Friday, May 17, 2024

The way he said it

K. Alan Snyder is working on a paper describing Dorothy L. Sayers's arguments for sound education. Sayer's most well-known paper on the subject is “The Lost Tools of Learning,” which has been part of the inspiration of the classical school movement. Dr. Snyder, doing research at the Wade Center, has discovered an unpublished Sayers lecture about one of those "lost" tools, rhetoric. Sayers on Churchill's effective use of rhetoric:
The cornerstone for this address was the example of Winston Churchill, a leader that Sayers believed had rejuvenated the impact of effective rhetoric. She comments, “At the beginning of the last war, an extraordinary wave of excitement & vivification ran through the nation when Mr. Churchill began to speak on the wireless.”

Sayers adds, “It was not so much what he said—though that was heartening & good—as the way he said it, which was electrical. Events (which were agitating enough) helped of course to put us into the mood to be moved; but at first events were so depressing that if they had been talked about in the old way we should probably have sunk into a lethargy of discouragement.”

Throughout the war, Sayers notes, “that resonant voice trumpeted its way through bad times & good.” Even people who weren’t fans of Churchill or his politics were stirred by the rhetoric of his famous speeches in those dire times. They “drank in great lifesaving draughts of stimulating language with body in it. That marked, I believe, the first steps in the Revival of Rhetoric.”

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