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This list was last updated April 17, 2001. Many of the works below may appear in newer editions since I compiled this list.

Aristotle. On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse. Trans. George A. Kennedy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1991.

The Philosopher himself. Why settle for inferior commentary?

Bizzell, Patrica and Bruce Herzeberg, eds. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Boston: Bedford Books, 1990.

This book presents a history of rhetorical traditions divided by period. The editors choose to give limited explication before each chapter, and then present the theory through excerpts from the original texts. Strong chapter on the Twentieth Century, but weak on Oriental rhetorical treatises.

Conley, Thomas M. Rhetoric in the European Tradition. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1990.

Soon to be replaced by newer editions, I imagine. Particularly good on Renaissance and seventeenth century, but less comprehensive in its treatment of modern rhetoricians.

Corbett, Edward P. J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. 3rd Edition. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.

A bit dense and dry in terms of reading, and somewhat spendy in terms of price, but well-organized with handy charts in front and back.

Lanham, Richard A. A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. 2nd Edition. Berkeley: University of California P, 1991.

It covers the same ground as Quinn (see below), but with less wit and charm and more depth. Not as entertaining to read as Quinn, but it covers more terminology. I recommend Quinn for dabblers who want an entertaining introduction, and I recommend Lanham as a reference for serious students of rhetoric.

Lindemann, Erika. A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987.

A good starter for anyone who will be teaching writing with an emphasis on rhetoric.

Miller, Joseph M., et al. Readings in Medieval Rhetoric. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1973.

A bit dated now, but still a good survey of major medieval rhetoricians. Often available used.

Murphy, James J. Medieval Eloquence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Medieval Rhetoric. Berkeley: U of California P, 1978.

A collection of essays covering logic, grammar, letter-writing, preaching, punctuation, and all sorts of good stuff as medieval rhetors approached it. Less useful for a modern rhetorician. Ultra-cool and super useful for students of medieval literature.

Murphy, James J. Three Medieval Rhetorical Arts. Berkeley: U of California P, 1971.

Contains translations of medieval rhetorical theory so you don’t have to read the original Latin. Includes an anonymous treatise on letter-writing, Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s Poetria Nova, and and Robert Basevorn’s treatise on sermons, with accompanying discussion in the back of each translation.

Perelman, Ch. and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca. The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation. Notre Dame, U of Notre Dame P, 2000.

It’s a reprint of an older version from the 1950s. Big, fat, and authoritative, with lots of abstract discussion. Bonus points for thoroughness.

Quinn, Arthur. Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase. Davis, California: Hermagoras P, 1993.

Short, concise, and clever, this book provides explanation and examples of over sixty different figures of speech. The book is more subtle than it looks; pay attention to the author’s self-referential humor and cunning method of inserting the figures of speech in his own commentary.


For more information about rhetoric, or an easy spot to look up figures of speech, see The Forest of Rhetoric.