Classics 130

Classical Greek Rhetoric: Evolution or Revolution?
Days and Time: 
TTh 2:00-3:29P
Magrin, Sara
Course Description: 

This course aims to explore the development of classical Greek rhetoric from the fifth century through the end of the fourth century BCE. In light of Plato’s and Aristotle’s analyses of the subject, we tend to view rhetoric as an art (technê) consisting of a set of methodically organized principles or norms for the production of persuasive speech. The use of rhetorical techniques, however, was widespread in the Greek speaking world well before Plato and Aristotle began to reflect on its norms. We know, moreover, that so-called rhetorical technai were composed already in the fifth century BCE. These observations raise a series of questions: what was rhetoric before philosophers and professional rhetoricians shaped it into an art? What were the means of persuasion in use before the development of a self-conscious reflection on their power and their goals? How did this self-conscious reflection on the means of persuasion come about? In order to answer these questions we will read, among others, texts (or excerpts) by Gorgias (Encomium of Helen), Antiphon (Second Tetralogy), Isocrates (Encomium of Helen, Against the Sophist, Antidosis), Alcidamas (On Those Who Write Written Speeches), Plato (Gorgias, Phaedrus), Aristotle (Rhetoric).