Deliberative Fictions: Isocrates' Assembly Speeches
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Mellen, Gregory Robert
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CitationMellen, Gregory Robert. 2018. Deliberative Fictions: Isocrates' Assembly Speeches. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation is a study of four works by the Athenian teacher and writer Isocrates: Plataicus, Archidamus, Areopagiticus, and On the Peace. In each of these works, a fictitious orator addresses an internal audience consisting of an assembly of citizens. Previously, the nature of these texts has been disputed, with some scholars maintaining that they were political pamphlets, others maintaining that they were literary exercises, and still others holding that they were models for study by students. I present new evidence in order to argue that Isocrates intended these works to be read by Athenian citizens active in politics and that he hoped that these works would affect the policies adopted by the Athenians during meetings of the Assembly; specifically, I show that all four of these works are concerned primarily with guiding the Athenians during the first two decades, roughly, of the Second Naval Confederacy (378 to 354 BCE). Furthermore, I show that in these works Isocrates experimented with complex literary techniques (including dramatic irony, narrative metalepsis, and the layering of his own authorial voice onto the voice of the fictitious speaker), which contribute to the rhetorical efficacy of these texts. I also situate these works and Isocrates’ literary and political practices within their historical context, by showing how Isocrates challenged those citizens who spoke in the Athenian Assembly (by co-opting the language such citizens used to describe their political activity and by applying this language to himself, even though he refrained from speaking the Assembly), and by showing how these works should be viewed as creative contributions to a broader sub-category of fourth-century political prose literature that has not been fully appreciated and that I propose to call “para-deliberative” (because such texts circulated around the Assembly and were written in order shape the decisions that were made in the Assembly). The dissertation therefore combines historical reconstruction of Isocrates’ motives and his cultural milieu with close exegetical attention to his bold literary experimentation. As a result, Isocrates emerges in a new light, as a creative champion of innovative forms of textuality and their unique capacity for political persuasion.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41127183
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