Hypertext Rhetoric: Studies for an Online Literary Text Theory
- Dr. Fee-Alexandra Haase (bio)
Catholic University of Taegu-Hyosung, South Korea
The word rhetoric is a
derivative from the Greek expression shown here for the scientific
discipline of the theory of speech. So rhetoric in this early classical
meaning in ancient literature is an art with a theoretical background
for speech (rhetorica utens et docens) and its rules. Important for a speech is
the material (materia) that is structured in the words (verba) of the speech to illustrate things
(res). This basic idea
of understanding the connection between sign systems, text systems
and their interpretation in words as well as the ancient theory
of oral genders and literary genres is still useful today as a theoretical
background for communication processes in modern media communication.
HTML-based information processes and e-mail exchange in web environments
are good examples. This article focuses on the theoretical influence
of the ancient model of rhetoric in traditional texts and Internet
hypertexts. Both traditional speech and communication in the Internet
environment refer to traditional literary genres theoretically analyzed
in rhetoric and literary science. According to these models, this
paper describes genres of hypertext literature and present schemata
for textual configuration of media. The classical ancient rhetoric
system uses a five-step speech schema. The objective of this article
will demonstrate how this concept is still in use for the configuration
Because artificial languages are used for the realization of communication
rhetoric in media communication, it is necessary for both the programming
languages and the applications of their users.
This network requires a system of hierarchies
and topographic organization relating to the rules of linguistics
and rhetoric. This network is not related to one hierarchy but several
rule systems. On the other hand we find an organization of hypertexts
in maintexts and subtexts related to each other by links. Diane
Greco (1996) cites about the need for an academic hypertext analysis:
"Thus hypertext arguably
provides a material instantiation of what had been previously only
ephemeral analysis, an artifact rather than an academic theory divorced
from the material and social conditions of textual production.“
It is necessary to commence with the classical ancient rhetoric
system to see the steps of ubiquitous text production. According
to Aristotle the three genders (genera) of speech are deliberative, forensic,
Cicero notices in Orator (VI, 20) that three genders of speech all in all exist (´Tria
sunt omnino genera dicendi´).
The syntagmatic parts of a speech are inventio,
dispositio, elocutio, memoria, und pronuntiatio. In De Inventione (I, 9) Cicero gives the following definitions of the
parts of rhetoric text production:
Quare materia quidem nobis rhetoricae videtur
artis ea, quam Aristoteli visam esse diximus; partes autem eae,
quas plerique dixerunt, inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria,
I n v e n t i o est excogitatio rerum verarum
aut veri similium, quae causam probabilem reddant;
d i s p o s i t i o EST rerum inventarum in
e l o c u t i o EST idoneorum verborum [et
sententiarum] ad inventionem accommodatio;
m e m o r i a est firma animi rerum ac verborum
ad inventionem perceptio;
p r o n u n t i a t i o EST ex rerum et verborum
dignitate vocis et corporis moderatio.
text written in HTML appearing on a monitor screen to be read is
an object of rhetorical analysis and construction. In this disposition
(dispositio) the material (materia)
is organized in a schema of parts, e.g., tags as orders for the
edition of the text according to rules of HTML. The exordium
(narratio), and a short description (propositio), or argumentation (argumentatio), are followed by the improvement
of the described occurrence (probatio).
The defense of objections (refugatio)
and the ending of the speech (peroratio)
are the next steps. The theme of the speech is discussed in the
edited text version. Therefore the propositio
is the statement of the theme and often contains a division (partitio
or divisio) of the proposition.
introduced the idea of three parts for a speech. The arrangement
of the dispositio is the
action that structures the parts of a speech. The dispositio is also the arrangement of the edited text in a strategic
order. Dispositio is the
arrangement of ideas. Following Quintilian (Institutio oratoria,
III, 3) the dispositio is necessary for a long speech:
"Ac si EST brevis et
una conclusione finitus, nihil fortasse ultra desideret: at oratio
longior plura exigit. Non enim tantum refert quid et quo modo dicamus,
sed etiam quo loco: opus ergo EST et dispositione.“ In the idea
of the three styles (low style, medium style and high style) the
concept of the three genera is used. The brevitas
is one of the stylistic ideas of rhetoric speech. Ancient rhetoric
knows three kinds of speech: genus
iudiciale for an occurrence in the courtyard, genus
deliberativum for political speech of a subject in future times,
and the genus demonstrativum for things that happen
in present time. In the first case the aim is to defend or to accuse
a person; in the second case the persuasion of an convention is
practised; in the third case a person judges about arts.
Memory (memoria) in classical theory is another part of the
production of speech. Ancient rhetoric literature used this part
as one of the officia oratoris
for the memory of the things (res)
a speaker will mention in his/her speech. The memory is the part
of a speech necessary for remembering a speech held after the configuration
of the invention, disposition and pronunctation. For a sytematic
use of memory a construction by topics is useful. Things that will
be remembered are organized in a ´virtual´ form with abstracts to
which they belong by meaning, by tradition or by a gender system.
These terms can be applicated as tools for the description of text-
and hypertext models.
of text can be made by the following features:
Classification of literary genders
Classification of rhetorical genders
Classification of text genders
literary gender and rhetorical gender classifications are related
to the traditional literary theory. The text genre analysis shows
us if the text is a traditionally written one you find in a book
or a text in HTML. The ethic implementation of ancient rhetoric
has a 'renaissance.’ The action (actio)
of speech performance is the part that demonstrates the speech before
an audience. Ethical value on the part of
the orator is a fact necessary for a successful speech. Traditionally
since Seneca, the artes liberales represent the arts a free
man who is allowed to practise them. Grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric
are as arts of the trivium, the main disciplines for literary
work. In Aristotle´s philosophy, rhetoric is the art of making meanings
in opposition to philosophy´s interest in finding truth. Persuasion
is the aim of rhetoric and dialectic speech before an audience.
More than the ethical quality as the target of persuasion the formal
style is mentioned by the classical authors of rhetorical literature.
Ancient Roman rhetoric uses the term aptum
for the harmony between the parts of a speech and between the speech
and the rhetorical situation when the rhetor talks to the audience.
Ethical competence is one consideration for the person talking in
front of an audience. The idea of an ars bene dicendi includes
both the configuation of a speech according to correct technical
instructions and the ethical authority of the speaker. The knowledge
of other arts is a prime factor for the qualification of an orator.
In ancient times the pathetic style with an affective discription
of an impressive occurrence, and the ethical value for a description
of beautiful and delightful happenings, are used for a speech. Cicero
presents the idea of an orator perfectus connecting his/her rhetorical ability, knowledge
and ethical qualities. Quintilian is a teacher of rhetoric using
also this idea of ethical and pragmatic dualism for a good orator.
Traditional ideas of ancient rhetoric like the
idea of vir bonus, have their equivalent in the conception
of the use of internet resourses in modern universities. The University
of South Australia mentions for its Electronic newsgroup COMMA that the use
of netiquette is necessary for the participating persons:
Remember that all staff and students have access
to these messages. Do not use COMMA to carry on private conversations,
and please exercise the usual standards of 'netiquette' you would
use with all e-mailing: that is, adopt a cool, calm, professional
approach, with no personal attacks or comments, and nothing else
you may be ashamed of in future for having posted.
R. Walker (1997) mentions in Reinventing
Rhetoric: The Classical Canon in the Computer that the five
parts of rhetoric are key terms for written and oral documents in
media of the 20th century:
five parts of the classical canon -- Invention, Arrangement, Memory,
Delivery, and Style--have been subjects of debate throughout the
history of rhetoric, as we moved from an oral “technology"
to a written one, and from a written to a print one. […] Now,
as we again begin learning to write in a new medium, passing on
the torch from orality to literacy to "computeracy"
(or post-literacy, or to whatever we may ultimately be headed
for), we must reconsider our definitions of rhetoric and look
at how we will extend these terms to the new medium of electronic
"writing." […] The five parts of the classical canon--Invention,
Arrangement, Memory, Delivery, and Style--are one way we might
begin thinking about how to apply rhetorical concepts to writing
in the twenty-first century and beyond. After all, literacy has
undergone many changes in the past--from orality, to writing,
to print--and it will likely undergo many more, in ways we cannot
even now imagine. The shift to the paperless classroom will not
happen overnight, of course, but whether we like it or not, we
need to think about how computers and computer writing will impact
the future of rhetoric, of composition and composition classes,
and of literacy itself.
The Rhetoric of Hypertext an extended rhetoric for hyperspace
is presented by George L. Dillon (2002): "Few authors have
considered the need for an extended rhetoric in hyperspace. The
question here is how hyperbook authors will use the new structural
components at their disposal to create an effective presentation.
Landow's "The Rhetoric of Hypermedia" stands as a formative
The first rhetoric rules for a successful
communication were made in 4th century by Corax and Tisias
in Italy. For forensic speeches in front of a court these rules
were necessary as assistance for an accused person who had to defend
him/herself. Because of this oral use, the ancient theory was made
for spoken words. Literary or semiliterate rhetorical speech structures
(e.g. e-mailing in web surrounding) occur later in the history of
rhetorical applications. Rhetorical aspects of the written word
are found in ancient Greek language, too. The classical trias
of speech genres consists of genus iudicale for law affairs,
genus demonstrativum for public affairs, and the genus
laudativum for the arts. In Greece sophists began to teach rhetoric
in Athens and other cities during the second part of 4th
century B.C.. Rhetoric, law, politics, grammar, logic and ethics
were their subjects. A strong influence for later rhetoric handbooks
was the Aristotelian model. Aristotle described a number of topics
(topoi) for discovering ideas and the search for arguments.
These topics for a way of analyzing, evaluating, and extending virtually
any subject (res) constitute a heuristic method of systematic inquiry.
to the ancient model rhetoric is ubiquitous. Why do contemporary
reseachers see a difference between traditionally written texts
and hypertexts? Walton (2002) cites the differences between writing
for the web and using a Hypertext rhetoric and traditional linear
Hypertext makes new demands on both readers
and writers. Although individual 'blocks' of text in hypertext
can be read in a linear fashion, hypertext should be written to
facilitate non-linear navigation. While you should certainly be
writing journalistic style introductory paragraphs and designing
tables of contents or overview pages, you should never assume
that readers have encountered these pages. Rather than relying
on the usual (linear) textual rhetorical markers of sequence,
the design of your site should assist navigation and development
of coherence by clearly indicating:
1. The purpose, main sections and subsections of the
2. The current location of the reader in the site.
Web Constraints and Possibilities
web offers unique constraints and possibilities to writers. The
major constraint for web writing is the somewhat fickle scanning
behavior of most web readers. A major possibility of the web as
medium is the vast universe of discourse which is potentially related
to your hypertext through linking.
Alysson Troffer (2002) suggests the idea of a
typical rhetoric of Internet texts in her thesis Writing
Effectively Online: How to Compose Hypertext with her demand
“Hypertext Requires Its Own Rhetoric“: "Many have argued that hypertext is a communication medium that requires
its own rhetoric. According to Karen Schriver (1997), the conventions
of such a rhetoric are currently under construction. As a result,
document designers are "groping through the design space and
inventing as we go".
For the Internet use of rhetoric, Gideon O. Burton
(1999) notices that the world wide web offers services that are
related to the aim of teaching (docere): "The
world wide web provides a unique environment for discovering, organizing,
teaching, and publishing academic information. These conventionally
separated activities can be pursued simultaneously on a website
due to the flexibility of this nascent medium, creating both opportunities
has been recognized as the art of good speech (ars
bene dicendi) since antiquity and the terminology of this art
written in handbooks is still in use. This terminology of rhetoric
includes the ancient Greek words which were added and translated
into Latin vocabulary. The Latin rhetorical vocabulary was used until the 18th
century in Europe. Since the beginning of the enlightenment in Europe
rhetorical terminology became part of western national languages.
The syntagmatic parts like creation (inventio), disposition (dispositio), style
of speech (elocutio), memory (memoria), and delivery (pronuntiatio) are still in
use and can be transferred to any literary construction process
on the Internet: In this creation the first ideas are collected
as topics. The creation uses a method to search for topics (loci a persona and loci a re). The disposition of a speech is the part in which the order
of the speech is made. Rhetoric handbooks developed formulas for
argumentative structures of debates (topoi,
loci) derived from the dialectic art as
examples for the disposition (taxis;
dispositio) and expression (lexis, elocutio).
Greek sophistic scholars developed a system of
rhetoric. Aristotle analyzed rhetoric as a phenomenon which is a
part of dialectic scholarship. Peripatetic and stoic scholarship
improved rhetoric theory. The Greek pathe became affectus, ethe became mores. The basic aims of rhetoric are moving
(movere), teaching (docere), and joy (delectare). Part of the style (elocutio)
are elements like word figures, figures of sentences, and thought
figures, tropes like metonymia, synekdoche, hyperbel, and metaphora.
According to Lausberg’s handbook (1990) they are parts of the decoration
of a speech (ornatus).
elements of rhetoric can be found in the edited surface structure
of a text written in HTML. How should the HTML text itself be classified?
The language of a computer-based program has the rhetorical ability
to ’influence’ the appearance of the edited texts by orders and
rules that finally appear on the surface as edited plain text for
the audience. Aristotle mentions in his Rhetoric (section 1391b) the different ends of speech and rules: "Now, since each kind of Rhetoric, as was said,
has its own special end, and in regard to all of them we have gathered
popular opinions and premises whence men derive their proofs in
deliberative, epideictic, and judicial speeches, and, further, we
have determined the special rules according to which it is possible
to make our speeches ethical, it only remains to discuss the topics
common to the three kinds of rhetoric.“ Aristotle notices also
in his Nicomachean Ethics (1181a, Book 10) the similarity between science and rhetoric: "In fact they are absolutely ignorant of the
very nature of the science and of the subjects with which it deals;
otherwise they would not class it as identical with, or even inferior
to, the art of rhetoric.“ Aristotle defines rhetoric in his Rhetoric (1355 b) as the faculty of discovering the possible
means of persuasion in reference to any subject. Cicero cites Aristotle
as an authority for genres in De Inventione (I, 7) that can be changed
into each other by the art of the orator (oratoris
ars) and the ability (facultas)
of using the material (materia).
The genus iudicale is used for accusations,
defenses, and petitions. The ability to structure a text in modern
media according to a certain gender like the genus iudicale is both a feature of rhetorical and hypertextual actions
of the text production.
we can look at the rhetorical parts used in classical theories for
a traditionally written linear text. In the rhetorical model the
paradigmatic parts for a speech are beginning (exordium) narration (narratio),
division (divisio), confirmation
(confirmatio), and conclusion (conclusio). The elements of rhetoric were
first introduced by the unknown author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium. The opening of the speech includes the greeting
and some words addressed directly towards the audience. After this
auditorem benevolo formula, the person holding the speech
introduces the audience into the main theme of his/her speech. The
narration (narratio) is the part of the speech in
which an affair, the state of the affair, and the basic facts are
demonstrated in a description. After the narration the argumentation
presents arguments ordered in a topic system. Argumentation (argumentatio)
is a part of a speech and the main instrument for the success of
are considered to be placed and can be found in a certain place
(topos or locus). If a person
uses such topoi/loci he/she
has the ability to find the arguments for persuasive speech. This
topic method has been one of the most efficient disciplines in rhetorical
literature since antiquity. The repetition is the part of a speech
where the most important parts of the argumentation are told again.
The conclusion is the last part in which the person talking presents
his/her results of the argument. The vocabulary of Latin rhetoric
for these steps was influenced by Greek rhetoric. Greek rhetoric
was introduced in the 2d century to Rome when Greek messengers delivered
their speeches in front of the senate. At the beginning of the first
century the Greek philosopher Philo of Larissa and the orator Molo
were in Rome where the young Cicero heard them. Latin rhetoric evolved
from the fact that Greek terms were translated into Latin. His later
rhetorical writings like De oratore, Brutus, and Orator are descriptions
of an orator as a personality of science and knowledge. This ideal
of a literary and philosophic orator is later used in Roman literature
like in the books of Quintilian and Tacitus. These elementary terms
of rhetorical speech can also be used for a spoken and written speech.
These key terms con be used as tools for application and description
of a specific language, e.g., in a poem analyzing how this text
wants to persuade. Just like HTML terms, they are meta elements
for written texts being responsible for the effects of a text part
to which they are related.
concepts for the rhetoric model or artificial languages like HTML
change historically. In the middle ages late commentaries of Cicero´s De inventione, made in Isidor of Sevilla’s book Etymologiae,
were used as encyclopedic information media. Alcuin introduced with
his Disputatio de Rhetorica et Virtutibus the
tradition of ancient literature. A totally new partition for the
parts of speech is made by Donatus in the 4th century
in his book Ars grammatica
de partibus orationis
de ceteris vitiis
de partibus orationis ars minor
is an example for rhetoric theory used as a model for grammatical
syntax of a structured text. We experience this method of grammatical
use when we look at the
structure of hypertext by analyzing elements of the grammatical
syntax of hypertexts. Tags placed in a traditionally written text
are responsible for the appearance of the edited version. Such rhetorical
influence can appear in politic public relation works, advertising,
journalism, and information systems. New media and hypermedia information
have rhetorical aims. Multimedia concepts use diverse tools of media
for rhetorical effects.
In the use of hypertextual links, rhetoric is an efficient method
being a key to the understanding of a text in combination with images.
Invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery in the context
of HTML, with reference to ancient texts, are important parts for
communication in new media. Following the five parts of a speech
e actions concerning hypertexts represent of the partes rhetoricae. The relation between e-mail and traditional mail
is one example, according to the idea that hypertexts and the text
in hypertext surroundings are classified as representatives of one
literary genre. One paradigmatic example for this genre system is
the literary genre ‚letter’. Today we find hand books for business
letters as well as examples for letters of different types for traditional
media next to collections for specific hypertextual applications.
All these documents can also appear in hypertext system surrounding.
Another example is ghostwriting as one of the popular features of
rhetoric online writing, where the name of an author is unknown
to the readers. This universal use of rhetoric is possible because
of the historical tradition of rhetoric as an ubiquitous ability.
These different kinds of literary genres still have the same features
when appearing as text on the Internet or as a traditionally written
text. The final outcome of a speech is the result of its parts and
construction in spoken and in written words.
will consider the languages that generate HTML texts. In written
and spoken language expressions exist which can be classified by
their time of use. One part of these expressions is called `archaism`
referring to the Greek word archaios for old. Another
part is called `neologism` following the Greek word neos
for new. Neologisms and archaisms are expansions of a language concerned
with their lexicalic and semantic value. Classifications of terms
or expressions of this kind we can find in natural and technical
languages. In technical languages, expressions of different states
of a language exists. The programming languages that generate the
surface text are divided into different `dialects` that may generate
the same surface text. An example is the Extensible Markup Language
(XML) being a part of SGML. The aim of XML is the possibility to
receive, send and edit SGML in the Internet like HTML. XML was designed
for an easy implementation and collaboration with both SGML and
HTML Both in artificial and technical languages, there is a common
linear syntax for their elements.
we shall compare the structures of traditionally written texts and
hypertexts to discuss the question of literary genres in web surroundings.
A traditional text can be changed into a hypertext by typical hypertextual
processes described by the following rhetorical meta terms:
basic text >>------------------------------------------------>>
and connecting data
stylistic constructions of data
orders for edition
or copy data,
editing of the HTML version
(above) Rhetorical steps in hypertextual process
of texts in both directions from traditionally written text to HTML
text are possible. We can classify archaic and new types of documents
depending on the time of appearance of the text. Classification
of hypertexts can be made by analyzing the following text features:
Organization of the text according to steps of the rhetoric model
relation to hypertext environment:
Classification as main text or subtext (syntactic structure)
Hierarchy of documents
specific appearance of texts and hypertexts on the surface structures
is determined by a certain group of key terms as orders for the
text edition. A reference between both types of languages is given
by the orders and rules of each language to influence the text.
texts consisting of:
Figure 2. Relation between text and hypertext
an object and the mimetic representation of this object, text and
hypertext are related to each other. Texts and hypertexts on the
Internet are structured in different ways. The surface medium of
traditionally written texts is the paper of a book. A surface medium
of hypertext is the WWW. Hypertexts containing their generating
HTML language orders are different from traditional texts that in
most cases do not show any orders for text edition. In other words:
Edition on the Internet is to realize a text first written as traditional
text in a specific version for the Internet
of first text
Text Original text
the original text (e.g. hypertext, book)
of new text Text
Version realized by hypertext language
3. Schema of the inversion of texts
Linear texts are original documents to be transferred on the Internet
In the Internet area, e-mails or webpages are typical representatives
of these versions of literature that can be classified as a representative
unit of an HTML version of a main literary genre. Their non-linear
structure is a typical feature of hypertext generated by
a) the connection
b) the connection
of hypertext language with the document
the connection of different media and character types
A hypertext language like XML or HTML is responsible for the literary type
of a document. In other words: Texts in hypertext surrounding represent
a version of literate and oral genres (genera). There are
two main types or versions of literature that can be divided by
the rhetorical analysis of the text :
hypertext-literature version Non-literary
(type: e-mail ) (type: written letter)
Versions of literary genders
Hypertext and new media enlarge the traditional rhetorical genre
system by the use of new media for text production. Internet search
engines use traditional methods, like key term screening for the
analyses of large text corpora. Functions changing the generated
texts are destruction, addition, mailing and copying of a message.
E-mailing is an offered service on the Internet that makes a successful
communication in the tradition of writing and sending ´real´ letters.
The main genre `letter` is one example for the appearance of different
versions of text documents. The basic structure for the message
is a traditionally written text inside of a text document file.
The typical structures of hypertext are determined by a pool of
realized data rules. The classical canon of rhetoric is in texts
of hypertext surroundings for the construction of text to be generated
by hypertextual operations. In a communication based on e-mail,
the use of letters refers to the use of written rhetoric as in non-hypertextual
media. The ancient model of rhetoric can describe the actions and literary genders in hypertexts in rhetoric
terminology. One important fact concerning hypertext literacy is
the relation between ‚real’ hypertext structure of HTML and the
text on the surface structure appearing as plain text, compatible
to traditional languages and their grammar. The specific linguistic
quality of hypertexts is the relation of an entity both to traditional
rhetoric and typical hypertext features.
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Cf. Bennett, B. S. (1999): Origins
in rhetoric in ancient Greece.
Rhetorical elements were documentated by Lausberg:
H. (1990). Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik. Eine Grundlegung
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Cf. : Bonell, E. (1834).
Lexicon Quintilianeum. Leipzig: Vogel. 190
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a Almuth Gresillon. Reggio Emilia: edizione diabasis. 180.
Inventio in the parts of construction of
a speech ´ and argumentatio
in the partes oratoriae are for Quintilian parts of a
topical construction: Cf. Quintilianus, M. F. (1972 and 1975.
Institutio oratoria. Ausbildung des Redners. 12 Bücher. Ed. and transl. by H. Rahn.
Bd. I u. II. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.
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Cf. for the systematic
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