Art of Rhetoric in the Writings of Shoghi Effendi

By Jack McLean

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #60
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 26–29, 2005
(see list of papers from #60)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 8, pages 203-256
© 2007, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    Shoghi Effendi's use of rhetoric, demonstrated mainly through epistolary, and also through table talks to pilgrims (1922-1957), corresponds to the ancient purpose of this "great prince" (Longinus) as speech/writing that aims to persuade and to move to action. Since the time of its inception in the West, with the Sophists in the fifth century BCE, down to the present day, rhetoric has remained both a practice and a theoretical study. It has particular pertinence to the suasive speech of Shoghi Effendi. Coupled with his own native ability, the Guardian studied courses on rhetoric during his time at the Syrian Protestant College (1915-17). Later at Balliol College (1920-21), Oxford, he listened with interest to the great speakers of the day at the Oxford Union and presented a paper to the Lotus Club, which excelled at intellectual discussion and dialogue.

    This paper will outline, with examples from his letters, six defining elements of Shoghi Effendi's rhetorical art, which shows both classical and particular or atypical uses. These elements include: (1) His use of epistolary (2) His credibility as a rhetor (3) Parallels to Aristotle's three species of rhetoric found in On Rhetoric. (4) The Guardian's rhetoric of action, eulogy and blame (5) The place of demonstrative reason and kinetic emotion (6) His use of the sublime (hypsos).

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