Occult Invention: The Rebirth of Rhetorical Heuresis in Early Modern British Literature from Chapman to Swift

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Title: Occult Invention: The Rebirth of Rhetorical Heuresis in Early Modern British Literature from Chapman to Swift
Author: McCann, Michael Charles, 1959-
Abstract: The twentieth-century project of American rhetorician Kenneth Burke, grounded in a magic-based theory of language, reveals a path to the origins of what I am going to call occult invention. The occult, which I define as a symbol set of natural terms derived from supernatural terms, employs a method of heuresis based on a metaphor-like process I call analogic extension. Traditional invention fell from use shortly after the Liberal Arts reforms of Peter Ramus, around 1550. Occult invention emerged nearly simultaneously, when Early Modern British authors began using occult symbols as tropes in what I refer to as the Occult Mode. I use six of these authors--George Chapman, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Abraham Cowley, John Dryden, and Jonathan Swift--as examples of how occult invention arises. In appropriating occult symbolism, authors in the Occult Mode began using the invention methods of the occult arts of magic, alchemy, astrology, and cabala to derive new meanings, transform language, develop characters and plots, and reorient social perspectives. As we learn in tracking Burke's project, occult invention combines the principles of Aristotle's rhetoric and metaphysics with the techniques and principles of the occult arts. Occult invention fell from use around the end of the eighteenth century, but its rhetorical influence reemerged through the work of Burke. In this study I seek to contextualize and explicate some of the literary sources and rhetorical implications of occult invention as an emergent field for further research.
Description: xiv, 234 p. : ill.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/12081
Date: 2011-09


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