Wherein Ancient Rhetorical Devices Are Explained

I’ve been meaning to write about Vivien Schweitzer for a while, now. I can’t find anything about which to call her out, because, well, she’s good. So I’m taking this opportunity to point out an oft-neglected rhetorical device: Extreme Understatement. Anti-hyperbole. Perhaps there’s a fancy ancient-rhetoric name for it, I don’t know.

What? Look it up? Okay. [looks it up]

It’s called Litotes. Here’s a good example:

“Business carried on as usual during alterations on the map of Europe.” --Winston Churchill

WWII = alterations on the map of Europe. Classic. He’s one of my favorite rhetoricians.

Here is another (good example and favorite rhetorician):

When David Robertson first conducted at the Metropolitan Opera in 1996, he had the distressing experience of leading a performance of Janacek’s “Makropulos Case” in which a tenor died onstage.

Holy crap! “Distressing”? More like fucking terrifying, if you ask me. Potentially traumatic, even.

Then, this:

Things went more smoothly on Saturday night, his first appearance at the house in a decade, leading Mozart’s “Entführung aus dem Serail” (“The Abduction From the Seraglio”).

More smoothly = nobody died onstage. Wow. Exemplary.

Keep it up, Ms. S.

Original article here.


Sator Arepo said...

What? Really? No comments on my most positive-y post ever? You sorry souls. Ancient rhetorical theory is a...hidden passion. Tear me apart, peeps!

Empiricus said...

Your name is retrograde for "opera rotas." How's that for a tear?