What is Pragmatographia?

Pragmatographia (derives from Greek, pragma “that which has been done” and graphe “to write”), is a kind of enargiaOpens in new window solely concerned with the written description of actions or events such as a battle, a feast, a marriage, a burial, etc.

This figure consists when we graphically portray all circumstances of the event that is either happening or has already happened, depicting plainly as if they were most lively painted out in pictorial colors, so as to transport the audience (hearer or reader) outside himself, as in a theatre, and thus to divert him.

The dramatic representations often take the form of expository speechOpens in new window to report event which has happened off-stage, whereby the subject is placed, as it were, firmly before the eyes. The subject of description can represent the action of persons, feasts, wars, conquests, marriages, open ceremonies, burials, episodes, adventures etc.

Susenbrotus suggests that the figure of pragmatographia can affect the mind of an auditor or a reader; in other words, this mode of description is effective both on the page and as oral performance.

Example of Pragmatographia

Below is a classic example excerpted from Brett Zimmerman's Edgar Allan Poe: Rhetoric and Style.

    Pym describes the destruction of the ship “Jane Guy”:

  1. The savages … were upon the point of recommencing, when suddenly a mass of smoke puffed up from the decks, resembling a black and heavy thunder-cloud – then, as if from its bowels, arose a tall stream of vivid fire to the height, apparently, of a qquarter of a mile – then there came a sudden circular expansion of the flame – then the whole atmosphere was magically crowded, in a single instant, with a wild chaos of wood, and metal, and human limbs – and, lastly came the concussion in its fullest fury, which hurled us impetuously from our feet, while the hills echoed and re-echoed the tumult, and a dense shower of the minutest fragments of the ruins tumbled headlong in every direction around us.

    — (The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, 3:216)

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