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Title: The rhetoric of Pascal : a study of Pascal's 'Art of Persuasion' with particular reference to the Provinciales and the Pensees
Author: Topliss, Patricia
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1962
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Pascal's essays De l'esprit geometrique and De l'art de persuader, together with fragments found amongst his notes for an Apology, constitute his literary theory or Rhetoric. This Rhetoric is basically psychological. Pascal recognises that in order to persuade his reader he must sway his emotions as well as convince him intellectually. The character or temperament of the person or group to be persuaded determines the adoption of a particular method. This theory is essentially similar to Ancient Rhetoric. Though the Ancients tend to be remembered only for their lists of figures and tropes, they also emphasised the orator's need, to vary his approach according to his audience, devoting as much space to "moving the passions" as to "proof". Analysis of both the Provinciales and the Pensees - aimed primarily at the honnetes gens shows how Pascal put his precepts into practice. In the Provinciales he does not simply, as critics sometimes suggest, present his reader with models of logical and cogent reasoning. By the extensive use of irony, invective, ridicule, innuendo and all the standard means of disparagement he builds up an atmosphere of hostility to the Jesuit cause and conditions his reader's reaction against it. In apologetics he rejects metaphysical proofs: intellectual conviction alone, he fears, leads todeism and not Christianity. Though he makes some appeal to the unbeliever's reason, he seeks especially to induce in him certain moods and to convince him emotionally of the desirability of belief in the Christian god. He belongs to the Augustinian tradition of apologetics. The Provinciales and the Pensees are linked by Pascal's forceful and ardently religious temperament, which is reflected in his Rhetoric. In the Provinciales his personality is an asset: in the Pensees it modifies his success as an apologist, but raises him, occasionally, to the stature of poet.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Rhetoric