Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes

Romantic Rhetoric & Diction

cf. Romanticism

thanks to

rhetoric: The art of using language effectively so as to persuade or influence others, esp. the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques to this end; the study of principles and rules to be followed by a speaker or writer striving for eloquence [expressing thought with fluency, force, and appropriateness, so as to appeal to the reason or move the feelings] . . .  4b. The structural elements, compositional techniques, and modes of expression used to produce a desired effect on a viewer, audience, etc. . . . 4c. The language or discourse characteristically associated with a particular subject, concept, or set of ideas. (Oxford English Dictionary)

diction: 3a. The manner in which anything is expressed in (spoken or written) words; choice or selection of words and phrases; wording, phrasing; verbal style. (Oxford English Dictionary)

The style of Romanticism corresponds to its subject of "desire for anything but the here and now" by using language that stretches the reality of everyday speech.

Some qualities of Romantic rhetoric:

elevation & intensification of feeling or emotion

extremes, excess, superlatives (with Poe, whose favorite word ending is "-est," darkness starts out as pitch-black, then gets darker)

florid language (florid = flowery)

archaic or old-fashioned diction (thee, thou, mayest, soul-talk)

metaphor and analogy / simile

allusion to archaic subjects or texts, e.g. classical myths, ancient legends


Another descriptive phrase for Romantic Rhetoric:

"Purple Prose" or "Purple Passages"