Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

Religious Sites in Atlanta

Emory Department of Religion

Emory Graduate Division of Religion



Dictionary of Socio-Rhetorical Terms

Choose another definition:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J-L | M-N | O | P-Q | R | S | T-Z

Or texture:

central storehouse economy: This economic system was found in the earliest civilizations of Mediterranean antiquity. Priests controlled the distribution of food, which was produced by an agricultural workforce, centrally stored in the temple storehouse, and redistributed to the non-agricultural workforce as well as the agricultural workforce. Click here for examples.

challenge-response (riposte): One of several common social and cultural topics, it is an agonistic method of interaction between people in Mediterranean culture, a constant tug of war, a game of push and shove where the winner receives honor and the loser shame. It is undertaken by social peers, or equals, and proceeds in several steps: the initial challenge, the perception of the challenge, the reaction to the message. Click here for examples.

chreia: A chreia (pl. chreiai) is a brief statement or action aptly attributed to a specific person or something analogous to a person. If a chreia features a brief statement, that statement may be a thesis. There are three types of chreiai: sayings chreiai, action chreiai, and mixed chreiai. A chreia may be expanded, elaborated, or abbreviated.

christology: Christology is the way a person, text, or doctrine speaks about Jesus as the Christ (or Messiah). Issues that fall under this heading include the divine status of Jesus and his role in salvation.

church tradition: Church traditions are ideas and beliefs that constitute the collective and official memory of the church. These traditions range from historical information (such as the authorship of the books of the Bible) to doctrinal information (such as christology, ecclesiology).

clique: A clique is a coalition whose members associate regularly with each other on the basis of affection and common interest and possess a marked sense of common identity. All members of a clique interact with one another, though there may be core members, primary members, and secondary members.

coalition: A coalition is a temporary alliance of distinct parties for a limited purpose.

colleague contract: One of several common and social cultural topics, a colleague contract is a type of reciprocity among equals. It is symmetrical reciprocity between closely located persons of the same social status. Within this type of contract, there are no free gifts-- each invitation is a postive challenge, a gift that requires repayment. See also dyadic contract and patron-client contract.

common social and cultural topics: the social and cultural values, patterns, or codes prevalent in a certain culture. Everyone living in an area knows common social and cultural topics either consciously or instinctively. Becoming an adult in this environment means acquiring knowledge, consciously or unconsciously, of these social and cultural values, patterns, or codes. Knowing the common social and cultural topics in a text can help an interpreter to avoid ethnocentric and anachronistic interpretation. The common social and cultural topics in socio-rhetorical interpretation concern: honor; shame; dyadic personality; dyadic and legal contracts and agreements; challenge-response (riposte); agriculturally based economic exchange systems; peasants, laborers, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs; limited goods; and purity codes.

confirmation (proof) of the reason: In the thematic elaboration of a thesis or chreia, which incorporates methods of the complete argument as described by ancient rhetoricians, the confirmation of the reason is one of the pieces of the complete argument that reinforces the truth of the reason, thesis, or chreia.

contraculture: (or oppositional): One of several final cultural categories, a culture whose rhetoric is a "short-lived, counter-dependent cultural deviance" of dominant culture, subculture, or counterculture rhetoric. It is "groupculture" rhetoric rather than "subculture" rhetoric. Oppositional rhetoric implies groups "that do not involve more than one generation, which do not elaborate a set of institutions that allow the group to be relatively autonomous and self-sufficient, and which do not sustain an individual over an entire life span." Oppositional rhetoric is primarily a reaction-formation response to some form of dominant culture, subculture, or counterculture rhetoric. This means that it does not create an alternative response on the basis of values it develops out of a different system of understanding, but it simply reacts in a negative way to certain values and practices in another culture. It often is possible, therefore, to predict the behavior and values evoked by oppositional rhetoric, since it simply inverts certain well-known behaviors and values in that other culture. Oppositional rhetoric, then, asserts "more negative than positive ideas." The positive ideas are simply presupposed and come from the culture to which it is reacting.

contrary: an argumentative device that presents an alternative to a thesis for the purpose of confirming or clarifying it. The alternative represents a choice that is not satisfactory in the context of the thesis but is not a direct contradiction (contrary) of the thesis.

conversionist response: One of the specific social topics (which are a subtexture of social and cultural texture and establish a relationship to the world), the conversionist response is characterized by a view that the world is corrupt because people are corrupt. If people can be changed, the world will be changed. Salvation is considered to be available not through objective agencies but only by a profound and supernaturally wrought transformation of the self. The world itself will not change, but the presence of a new subjective orientation to it will itself be salvation.

corporate group: Found in the subtexture relation to groups, a corporate group is a body with a permanent existence: a collection of people recruited on recognized principles, with common interests and rules fixing rights and duties of the members in relation to one another and to these interests.

counterculture: One of the final cultural categories of social and cultural texture, a countercultural or alternative cultural rhetoric rejects explicit and mutable characteristics of the dominant or subculture rhetoric to which it responds. Its rhetoric is a culturally heretical rhetoric that evokes "a new future," not an alien rhetoric that evokes the preservation of an "old culture (real or imagined)." Counterculture rhetoric implies "alternative mini-cultures which make provisions for both sexes and a wide range of age groups, which are capable of influencing people over their entire life span, and which develop appropriate institutions to sustain the group in relative self-sufficiency" (at least twenty-five years). Counterculture rhetoric evokes the creation of "a better society, but not by legislative reform or by violent opposition to the dominant culture." The theory of reform manifest in its rhetoric provides an alternative and hopes "that the dominant society will 'see the light' and adopt a more 'humanistic' way of life." In other words, "social reform is not a preoccupation" of counterculture rhetoric. It evokes a willingness to live one's own life and let the members of dominant society go on with their "madness." Yet, an underlying theme is the hope of voluntary reform by the dominant society in accord with the new model of "the good life." Fully developed counterculture rhetoric expresses a constructive image of a better way of life.

cultural intertexture: A subtexture of intertexture, cultural intertexture is the reference, allusion, or echo of the "insider" cultural knowledge that is known only by people within a particular culture or by people who have learned about the culture through some kind of interaction with it. This knowledge includes the values, scripts, codes and systems of a culture. Click here for examples.

cultural knowledge: An aspect of cutural interexture, cultural knowledge is "insider" knowledge that is known only by people within a particular culture or by people who have learned about the culture through some kind of interaction with it. This knowledge includes the values, scripts, codes and systems of a culture.

cultural location: The cultural location of a reader, writer or of the text itself is categorized through the final cultural categories of social and cultural texture. It is concerned with the manner in which people present their propositions, reasons, and arguments both to themselves and to other people. Uncovering the cultural location of a reader or writer reveals his or her dispositions, presuppositions and values which influence the writing and reading of a text.

cultural rhetoric: Cultural rhetoric is the way a group or a person presents their propositions, reasons, and arguments both to themselves and to other people. There are five major types of cultural rhetoric: dominant, subcultural, contercultural (or alternative), contracultural (or oppositional), and liminal.

cultural system: A cultural system is a set of values, norms, attitudes, and predispositions that is enacted in the various forms of cultural rhetoric (or final cultural categories): dominant, subcultural, contercultural (or alternative), contracultural (or oppositional), and liminal

cultural tradition: A cultural tradition is knowledge handed down from generation to generation concerning the values, norms, attitudes, and predispositions of a given culture. When these traditions are referenced in a text, this is considered cultural intertexture.

cure: removal of symptoms/physical or psychological disorder. Contrast healing.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J-L | M-N | O | P-Q | R | S | T-Z

Definitions based upon Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996 and Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christianity: Rhetoric, Society, and Ideology, London and New York: Routledge, 1996.