Metanoia (rhetoric)

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For other uses, see Metanoia (disambiguation).

Metanoia (from the Greek μετάνοια, metanoia, changing one's mind) in the context of rhetoric is a device used to retract a statement just made, and then state it in a better way.[1] As such, metanoia is similar to correction. Metanoia is used in recalling a statement in two ways—-to weaken the prior declaration or to strengthen it.

Weakening[edit]

The use of metanoia to weaken a statement is effective because the original statement still stands, along with the qualifying statement.[2] For instance, when one says, "I will murder you. You shall be punished," the force of the original statement ("I will murder you") remains, while a more realistic alternative has been put forward ("you shall be punished").

Strengthening[edit]

When it is used to strengthen a statement, metanoia works to ease the reader from a moderate statement to a more radical one, as in this quote from Marcus Aurelius's Meditations

I still fall short of it through my own fault, and through not observing the admonitions of the gods, and, I may almost say, their direct instructions (Book One);[3]

Here Aurelius utilizes metanoia to move from a mild idea ("not observing the admonitions of the gods") to a more intense one ("not observing... their direct instructions"); the clause "I may almost say" introduces the metanoia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Silva Rhetoricae (2006). Metanoeia
  2. ^ VirtualSalt.com (2006). A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices
  3. ^ The Internet Classics Archive (2006). The Meditations
  • Cuddon, J.A., ed. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. 3rd ed. Penguin Books: New York, 1991.
  • Robert A. Harris (2010-01-05). "Metanoi". A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices. Virtualsalt.com. p. 4. Retrieved 2010-01-20.