Maastricht’s debating society Rhetorica and public speaking club Toastmasters Maastricht practise their skills in our recently refurbished multi-functional ‘Parlour.’ To underline their activities, we display books from the Jesuit Collection related to the art of rhetoric.

Rhetoric: the art of discourse

Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers that attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western tradition.

Rhetorical education

Rhetoric began as a civic art in Ancient Greece where students were trained to develop tactics of oratorical persuasion. Rhetoric was later taught in universities during the Middle Ages as one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (along with logic and grammar). Rhetorical education became more restrained as style and substance separated in 16th-century France, and attention turned to the scientific method.

Revival and renewal

In the 18th century, rhetoric assumed a more social role, initiating the creation of new education systems. The study of rhetoric underwent a revival with the rise of democratic institutions during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Political rhetoric also underwent renewal in the wake of the US and French revolutions. Throughout the 20th century, rhetoric developed as a concentrated field of study with the establishment of rhetorical courses in high schools and universities.

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