SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions

Things, Thoughts, Words, and Actions

The Problem of Language in Late Eighteenth-Century British Rhetorical Theory

Add to Cart

H. Lewis Ulman


NLEB (Other formats: Hardcover)
256 pages, 5.5 x 8.5


Additional Materials

About the Book

H. Lewis Ulman here examines the roles of language theory in eighteenth-century British rhetorics, linking those roles to philosophical issues informing twentieth-century rhetorical theory. In doing so, Ulman develops a general model of the "problem of language" for rhetorical theory, a model that transcends the impasse between realism and skepticism that marks both eighteenth- and twentieth-century rhetorical theory.

The nature of language was never more central to rhetorical theory than in the second half of the eighteenth century. Yet, until now, the articulation of theories of language and the arts of rhetoric in eighteenth-century Britain has received little attention. Ulman examines the role of grammar and theories of language in the formation of eighteenth-century rhetorical theory, investigating the significance of language theory for such key concerns of eighteenth-century rhetoric as verbal criticism, style, and elocution. His study highlights what he understands as the central motive of late eighteenth-century British rhetoricians—to construct for their particular cultural context philosophically rigorous accounts of verbal communication based on carefully articulated theories of thought and language.

Toward this end, Ulman examines three eighteenth-century British rhetorical treatises: George Campbell’s Philosophy of Rhetoric, Hugh Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, and Thomas Sheridan’s Course of Lectures on Elocution. He then identifies the continuities and discontinuities between the problem of language for eighteenth- and twentieth-century rhetorical theory and proposes a pluralistic stance toward the problem of language in rhetoric as an alternative to the theoretical standoff that currently characterizes the debate between realist and antirealist rhetorics.


H. Lewis Ulman is an associate professor of English at Ohio State University. He is the editor of The Minutes of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society,1758–1773.


"This is not a narrowly antiquarian study or an exegesis of a few historically important texts. The perspective established at the beginning of the book gives Ulman’s analyses a kind of double focus that I find workable, stimulating, and intellectually compelling."—John Harwood, Penn State University