Output 2

Training Module

Traditions in rhetoric education

It includes recommendations for developing and improving the skills of pronouncing a speech, preparing one’s voice, maintaining control during the presentation, participating in dialogic formats, etc.

  • Traditions in rhetoric education

  • Contemporary methods

  • Forming, developing and refining one’s voice

  • Formation, development and improvement of non-linguistic means

  • Summary and recommendations

  • Online resources and bibliography

Traditions in the teaching of rhetoric

Rhetoric education is studied as part of the history of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, of educational traditions and universities in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, etc. The study of traditions is important, and here are just a few sources in which information about schools of rhetoric can be found.

Before presenting them, we point to scholars’ opinions of on the role of rhetoric training, on its place in cultural traditions and society, and on the elitist character of oratory training in Antiquity.

Bogdan Bogdanov says of rhetoric:

It is meant for the haves, the able to pay, the minority who are able to learn after the age of twenty. The aim of this education is to master the practice of active public activity, which, as we have said, requires that one be broadly educated in the sphere of speech” (Bogdanov 1989: 183).

Philosopher Hristo Paunov’s assessment of rhetoric is as follows:

It was the discipline whose theory and practice effectively prepared the contemporary Greek for immediate participation in all spheres of public life and modelled the traits, qualities, and abilities for holding office and exercising managerial functions in public institutions” (Paunov 2010: 51).

We agree with these views that rhetoric training is part of a system where there is a conceptualisation of the importance of complex and gradual formation of future orators, politicians and statesmen in Antiquity. We briefly provide additional information on the traditions of rhetoric training and, in particular:

  • declamation;

  • swazoria;

  • controversy;

  • progymnasium.

Giuseppe la Bois studies writing and Roman declamations. The researcher distinguishes between the spoken and written word and, according to him, utterance has a social function, an oratory is a kind of ‘performative act’, and ‘good speaking’ is also associated with the speaker’s skill for good writing (la Bois 2010: 184). The author assumes that declamations have an intensive development and that there is even reason to say that declamation reaches a literary genre (Bois 2010: 189-196). Declamations are monologues or verbal contests that are separated from the dramatic action and sometimes transported into mythology, outside the trivial life and life of man.

The swazoria and counter-versions, presented as a type of declamation, are part of the Roman tradition in the training of orators.

The purpose of the swazoria, which are a type of exercise, is to form the skills of speech in situations where there is a requirement to make a choice or to take certain action, to do a certain deed.

Conversions are more complex in terms of organization, preparation and implementation in the process of rhetoric education. They are applied in creating situations where decisions have to be made in relation to more complex cases. Controversies involve preparation for court speeches.

Anders Eriksson explores progymnasium as a union between practice and theory. He notes that “Rhetoric teaching is based on its own teaching practices, and theoretical reflection must be based on the metacognition of these practices” (Eriksson 2012: 219).

Giuseppe la Bois, speaking of the rhetorical educational traditions in Rome, argues that during the Empire the dominant role of rhetorical education was not only to assist in the formation of new values, but also to help in the implementation of social duties, activities and relationships. In his view, the rhetorical model does not have only a pedagogical and literary function, nor does it close itself in the structuring and dissemination of oratorical experience. Rhetoric is also charged with the function of preserving and transmitting knowledge and experience, and is related to aristocratic ideals (la Bois 2010: 196).



In Antiquity (Late Antiquity) in the study of rhetoric the term “trivium” was known. It involves the phased teaching and learning of three subjects: grammar, logic and rhetoric. The trivium was the basis for the teaching of liberal arts (artes liberales) in the Middle Ages.

Over the millennia, rhetoric has undergone uneven development as a theory, practice, and discipline of study. It was part of the medieval educational tradition, which also included the so-called ‘quadrivium’, which brought together arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Online resources on topics for rhetoric and oratory in Antiquity.

  • Fredal, James. (2006). Seeing Ancient Rhetoric: Easily at a Glance. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 2, Spring, 2006, Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Retrieved on 12.09.2021.

  • Morgan. T. J. (1999). Literate education in classical Athens1. The Classical Quarterly , Volume 49 , Issue 1 , May 1999 , pp. 46 – 61. DOI: Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 February 2009. Retrieved on 12.09.2021.

In the Middle Ages, rhetoric had a specific development and impact on various spheres. Georgi Petkov explores the place of rhetoric among the sciences (divisio philosophiae), the way in which rhetoric in the Middle Ages came to be conceived as an argumentative discipline with its own syllogistic technique (based on the private case and “what happens in most cases” as a major premise), and presents one specific genre of the development of medieval rhetoric: the art of letter-writing, Ars dictaminis; he gives a brief overview of the basic concepts and the historical development of the field (Petkov 2011).

In modern times, the situation is further developed. Martin Medhurst argues that there are training methods that are applied in situations where poetry is recited alongside oratory preparation, i.e. oratory training goes beyond the speaker’s original oral speaking, and into other arts, including literature (Medhurst 2010: 19-20). Courses also include developing skills in creating, finding and delivering public addresses (Medhurst 2010: 19-20).

One of the assumptions we formulate is that the elitism of rhetoric training from antiquity is gradually being overcome. The pragmatic element is becoming stronger in public speaking courses. At the same time, oratory is being studied in universities, colleges, and schools; it draws on well-established traditions, but it is also moving into new fields.

Throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, rhetoric continued to be incorporated into university curricula both as a separate discipline and as a course that integrated knowledge from other disciplines.

Christian Kock, considering the traditions in Denmark in relation to the teaching of rhetoric, takes it as a possible way to define and develop rhetoric as a curricular content and teaching and as a scientific discipline between academic elitism and journalistic trivialization (Kock 2011: 52).

We agree with Christian Kock’s position, and we present our position that rhetoric education should remain academic in presenting theoretical formulations, the history of rhetoric and oratory, in informing about what argumentation is, and in presenting basic rhetorical knowledge. At the same time, the training should also focus on:

  • developing and shaping oratory and presentation skills;

  • focusing on topics related to effective media behaviour;

  • including public communication;

  • modules on business communication taking into account the new context;

  • taking into account the dynamic changes in society and technology, the Internet and virtual environment, social networks, online media, livestreaming, new media ecosystems.

Learning requires the formation of rhetorical media literacy, digital media literacy, visual literacy, and multimodal literacy. This poses new challenges to rhetoric education.

Each of these areas covers voice work, shaping, refining. Invariably gestures, facial expressions, posture are involved. A mandatory element is the gaze. The figure below summarises the possible stages and situations for training.

Figure 19 Public speaking training and non-verbal elements

Figure 19 presents possible modules and a possible sequence for rhetoric training.

This is done from a methodological and pedagogical point of view. The first modules are also in line with the “Applied Aspects” section, where the position is presented and the concept that it is better to start the training with shareholders, with the fifth rhetorical canon.

Here it is divided into the formation of voice and, in stages or together with it, of non-linguistic means, tailored to the speaker and his performances. Gradually it moves to monologic genres, to presentation and only then to dialogic formats.

The rationale is that the principles are followed from the general to the particular, from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the easy to the difficult.

It is possible to reconfigure the specific skills formation module in view of the training and the field concerned.

Figure 20 Thematic areas in rhetoric education

Project RHEFINE – Rhetoric for Innovative Education, Number 2020-1-PL01-KA203-082274, Erasmus+ Programme, Key Action 2, Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices – Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education.


University of Warsaw – Poland – coordinator

Institute of Rhetoric and Communication – Bulgaria

University of Zagreb – Croatia