‘The wildernesse of Tropes and Figures’: Figuring Rhetoric in Leveller Pamphlets

Foxley, Rachel
October 2006
Seventeenth Century;Autumn2006, Vol. 21 Issue 2, p270
Academic Journal
The Leveller writers of the 1640s adopted a consistent anti-rhetorical stance, arguing that the naked truth was efficacious in itself, without the aid of rhetorical ‘clothing’, suggesting that their own writings presented the unmediated truth, and basing their model of verbal communication on the supposedly incontestable truths of sense-perception. This perspicacious language – politically and religiously essential in the Levellers' view – was under threat from civil war propaganda, which the Levellers saw as dislocating language from its literal meaning in ways which they likened to the operation of rhetorical tropes such as metonymy. However, the Leveller writers ultimately failed to defend their own writing against the contemporary charge that it, too, could be a form of deceptive rhetoric, parading its plainness to mask its own manipulative intent.


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