An Introduction to Energia

Energia (also spelled Energeia), is the generic term for vigor and verve in expression. Typically, energia involves the power of presenting the subject matter clearly, and refers not to the words used in presenting the subject but to the vivid mental apprehension of things themselves. Energia in this medium, is not necessarily based on visual description, which is typical of Enargia; and therefore not to be confused with EnargiaOpens in new window.

The term Energia initially appeared in English in the form of the word “energy,” making way through Latin rhetoric by a Renaissance modification of the sense given it by Aristotle (Rhetoric, III, ii, 1411b).

Energia is an important feature of effective expression that ought to be deployed judiciously. Excessive or deficient use of the device makes awkward: an excess is affectationOpens in new window in laboring beyond one’s powers; a deficiency produces languidness, characteristic of modern poets.

Energia, according to ErasmusOpens in new window, occurs when a description places an event ‘before the reader painted with all the colors of rhetoric, so that at length it draws the hearer or reader outside himself as in the theatre … this type of description consists chiefly in an exposition of details, of those in particular that most forcefully bring a thing before one’s eyes, and produce an arresting narrative.’ — (Desiderius Erasmus of RotterdamOpens in new window, On Copia of Words and Ideas (De Utraque Verbonum ac Renum Copia), trans. Donald A. King and H. David Rix (Milwaukee, 1963, pp. 47 – 9)).

QuintillianOpens in new window earlier described same views: “There are certain experiences which … the Romans [call] visions, whereby things absent are presented to our imagination with such extreme vividness that they seem actually to be before our very eyes.” And he goes on to argue that the orator himself must feel the emotions that he wishes to arouse in his hearers. — (The Institution Oratoria of Quintillian, with an English Translation by H. E. Butler, M. A., 4 vols. (Cambridge, 1921), 6.2.32)

Further Readings:
Richard A. Lanham, A Handbook of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd edn (Berkeley, 1991, [pp. 64 – 5].)