Shoshanna Shaoul Synopsis of the Evolution of Composition 403-414 BCE:  “Dissoi Logoi”: The “Dissoi Logoi” was

written by the Sophists which are the teachers of rhetoric during this time period. The role of the Sophist is to teach others how to live in every aspect of life. In the minds of Sophists, rhetoric transfers to “good living.” The “Dissoi Logoi” is the longest surviving text of any Sophist. During this time period, Sophists were threatened to disrupt the social order of Athens and Greece. They helped move from an aristocracy to a democratic way of living. They were foreigners and thus their work was mistrusted. This was the climate through which Sophists lived and worked through and their ideas of composition were influenced based on this social climate. Throughout the “Dissoi Logoi” Sophists refuse to fall on one side, in essence, they resist certainty. Lots of evidence is used throughout the essay, and in the end, moral ambiguity seems to be a dominating theme. The essay goes through various examples of oppositions and comes to the conclusion that it is unproductive to evaluate what is “good” and what is “bad,” or what is “truth” and what is “false,” or what is “just” or “unjust.” In the end teaching rhetoric and composition was what Sophists did for a living. They believed that learning composition can make a better, more moral, person. While the “Dissoi Logoi” refuses to choose sides over what constitutes good and bad actions, it does promise that it can teach how to be a good person, it says, “the man who intends to speak correctly on whatever matter he speaks about must know and [how to] give sound advice to the city on the performance of good actions and prevent them from performing evil ones” (Anonymous 54). Composition to the Sophists is a business, they taech the “correct” way to live. There are moral expectations that people must adhere to, and Sophists promise that their teachings of composition can lead a person to act correctly.  “Encomium of Helen” by Gorgias: Gorgias lived in Sicily and was a contemporary of Plato and a teacher of Socrates. His piece, “Encomium of Helen” is a persuasive piece that defends Helen of Troy. Gorgias shows how words have agency, they have power to influence and manipulate events and ideas. Gorgias takes the listener or reader on a journey in his essay, and he is the leader. For example, Gorgias outlines the power of speech. He says, “[t]here come upon its hearers/ fearful shuddering/ and tearful pity/ and grievous longing/ and at the good fortunes and evil actions/ of others’ affairs and bodies/ through the agency of words/ the soul experiences suffering of its own./ But come, I shall turn from one argument to another” (Gorgias 80). Here, Gorgias discusses the power of words, and how it has the ability to make you feel good or bad, and it can affect one’s soul. The process of composition and of persuasion is constructed like a journey, where the composer is the leader and the reader follows. This structure of composition reveals its power of manipulation. Both the “Dissoi Logoi” and the “Encomium of Helen” believe that composition can be taught and that it has the power to manipulate and change a person and how that person views society. Medieval Period: 1528

Castiglione The Book of the Courtier: Excerpts from Castiglione’s book outlines how to be a courtier. The way one manipulates rhetoric and composes influences how one appears to others. For Castiglione, being a courtier is all about reputation and appearance. During this time period, it was favorable for a person to hide among the masses. Disrupting the social order was not something that was encouraged (which is contrary to later periods, see Miller and Cixous). Castiglione focuses on the importance of being relatable to all people, to fit in with every group but not to show off one’s knowledge . He says, “I would have our Courtier keep one precept firmly in mind, namely, in this as in everything else, to be cautious and reserved rather than forward” (Castiglione 673). One’s use of composition influences one’s reputation, and Castiglione emphasizes the importance of keeping one’s place and not attempting to over-step one’s powers. The concept of “sprezzatura” is highlighted by Castiglione and it relates to the idea of being unthreatening in one’s appearance. Castiglione says the purpose of sprezzatura is “to conceal all art and make whatever and make whatever is done or said appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it” (Castiglione 661). Acting naturally and coming off as though one does not have an agenda is the most productive way to live in society. It is not only attractive, but it keeps one safe from higher powers.

17th Century:  Scudery Conversations: While Castiglione was focused on speaking in front of Kings, Scudery was not as concerned with royalty. Rebellions occurred under Louis 14th of France and even the aristocracy rebelled against the king. Salons became popular at the time. Salons were private homes where members of the aristocracy would meet up and have conversations. There was a possibility of mobility in salon culture. While the stakes were lower than that of the courts, because in the courts one could be killed, there were still reason to be cautious of how one spoke because salons were a place that a person could move up in social standings and they offered money and opportunities. Scudery outlines what constitutes good and bad conversation, but then is careful to point out that nothing is forbidden in conversation. More than anything, conversation is about the bond between people. Scudery says this in the first line of these excerpts, “[a]s Conversation is the bond of all humane Society, the greatest pleasure of well-bred People, and the most ordinary means of introducing into the World, not only Politeness, but also the purest Morals” (Scudery 767). Composition is not an individual activity, the people one surrounds themselves with influences specific morals and behaviors that they will attend to. Access is a major component of composition that Scudery depends on in these excerpts. As a result, learning how to compose effectively depends on those one surrounds oneself with. Late 20th Century: 1981 and 1984  Cixous “Castration or Decapitation”: The 20th century brought with it a desire to go against norms, and to challenge the current use of composition. In order for composition to be relevant and for society and the individual to improve, it was no longer preferred to blend in with the masses. Complicating the structures of society through the manipulation of language and composition was the main goal. Cixous argues against the

binaries that society has come to depend on. The education of composition is something that all of these theorists focus on, whether as Sophists, or in salons, or in formalized education. Cixous believes that the education system spreads the masculine order and therefore prevents women from being able to access and influence society. She says, “[w]oman would then have to start by resisting the movement of re-appropriation that rules the whole economy, by being party no longer to the masculine return” (Cixous 50). More than anything, the theme of composition in the 20th century is the understanding that there is no center for knowledge, and each person needs to interpret and discover their own use of language that is unique. Miller “Genre as Social Action”: Like Cixous, Miller points out how people depend on composition to create typifications in order to function and make sense of society. Typifications are individual memories through which we approach are world, and genres are social typifications which are public. The use of genres and typifications act as a means to reconcile individual anxieties about belonging, and they also serve to create a community. While Miller points out this use of composition, she also complicates it and challenges it. The implications genres have on our lives create a form agency where we have the option to act, but they also serve to limit our actions. Miller says, “[w]e learn to understand better the situations in which we find ourselves and the potentials for failure and success in acting together” (Miller 165). Although genres allow a person to imagine their potential for failure and success, only listening to those genres can prevent a person from finding greater success, it limits potential. A person is bound by the genres they create from the influence of society. Composition is the means through which genres and typifications are created. While many theorists of composition discuss the benefits of how composition will help you gain power in a society, as time goes on, theorists like Miller and Cixous promote the use of composition to subvert the traditional uses of language. They acknowledge the use of composition in order to understand how to work within it to come out with an improved society. All of these theorists essentially want to work within society to see how individuals can better themselves. However what it means to better oneself in society and the process through which one accomplishes bettering themselves is where these theorists differ.

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