Origin of Species (draft and final forms) as an example of sublime argumentative prose. In so doing, it reviews the methods of analysis covered in the entire book, noting Darwin's strategic choices and constructions at the word, sentence, interactive, and passage levels.

Keywords: amplification; auxesis; copia; heightening; Erasmus; diminishing; Longinus; the sublime; Darwin; The Origin of Species

Chapter.  14543 words. 

Subjects: Language Teaching and Learning

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