Decorum is essentially the suitable way of presenting something for a given circumstance. The word has definitions for everyday usage and a specific definition relating to the field ofrhetoric. In ordinary usage, the word decorum basically means good taste and appropriate propriety in both dress and conduct and the word is used to mean the appropriate conventions of dress and conduct required in specific situations. For example, anybody who attends the opera is expected to have a particularly high level of decorum. Decorum (from the Latin: "right, proper") was a principle of classical rhetoric, poetry and theatrical theory that was about the fitness or otherwise of a style to a theatrical subject. The concept of decorum is also applied to prescribed limits of appropriatesocial behavior within set situation.
The word decorum has origins in Latin, coming from words like decor and decorus which have to do with beauty or what is pleasing to the senses. Most of the time, the usage of the word in modern English is mainly synonymous with manners and being well-presented. The rules of decorum can be thought of as the rules ofetiquette, which tend to be different for different situations but are generally intended to show respect to the host and the other guests present in any formal situation. If somebody is unaware of these codes, he or she is said to have “no sense of decorum.”
Ancient Greece’s rhetoricians have also created a specific definition for the term decorum. The meaning is closely related to the modern meaning, but it is specifically related to the field of argumentation and debate. Words used in an argument should be suited to the subject being discussed and the person who is discussing them, as well as being appropriate for the circumstances, occasion, and audience being addressed. It is generally thought that if rhetorical decorum is achieved the argument will be well received by those present. Rhetorical “vices” are breaches of the necessary decorum for presenting an argument in writing and speech and will result in an unfavorable reception. Many of these vices have been identified in the study of rhetoric. Decorum relies heavily on its appropriateness for a particular context or audience, however, so its evaluation can be rather subjective. What may be seen as a vice in one situation may be wholly appropriate in another
Contents [hide] * 1 In rhetoric and poetry * 2 In theater * 3 Social decorum * 4 Notes * 5 References * 6 External links
In rhetoric and poetry
In classical rhetoric and poetic theory, decorum designates the appropriateness of style to subject. Both Aristotle (in, for example, his Poetics) and Horace (in his Ars Poetica) discussed the importance of appropriate style in epic, tragedy, comedy, etc. Horace says, for example: "A comic subject is not susceptible of treatment in a tragic style, and similarly the banquet ofThyestes cannot be fitly described in the strains of everyday life or in those that approach the tone of comedy. Let each of these styles be kept to the role properly allotted to it." Hellenistic and Latin rhetors divided style into: the grand style, the middle style and the low (or plain) style; certain types of vocabulary and diction were considered appropriate for each stylistic level. A discussion of this division of styles was set out in the pseudo-Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herennium. Modeled on Virgil's three-part literary career (Bucolics, Georgics, Aeneid), ancient, medieval and Renaissance theorists often linked each style to a specific genre: epic (high style), didactic (middle style) and pastoral (plain style). In the Middle Ages, this concept was called "Virgil's wheel". For stylistic purists, the mixing of styles within a work was considered inappropriate, and a consistent use of the high style was mandated for the epic. However, stylistic diversity had been a hallmark of classical...
References: (Robert Hariman, "Decorum," Encyclopedia of Rhetoric. Oxford Univ. Press, 2001)
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