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This item is taken from PN Review 261, Volume 48 Number 1, September - October 2021.

Editorial
This is an age of manifest – and manifested – sensitivities. We are alerted to cultural, sexual and medical improprieties of expression. We need to protect readers, as listeners and viewers are generally protected, against what may shock or unsettle them. Radio listeners are warned of the proximity of ‘strong language’ (which indicates obscenity or aggression, a rather gendered notion of ‘strong’); television viewers are cautioned against flashing lights which might set off a life-threatening reflex, but also alerted to nudity and sometimes to sexual content. If they choose to over-ride trigger warnings and something they see or hear unsettles them, they’re provided with numbers to call or websites to visit. They can be repaired after damage or comforted after hurt. Soap operas are especially considerate in this way.

Magazines, newspapers, books and social media are now commonly in the firing line, though they often hold the gun to their own heads and hearts. To read modern apologies from those who offend, or fear they may have offended, is like reading accounts of abasement in imperial Rome. If you fell foul of the Emperor, you demeaned yourself, and when you could go no lower you finished yourself off, leaving your estate to your master. Nero’s great tutor Seneca is a startling example, having taken obedience and obeisance to the nth degree. The emperor was generally unaccountable, until the Praetorian Guard turned. When a modern writer is caught out, there are often in print accounts to settle.

The different types of rhetoric ...


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