SIU Department Name | Page Title

siu logo siupress logo

SIU logo


Main Content Area

Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity

Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity

Vico, Condillac, Monboddo

Add to Cart

Catherine L. Hobbs


NLEB (Other formats: Paperback)
224 pages, 6 x 9

Rhetorical Philosophy & Theory


Additional Materials

About the Book

Changes in English studies today, particularly the rise of cultural studies, have forced reexaminations of historical genealogies. Three complex figures whose places are currently being reassessed include the Neapolitan Giambattista Vico (1668 –1744), the Frenchman Etienne de Condillac (1714 –1780), and the Scotsman James Burnet(t), Lord Monboddo (1714 –1799) in our histories of communication, linguistics, English studies, and now rhetoric.

In Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo, Catherine L. Hobbs focuses primarily on these three key figures in whose work rhetoric and linguistics intertwine as they respond to emerging attitudes and values of science and philosophy in the eighteenth century. Through her examination of works of Vico, Condillac, Monboddo and other marginal figures, Hobbs presents a different and more nuanced view of the transformation of rhetoric from classical to modern.

In order to redefine each figure’s position, Hobbs brings together the histories of linguistics, literature, rhetoric, and communication, rather than leaving them isolated in separate disciplines. She examines each figure’s theory of language origin and development as it has motivated their rhetorical theories. The result is Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo, an original and significant account of the formation of modern rhetoric.


Catherine L. Hobbs is a professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, is the editor of Nineteenth-Century Women Learn to Write (1995) and the author of Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo (Southern Illinois Univeristy Press, 2002) and The Elements of Autobiography and Life Narratives (2005).


Rhetoric on the Margins of Modernity: Vico, Condillac, Monboddo enriches our understanding of the pivotal period when rhetoric became modern. Hobbs expands histories of our field to focus on figures who have been positioned as marginal in traditional accounts of how rhetoric was redefined by the logic of the sciences and the modern restriction of literature to nonfactual nonutilitiarian discourse. By including figures who call these broader categories into question, Hobb’s arguments shift the frame of reference for the transition from classical to modern rhetoric beyond the usual suspects—Campbell, Blair, Smith, and Sheridan. This broader perspective offers new insights into the interdisciplinary trends that are currently redefining the field of contemporary literacy studies.”

—Thomas P. Miller, author of The Formation of College English: Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in the British Cultural Provinces