Rhetoric and Rhetorical Devices

Rhetorical devices primarily describe aspects of style in persuasive texts and are commonly referred to as “figures of speech,” although they extend beyond syntactic and semantic figures in explaining three related phenomena in humorous texts. First, they reveal various uses of topoi, or commonplace tools for the invention or systematic discovery of persuasive arguments. Second, they explain how various comedic devices—such as simile, metaphor, hyperbole, paradox, oxymoron, and personification— support the construction and delivery of these arguments. Third, they justify how humorous arguments can be understood as appeals to logos (logic or reason) by revealing how successful humor relies on shared perspectives between author, audience, and worldview.


The first comprehensive organization of rhetorical devices occurs in the anonymously authored Rhetorica ad Herennium (Rhetoric to Herennius), although ...

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