Date of Award
Master of Arts
Epideictic discourse has been and remains an enigma in rhetorical studies. The concept has been considered from numerous perspectives, but praise and blame, the purposes Aristotle ascribed to his third genre, still remain pervasive in our understanding of it. Following scholars who have questioned how well Aristotelian definitions of the concept can explain epideictic discourse in antiquity (Chase, 1961; Duffy, 1983; Walker, 2000), these essays will examine the political functions of the classical funeral oration (Epitaphios Logos), a quintessentially epideictic form of rhetoric. To date, few studies (Hesk, 2013 is a notable exception) explore the influence of political exigencies that confronted the ancient orator when speaking in ceremonial contexts. Responding to the sparse treatment of the subject, this project applies close reading of two extant funeral orations from classical Athens to investigate the connection between funerary discourse the prosecution of war efforts. As a work of conceptually oriented criticism, it aims to add to, modify, or reconceive of the epideictic genre and illuminate aspects of the text and context of the speeches under study. I propose that Aristotle's conception of epideictic is insufficient to explain the discourse of his contemporaries because it ignored the political ends ceremonial orators pursued, in particular, those of Demosthenes and Hyperides, two orators for whom we have extant texts of a funeral oration each delivered. By drawing on the works of modern rhetorical theorists including Chaïm Perelman, Lloyd Bitzer, and Kenneth Burke, I argue for a more fluid conception of the epideictic genre, one that is determined more by the immediate exigencies of the rhetorical situation than by the traditional tropes thought to govern the tradition.
John P. Banister
Banister, John P., "Epideictic memories of war: reconceiving the classical funeral oration as exigence-driven discourse" (2015). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 14325.