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

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Or texture:

deconstruction: one of the five modes of intellectual discourse, it enacts postmodern discourse in the mode of postmodern literary critics. Rather than investing their time with religious phenomena in antiquity, deconstructionists devote their energies to phenomena that appear in modern and postmodern media. Selecting this mode of discourse for commentary gives an interpreter access to very different social and economic circles of production than the other modes of discourse.

deity: an aspect of sacred texture, it refers to God, or divine being, who may exist either in the background or in a direct position of action and speech in a text. This is the realm of theology par excellence--the nature of God and God's action and revelation. Sometimes there is simply reference to God or a god in a text. Sometimes God speaks and acts like another character in the story. Describing the nature of God, for example, as depicted in the text is an important step in analyzing and interpreting sacred texture.

deliberative rhetoric:

direct speech: when a character in the story speaks, namely attributed speech, as opposed to indirect speech or simple narration.

discursive practices: used in connection with spheres of ideology within ideological texture, part of which is concerned to analyze human language--"signs" on a printed page into which are inscribed both "discursive" and "non-discursive" practices (Eagleton 1991: 219). Texts contain accounts of non-discursive practices, like "dislodging a pebble from one's left ear" (Eagleton 1991: 219). But it also contains discursive practices, like a galley slave being required to row "non-stop for fifteen hours at a stretch and sending up a feeble chant of praise to the Emperor on the hour" (Eagleton 1991: 206).

divine history: A subtexture of sacred texture, it is the idea, presupposed by many texts, that divine powers direct historical processes and events toward certain results.

dominant culture: one of five final cultural categories (a subtexture of social and cultural texture), its rhetoric presents a system of attitudes, values, dispositions, and norms that the speaker either presupposes or asserts are supported by social structures vested with power to impose its goals on people in a significantly broad territorial region. Click here for examples.

dyadic contract: One of several common social and cultural topics, it is an implicit contract informally binding pairs of contractants rather than groups. It is based on the informal principle of reciprocity, which is the most significant form of social interaction in the limited-good world of the first century. Reciprocity is an implicit, non-legal contractual obligation, unenforcable by any authority apart from one's sense of honor and shame. In a limited-good world, such contracts can bind persons of equal status (colleague contracts) or persons of different statuses (patron-client contracts). The informal contracts function side by side with the formal contracts of society like buying and selling, marriage, the natural covenant with God, and the like. The dyadic contract cross-cuts the formal contracts of the culture, serving as the glue that holds together for long or short terms, and enabling the social interdependence necessary for life.

dyadic personality: One of several common social and cultural topics, it is seen in one who needs another person continually in order to know who he or she really is. Such persons internalize and make their own what others say, do, and think about them, because they believe it is necessary, for being human, to live out the expectations of others. These persons conceive of themselves as always interrelated to other persons while occupying a distinct social position both horizontally (with others sharing the same status, moving from center to periphery) and vertically (with others above and below in social rank). Such persons need to test this interrelatedness, with the focus of attention away from ego, on the demands and expectations of others who can grant or withhold reputation. In other words, dyadic personalities are people whose self-perception and self-image are formed in terms of what others perceive and feed back to them. If our individualism leads us to perceive ourselves as unique because we are set apart from other unique and set-apart beings, then a first-century person would perceive himself or herself as a distinctive whole set in relation to other such wholes and set within a given social and natural background. Every individual is perceived as embedded in some other, in a sequence of embeddedness. Click here for examples.

dyadic relationship: a relationship in which the participants have a dyadic personalities.

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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.