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:

marginal culture: a culture whose values, attitudes, dispositions and norms are relegated to the periphery of society.

maxim: a succinct statement expressing a general truth, moral reflection or rule of conduct; it is part of oral-scribal intertexture where the recitation omits certain words in such a manner that the word-string has the force of a proverb, maxim, or authoritative judgment.

members: participants in a clique. It is helpful to speak of core members, who participate all the time, primary members, who meet sometimes with the core and rarely alone, and secondary members, who are on the fringes an participate infrequently.

middle unit: An aspect of opening-middle-closing texture, it is the center section of a narrative unit. It is preceded by the initial unit and followed by the final unit.

mini-culture: an aspect of counterculture or alternative culture, minicultures make provisions for both sexes and a wide range of age groups, are capable of influencing people over their entire life span, and develop appropriate institutions to sustain the group in relative self-sufficiency" (at least twenty-five years) (113).

minimal rationality: a feature of liminal culture rhetoric, it suggests that speech is disjunctive and multiaccentual. It starts and stops without obvious consistency and coherence. Liminal culture rhetoric features 'minimal rationality' as a dialogic process that 'attempts to track displacements and realignments that are the effects of cultural antagonisms and articulations--subverting the rationale of the hegemonic moment and relocating alternative, hybrid sites of cultural negotiation' (Bhabha 1992: 443).

miracle story: one of the types (or forms) of narrative found in the gospels. Other types are "parable," "stories about Jesus," or "pronouncement stories."

miracle rhetorolect/belief system/form of life: One of six rhetorolect/belief systems in first century Christian discourse. First century Christian miracle belief has a primary focus on human bodies afflicted with paralysis, malfunction, or disease. In this context, a malfunctioning body becomes a "site" of "social geography." Miracle belief features a bodily agent of God's power who renews and restores life, producing forms of "new creation" that oppose powers of affliction, disruption, and death. The “location” of importance for early Christian miracle belief, therefore, is a “space of relation” between an afflicted body and a bodily agent of God’s power (firstspace). In this belief system, social, cultural, political, or religious “places” on earth are simply places where "bodies" may be. A bodily agent of God’s power, wherever it may be, is a “location” where God can function as a miraculous renewer of life (secondspace). A major goal of miracle belief is to effect extraordinary renewal within people that moves them toward speech and action that produces communities that care for the well-being of one another (thirdspace). Return to Rhetorolect/Belief Systems table.

modes of intellectual discourse: Particular social, cultural, theological, historical, literary, psychological, and ideological ways of presenting commentary on texts, beliefs, rituals, creeds, sacred sites, etc. An interpreter's adoption of a mode of commentary produces a particular kind of social, cultural, theological, and ideological product. Major modes of intellectual discourse are: historical-critical, social scientific, history of religions, new historical, postmodern, and socio-rhetorical.

narrational texture: Click here for examples.

narrative amplification: an aspect of oral-scribal intertexture, it is the enlargement of a brief narrative into an expanded form. As the narration is expanded, one or more saying, in abbreviated or expanded form, may be incorporated into it. The expansion may, then, create an expanded chreia that contains extended narration and one or more sayings, including a saying containing a multiple number of clauses. Often the expansion is achieved by integrating other texts that are recited, recontextualized, or reconfigured. Click here for examples.

narrative discourse: Narrative discourse is discouse that tells a story. Its components are characters, a plot, and a setting. Narrative discourse, like other discourses, is characterized by particular modes of argumentation-- arguments are rarely explicitly stated for the reader, but are instead embedded within the story. As such, the reader must reconstruct the natural flow of the argument from narrative components of the text, such as characterization and plot sequence.

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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.