Rhetoric has shaped our understanding of the nature of language and the purpose of literature for over two millennia. It is of crucial importance in understanding the development of literary history as well as elements of philosophy, politics and culture. The nature and practise of rhetoric was central to Classical, Renaissance and Enlightenment cultures and its relevance continues in our own postmodern world to inspire further debate. Examining both the practice and theory of this controversial concept, Jennifer Richards explores: historical and contemporary definitions of the term 'rhetoric' uses of rhetoric in literature, by authors such as William Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce classical traditions of rhetoric, as seen in the work of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero the rebirth of rhetoric in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment the current status and future of rhetoric in literary and critical theory as envisaged by critics such as Kenneth Burke, Paul de Man and Jacques Derrida. This insightful volume offers an accessible account of this contentious yet unavoidable term, making this book invaluable reading for students of literature, philosophy and cultural studies.