Rhetorical Devices II
Bill Long 11/24/04
Anthypophora (and Relatives)
Sinking our teeth deeply into figures of speech makes us aware of how all speech is metaphorical and how every act of speaking is an opportunity for generative/creative insights into life and language. But because language is varied and reality is often impossible to describe exactly, the terms used to try to capture what we are doing are varied. That is especially apparent with the words for today.
This word appears in classical Greek and is simply translated "reply." The OED gives its root meaning as "against an allegation." But the Liddell Scott Dictionary especially references it to a "reply to a supposed objection," quoting Quintilian (9.3.87). But Quintilian doesn't precisely say that. In the Institutio, Quintilian says:
"For a long time now I have been saying more than I need about Figures: but there will still be those who think that there is a Figure to be found in 'What I say is unbelievable but true' (they call this anthypophora)...." Institutes 9.3.87.
Yet the editor of Quintilian refers us back to a passage (9.2.106) where the earlier rhetorical tradition (going back to Rutilius, a 1st century A.D. Roman rhetorician who had produced a Latin abbreviation of a work on rhetorical figures by Gorgias. Only two books of these survive, though the whole, apparently, was available to Quintilian--see the reference in 9.2.102) used the term anthypophora to be a representation of an opponent's argument for the sake of refuting it. So we arrive at the ancient (and modern) meaning of anthypophora.
Moving to Today
As we get to the more modern dictionaries we have a distinction between hypophora and anthypophora (also antihypophora) expressed neatly in the Century Dictionary. The definitions assume an imagined conversation between a person and his objectors. Hypophora, literally meaning a "carrying under" or "putting under," is a statement of the opponent's objection or of an argument which might be urged against the speaker's or writer's position. Then the hypophora is followed by the anthypophora, which may be defined as the speaker's answer to the supposed objection. Lanham, in his Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, only has an entry under hypophora which he swiftly defines as "asking questions and immediately answering them (p. 87)," thus combining the two concepts in one word. He mentions that the author of Ad Herennium (a rhetorical handbook, popular throught the Middle Ages, from the 1st century B.C.) uses the word subjectio partially to cover the term.
But a few examples of anthypophora (let us construe it broadly to include hypophora) are illustrative. From Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe:
"Who taught me to curl myself inside a buttercup? Iolanthe! Who taught me to swing upon a cobweb? Iolanthe! Who taught me to dive into a dewdrop--to nestle in a nutshell--to gambol upon gossamer? Iolanthe!"
An example from the Apostle Paul comes to mind, when he was sorely oppressed in mind and in a vigorous controversy with some Corinthian opponents. He wanted to be seen as a "fool" so that he could "boast a little" (that is, he had to take on a different character in order to exercise this 'non-Christian' vice). And so he goes on to boast of himself, possibly as a means of refuting allegations of his ignoble origin.
"Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman--I am a better one..." II Cor. 11:22-23.
The ability to anticipate another's objection or to raise a question where people might not be fully apprised of the relevant information, and then to answer it with a resounding "Iolanthe" or "So am I," gives the statement a sense of finality and power that mere narrative exposition will not provide. Thus it is technically correct to see anthpophora/hypophora as simply raising questions and answering them, but such a basic definition ignores the deeper rhetorical strategy involved in this action. It functions almost as a "Thus saith the Lord," a statement that should settle all disputes and render every opponent silent.
Copyright © 2004-2010 William R. Long