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Wayne Booth and Western Rhetorical Perspectives on Literary Criticism

Author: WangJianFeng
Tutor: LiuYaMeng
School: Fujian Normal University
Course: Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords: Wayne C. Booth rhetoric Western literary criticism a rhetorical perspective
CLC: I06
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2009
Downloads: 411
Quote: 1
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Abstract


As a well-known contemporary Western rhetorician and literary critic, Wayne Booth is what we term an "amphibian scholar" whose scholarly interests cover both of the fields of rhetorical theory and literary theory. Booth has yielded fruitful achievements both in rhetorical theory and literary criticism, with the former exerting a strong impact upon the latter one. In Booth we could identify a close and hardly dissociated relationship between literary criticism and rhetoric and also a tendency for contemporary Western literary criticism to return to the ancient path of rhetoric. However, little attention has thus far been paid by domestic Chinese scholars specializing in Western literary theories to this unique perspective which is indispensable and of great importance for us to understand Booth in an overall way. In the long past, Booth has always been regarded as an accomplished literary critic in narrative theories, with his dual and inseparable identities and the importance of these two for a true understanding of his literary theories being unfortunately ignored. In order to introduce an all-around Booth as a scholar to Chinese scholarly community, and for a true and better understanding and mastery of his rhetorical and literary theories including his narrative and novel theories, and also for our awareness of the long-held and complex relationship between rhetorical thoughts and literary thoughts, this dissertation makes an attempt to reinterpret and re-observe Booth and his works and the intellectual climate in which he used to do literary critical practice from a Western rhetorical perspective.Xiuci, as a term understood in a Chinese context, is no equivalent for "rhetoric" as it has been understood and practiced in a Western context. Seen from both their denotations and connotations in a Chinese context and a Western one respectively, these two terms could hardly mean the same. Having a long history of theoretical studies in the West and being extremely profound and complex in its theories, rhetoric has long been accepted as the departure for literary theory and served as its theoretical framework. Western rhetoric attaches great importance to the discursive effect and assumes itself as the only channel for producing discourse. In this sense, rhetorical theories and discourse theories form a relationship of overlapping over each other. Thus, literary studies mainly concerned with the social effect of a literary work, must rely on a rhetorical perspective. In the contemporary West, Booth has set a successful example for us by applying his rhetorical theories into his literary critical practice and theoretical construction. From the so-called intrinsic criticism embodied in The Rhetoric of Fiction to the so-called extrinsic criticism embodied in The Company We Keep, rhetoric has always been Booth’s central concern. There being no doubt that both Booth’s rhetorical theories and his literary theories have their drawbacks and historical limitations, no reasons could possibly account for our neglect of the rhetorical tradition of Western literary criticism, with Booth as one of the most successful practitioners of this tradition.This tradition, with a long history, has been carried forward by some contemporary Western literary critics among who are Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Paul de Man and Terry Eagleton. As masters in literary theories, they are all literary-theorists-as-rhetoricians. They always keep a close eye on rhetoric while practicing literary criticism. It could be adequately assumed that a spectacular and grand "rhetorical turn" of literary criticism is currently underway in the West. Booth being a topic and writing platform for us, we hold that the stakes are high in attending to the rhetorical tradition of Western literary criticism and its latest theoretical development.

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