Monthly Archives: January 2018

Plato, “Apology”

When I first realized that the recitation of Plato’s “Apology” was over an hour long, I knew there would be a lot of content to analyze. Although we could have just read “Apology,” listening to the recording gave me a much better sense of the tone and pace in which Socrates delivered his speech.

Socrates spoke in a very conversational tone, yet he still came across as very knowledgeable and intelligent. As I have mentioned in previous posts, that knowledgeable yet conversational tone is something I strive for when giving speeches because your audience is more likely to maintain interest and learn at the same time.

Throughout his speeches, Socrates appealed to the audience by directly referring to them numerous times when he said “O men of Athens.” As he began to near the end of his speech, he even referenced specific people in the audience. Socrates constantly asked his audience questions as well and forced them to think from his point of view.

Socrates also applied the canons of rhetoric, using figures of speech and stories to convey his message. Early in his first speech, Socrates said, “It is just what you have yourselves seen in the comedy of Aristophanes” (6:55), relating his words to something the audience was familiar with. Another example was when Socrates said that he told Calias, “‘If your sons were foals or calves…” (9:15), comparing humans to animals to make his point clear. He even used the term “ludicrous figure of speech” (45:32) himself to compare himself to a gadfly. Socrates’ ability to use storytelling and figures of speech showed his ability to connect with his audience.

As Socrates neared the end of his final speech, he used the words “us” and “we” many times, inviting his actual friends and his condemners alike to ponder death with him. He referred to the entire room as friends from beginning to end, which once again showed his ability to connect with the audience as a whole. Socrates’ final words, “I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows” (1:18:33) also stuck with me, which showed his ability to craft a conclusion for his speech that his audience would remember.

In addition to the many places I found applicable lessons about speech, I’m also impressed by the memorization ability of ancient philosophers like Socrates. Although our culture is very different today, it’s good to be reminded that if Socrates can memorize over an hour’s worth of words, then delivering a successful speech is not impossible for me.

Source: Plato, “Apology”

Plato, “Phaedrus”

Comprehending the dialogue between Socrates and Phaedrus was no easy task, and I’m sure there is still more I can learn upon reading the text again and discussion with others. However, there were a few areas of the conversation that stuck out to me and relate to our discussion of speech in class.

The first sentence that struck me was when Socrates said,

“In good speaking should not the mind of the speaker know the truth of the matter about which he is going to speak?”

Essentially, it is important to understand the information you are speaking about. Having a deep understanding of your topic also helps improve your fourth and fifth canons of rhetoric: memorization and delivery. A speaker is also more likely to come across to an audience as more authentic and believable if the speaker knows his or her information well.

While a speaker should be knowledgeable about his or her topic, Socrates continued to say that speaking involves more than just knowledge:

“I boldly assert that mere knowledge of the truth will not give you the art of persuasion.”

Relating back to the canons of rhetoric, while preparation and understanding your content is important, equally as important is your delivery. Socrates added that people are easily influenced by emotion, and people, especially ones who do not fully understand something, will be swayed by emotion over knowledge. For our purposes, delivering a successful speech involves knowing your information well and applying aspects like tone, volume, gestures, and eye contact to connect with your audience.

Finally, one other relevant quote from Socrates came when he was describing Zeno:

“…who has an art of speaking by which he makes the same things appear to his hearers like and unlike, one and many, at rest and in motion”

Audience analysis popped into my mind when I read this sentence and the accompanying ones. One of the difficulties of giving a speech is presenting your information in a way that everyone in your audience can understand. You do not want to be misunderstood or for people to not completely understand what you are saying. Additionally, if you rely too much on emotional appeal, your audience will not fully understand all the information you are presenting. Speaking like Zeno is not easy, but following the canons of rhetoric is an important tactic for delivering an effective speech.

Source: Plato, “Phaedrus”

Introduction to the Canons of Rhetoric

The Introduction to the Canons of Rhetoric assignment explained five different stages, or canons, of creating and presenting a public speech. As a communication major, I understand the importance of the process of producing a speech, and many of the canons were familiar to me, especially since I took an Oral Communication course.

Invention is the first canon, which is the important step of choosing which ideas you will present in your speech. From taking communication courses, I understand that it is beneficial to brainstorm lots of ideas and then choose the ones that best fit your purpose. Creating a thesis for a speech is also vital to guide your entire presentation, much like the thesis for a paper.

Arrangement is also a very important canon and often times the most difficult for me, especially with organizing the order of my main points. However, one area where many people fall short is creating an introduction and conclusion for their speeches, which are important to reinforce your main ideas. I also cannot stress the importance of creating an outline, which helps you organize and memorize your main points better than writing out your entire speech.

The third canon of style relates to the first canon of invention, since you must choose your language based off your audience analysis. Employing figurative language can also be crucial in a speech, especially if your topic is unfamiliar to your audience.

Memory is another canon that many people struggle with, including myself. However, I know it is extremely important to practice your speech and know your content well so you are not over-relying on presentation aids. Knowing your content well also adds to your credibility as a speaker on your topic.

Finally, the canon of delivery is the presentation of the speech itself. I never knew that “extemporaneous” was the term to describe sounding well-prepared but conversational, but that tone is something I always strive for when speaking. Delivery is especially important to make sure your audience is interested in listening to you.

Although I did not know the canons of rhetoric before this assignment, the canons fit right along with my prior knowledge of speech preparation. The canons of rhetoric provide a beneficial guide to follow when preparing a speech.

Source: Introduction to the Canons of Rhetoric

Oral Interpretation

As a writer, I tend to focus the most on words, but poetry involves so many other factors. One of the main ideas that stuck out to me in the Oral Interpretation assignment was that sound is one of the most important aspects of poetry. Although this seems obvious, I often fail to pay close attention to sound when I write poetry, at least initially. However, as the assignment stated, poetry is meant to be read aloud, so the word choice and structure must flow nicely. After reading Dr. Jerz’s Poetry Is For The Ear post, I was also reminded of the importance of rhyme and rhythm, especially after reading Robert Frost’s poem. Not only should sound make sense, but it can often play a larger purpose, such as the third line not rhyming with the others in Frost’s poem to add to the theme of tension present in the poem. Sound should have a purpose, which is something I often overlook.

Along with overall sound, another important aspect of poetry is how you verbally recite a poem. I watched Dr. Jerz’s video where he read through “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” which helped illustrate the importance of punctuation. If there is no punctuation at the end of a line, then you should not pause, or else you could change the meaning of the entire poem. Reading with emotion is also important, which like Dr. Jerz, is something I gained a better understanding of when I read stories aloud to a six-year-old. Although showing emotion in my voice is something I have struggled with, I noticed that I slightly altered my voice for different characters and emphasized certain words and phrases more than others.

Sound and recitation are two important aspects of poetry that I will pay more attention to as I analyze poetry moving forward, which goes right along with what I am currently learning in my Introduction to Literary Study course this semester.

Source: Oral Interpretation

My Blogging Experience at SHU

Before I began my education at Seton Hill University, I had no prior experience with blogging. However, that quickly changed when I took Newswriting my first semester and needed to create a blog for course assignments.

Blogging initially challenged me because I was accustomed to responding to assignments in a certain way, and I had the perception that blogging was more for entertainment and not academics. I had to slightly adapt my writing style to contain a more conversational tone while still answering the question(s) accurately. In addition, I was slightly apprehensive about blogging because anyone could see what I was writing.

As I blogged for more assignments, I further developed my writing abilities and felt more connected to the content I was reading. Blogging forces you to demonstrate what you have learned to others, not just the professor, so I think I take more time to really comprehend what I have learned when I blog.

Additionally, I feel like I have the opportunity to learn more when I blog because we are often required to respond to our classmates’ blog posts. I enjoy reading other people’s perspectives, and having discussions on my classmates’ blogs further engages me in the course content.

My overall writing ability has definitely improved as well since I receive feedback from my peers. Although it was initially a bit scary to know anyone could find my writing, blogging gave me great practice in being open to feedback and criticism, which is a necessary skill as a writer, especially a journalist.

Aside from writing, starting a blog my first semester was also extremely beneficial because it introduced me to WordPress. Blogging for my Newswriting course gave me some basic training for my eventual position for the Setonian as Online Editor, and understanding how to maintain and write for a blog is also a marketable skill in the journalism and communication field.

Besides Newswriting, Writing for the Internet, and a few Media Lab assignments, I admit I have not blogged for any other courses. However, my experience with blogging for those courses was beneficial for my growth as a writer, and I have no doubt that blogging for Topics in Media and Culture will only add to that growth as well.

Source: Intro to Weblogs at Seton Hill University