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Rhetoric on the mind: rhetoric, the passions, and memory in Francis Bacon and John Donne

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posted on 2022-03-28, 23:14 authored by Daniel Derrin
This thesis examines some of the writing of Francis Bacon and John Donne. It studies their rhetorical practices with reference to early modern beliefs about how the mind works. Thus it explores the connections between their rhetorical activities and various broad conceptions of cognitive activity such as mental image formation, reasoning and passionate feeling. It explores especially those connections made within the theoretical traditions of rhetoric and faculty psychology that Bacon and Donne inherited. Having done so, it puts the writings of both men into that context and tries to extend understanding both of what was available to them in constructing an approach to their audience's cognitive capabilities on particular occasions, and of their own self-awareness of the processes of rhetorical planning. -- In identifying the connections early modern theorists and practitioners made between certain rhetorical skills and their understanding of the mind's functions, I identify three kinds of rhetoric, each of which says something respectively about how to engage a reader's capacity for mental image formation, reasoning, and passionate feeling. They are what shall be called the "enargetic", "thetical", and "tropical" resources. "Enargetic" describes the kind of skills that could be connected to mental image making, "thetical" the skills for activating the faculty of reason, and "tropical" the skills for mangaging emotional contexts. Each of these intersections between rhetoric and the mind combine. Even more significantly though, for the sake of understanding what Bacon and Donne are doing in particular texts, it is the faculty of memory that is central to each of the three, and their combinations. That is to say, each resource - the enargetic, thetical, and tropical - is a means of accessing and challenging things that were familiar to their readers and listeners. The fact of always having to deal the familiar, even when pointedly hoping to challenge it, opens up questions about how writers such as Bacon and Donne attacked various problems related to using familiar things to challenge other familiar things. It also opens up questions about what might account for the differences we detect in their divergent approaches to that challenge. -- Their combinations of the enargetic, thetical, and tropical rhetorics can be connected, I argue, to the interests, or 'oughts', that Bacon and Donne were most concerned with. In Bacon's case, the most significant is his lifelong concern to get people using the 'right' method. In Donne's case, it is his never-ending quest to belong. Such oughts, or characteristic views about how things should be, drive, to a significant degree, the uses of the three rhetorical resources. But to the extent that such oughts define the different stances taken toward the expected cognition of readers and listeners, they also define the very choices that Bacon and Donne make about what familiar things to make reference to. Their different oughts offer us a critical perspective on their different 'tyles' of rhetorical practice, styles understood in terms beyond just diction and structure.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- 1. Rhetoric on the mind in Bacon and Donne's rhetorical tradition -- 2. Making mental images: an enargetic rhetoric -- 3. Reasoning from place to place: a thetical rhetoric -- 4. Passion and perception: a tropical rhetoric -- 5. Project-Bacon: gaining properly quiet entry -- 6. Project-Donne: getting properly included -- Conclusion: cognition, the familiar, and rhetorical style.


Bibliography: p. 211-226

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of English

Department, Centre or School

Dept. of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Anthony Cousins


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Daniel Derrin 2011. Complete version suppressed due to copyright restrictions. However, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Macquarie University’s Document Supply, please contact




1 online resource (ix, 226 p.)

Former Identifiers

mq:25905 1837084