Aristotle and Style

Author: Newman, Sara
This book examines what Aristotle has to say about style, metaphor, the figures of speech, and other less recognized stylistic elements within his corpus. Proceeding from the texts themselves, this study argues that Aristotle's discussion of style in the Rhetoric is conceptually consistent with his treatment of invention in that text. By applying Aristotle's theory to his own intellectual practices in the Nicomachean Ethics, this study also illuminates the way that Aristotle's thinks through his intellectual and rhetorical practices. As such, Aristotle offers to contemporary readers a relatively coherent understanding of what style is and how it contributes to successful and appropriate persuasion in more than the traditional decorative sense. He also demonstrates the range of his own theoretical statements. In these ways, Aristotle provides us with a fresh perspective on ancient and contemporary concerns with language.


“Dr. Sara Newman's work comfortably fits into the lively context of current scholarship on Aristotle's Rhetoric and on the figures of speech. In the last two decades the study of Aristotle's Rhetoric has had a resurgence. Philosophers have shown a renewed interest … Newman's study demonstrates the importance of style and of metaphor in Aristotle's theory and in his practice. Rhetoricians, philosophers, and classicists will find that her labors will ease their labors.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Alan G. Gross, Professor of Rhetoric, University of Minnesota- Twin Cities

“In the western tradition, Aristotle has always been the key figure, the originating source, for thinking about the use of language in poetry and prose. For centuries his often fragmentary advice has been invoked by scholars interpreting texts or giving advice on composing. It is therefore hard to imagine a more important subject for contemporary scholars interested in language, or, given the difficulties with the original texts and the layers of commentary, a more daunting one. Sara Newman's Aristotle and Style is a meticulous, thoroughly informed reading of Aristotle's comments on effective language, and particularly on metaphor, with an examination of his own practice to yield the most extended discussion of Aristotle on style and metaphor yet produced. Newman places her analysis of Aristotle on style in the context of recent scholarship on the relationship between style and argument. The result is an important synthesis that will be useful to rhetoricians and to wider audiences concerned with the nature of metaphor, with interpretations of Aristotle, and, in general, with the best possible understanding of the role of effective language in persuasion and cognition … Altogether, Newman's work both complicates and clarifies our understanding of Aristotle on style and our notions about the connections between language and argument in general. She resists easy interpretations of Aristotle's theories on style because she considers his commentary with unprecedented completeness and because she tests his theories against his own practice. Her work will be especially important to the considerable group of scholars writing on conceptual metaphor who claim to take foundational notions from Aristotle. It also enters debates about the Ethics by offering new ways of reading its concepts. Overall, her work is a major contribution to the new synthesis of style, argument and cognition.” – Professor Jeanne Fahnestock, University of Maryland, College Park

“Professor Newman's book is an engaged reading of the use of metaphor and the nature of style in selected works of Aristotle. It is also more than this. As Newman carefully, and with much detail, studies Aristotle's construction of metaphors, tracing Aristotle's development of its categories and concepts, she also develops her own theory of metaphor, pointing out suggested possibilities for studies in Aristotle's work as well as other texts. Her book is far-ranging, moving from the Poetics and Rhetoric to the Nichomachean Ethics. Her discussion rescues the role of metaphor in this latter work, focusing on "illuminary" metaphors. Moreover, Newman offers the reader an insightful discussion of the metaphor of "aiming" as a way to study the development of the Nichomachean Ethics. As a result, the book is a lucid and necessary companion not only for readers interested in Aristotle's style but also for scholars attracted to the understanding of metaphor itself. It should be a welcome addition to university libraries and to the theorist of rhetoric's bookshelf.” – Dr. Lewis Fried, Department of English, Kent State University

“In Aristotle and Style, Sara Newman examines Aristotle's view of style, focusing especially on his view of metaphor, which she regards as paradigmatic of his view of figures of speech. Since the seventeenth century, we in the West have been encouraged to view metaphor and the figures generally with suspicion, as belated and ornamental, something that poets and orators add to provide polish to the dull and to make the less tenable deceptively attractive. In the twentieth century this view of metaphor has been challenged. Cognitive psychologists, for example, have encouraged us to see metaphor as inherent to cognition: our basic ideas are structured according to root metaphors. Rather than something added to an idea, according to the theory of conceptual metaphor, we think by metaphors … Aristotle on Style makes important contributions to our understanding of Aristotle's concept of style within the context of his psychology of response and to his complex attitude toward metaphor and other figures of speech. The analysis is noteworthy for working within Aristotle's philosophical system and drawing on his entire corpus. Because Newman also has an impressive grasp of the literature on metaphor, the book will be of interest not only to those interested in Aristotle and the Classics but to all interested in metaphor, the figures, and style.” – Professor Arthur E. Walzer, Department of Rhetoric University of Minnesota

Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Aristotle and Style?
1. The Background
2. Poetic and Heuristic Clarity
3. Prose Clarity
4. Style and Argument
5. “Bringing-Before-the Eyes”
6. Applying Aristotle’s Metaphorical Theory to his Practice
7. Aristotle’s Definition of Rhetoric in the Rhetoric
8. A Theory to Supplement Aristotle’s Analyses
9. Aristotle’s Metaphorical Theory Applied to the Nicomachean Ethics: Aiming at a Mean
10. Justice is a Kind of Virtue