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Understanding the Key Features of Divisio

Divisio (literally “division”), is a rhetorical device in which the oratorOpens in new window planned and outlined the argumentation of his case into segments. This is intended to simplify the thesisOpens in new window of which the parts are meant to give meaning to the whole.

Division does not refer to arrangement of the speech, but to the logical divisions of the subject into its principal issues, usually along the lines of the theory of stasis originally developed by Hermagoras. HermagorasOpens in new window made an overall division into questions of law and questions of fact or justice.

The anonymous author of the rhetorical manual ‘Rhetorica ad HerreniumOpens in new window’, describes the term divisio as having two parts, which is related to ‘partitioOpens in new window’. The first contains the points of agreement and disagreement between litigants arising out of the narrative. This is followed by a distribution, which is made up of two parts: the enumeration and the exposition.

The enumerationOpens in new window involves telling how many points one will make. The expositionOpens in new window is the giving of the points to be discussed. No more than three points are recommended.

CiceroOpens in new window (Inv. 1.31) indicates that the partitio can take two forms: points of agreement and disagreement with a stated problem, or 'the matters which we intend to discuss are briefly set forth in a mechanical way.' In theory, partitio heads should be explicit – but in actual speeches this is the exception rather than the rule. Commonly the partitio is much less obvious (at least to modern readers). (qtd in. Fredrick J. Long, Ancient Rhetoric and Paul's Apology. Cambridge University Press, 2004)

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