is an approach to criticism that is at least as old as Plato
. In the Phaedrus
, Plato has Socrates examine a speech by Lysias to determine whether or not it is praiseworthy. Rhetorical criticism analyzes symbolic artifacts (including words, phrases, images, gestures, performances, texts, films, and "discourse" in general) to discover how, and how well, they work: how they instruct, inform, entertain, move, arouse, perform, convince and, in general, persuade their audience, including whether and how they might improve their audience. In short, rhetorical criticism seeks to understand how symbols act on people.
What is called "rhetorical criticism" in the Speech Communication discipline is often called "rhetorical analysis" in English. A wide range of conceptual and lexical tools have been developed to assist in the process of rhetorical criticism that explore everything from the effects of individual word choice to the range of ideological assumptions that undergird and shape a pattern of cultural expression.
Major approaches include narrative
, and ideographic
Advocates of rhetorical criticism in biblical studies include James Muilenburg, George Kennedy, Wilhelm Wuellner, Walter Brueggemann, David W. Gooding and Phyllis Trible.