Rhetoric and Power: The Drama of Classical Greece

Rhetoric and Power: The Drama of Classical Greece

Rhetoric and Power: The Drama of Classical Greece

Rhetoric and Power: The Drama of Classical Greece

Synopsis

Through Rhetoric and Power, Nathan Crick dramatizes the history of rhetoric by explaining its origin and development in Classical Greece beginning the oral displays of Homeric eloquence in a time of kings following its ascent to power during the age of Pericles and the Sophists, and ending with its transformation into a rational discipline with Aristotle in a time of literacy and empire. Crick advances the thesis that rhetoric is primarily a medium and artistry of power, but that the relationship between rhetoric and power at any point in time is a product of historical conditions, not the least of which is the development and availability of communication media.With chapters in chronological order investigating major works by Homer, Heraclitus, Aeschylus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato, Isocrates, and Aristotle, Rhetoric and Power tells the story of the rise and fall of classical Greece while simultaneously developing rhetorical theory from the close criticism of particular texts. As a form of rhetorical criticism, this volume offers challenging new readings to canonical works like Aeschylus's Persians, Gorgias's Helen, Aristophanes's Birds, and Isocrates's Nicocles by reading them as reflections of the political culture of their time. Through this theoretical inquiry, Crick uses these criticisms to articulate and define a plurality of rhetorical genres and concepts, such as heroic eloquence, tragicomedy, representative publicity, ideology, and the public sphere, and their relationships to different structures and ethics of power, such as monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, and empire. Rhetoric and Power thus provides the foundation for rhetorical history, criticism, and theory that draws on contemporary research to prove again the incredible richness of the classical tradition for contemporary rhetorical scholarship and practice.

Excerpt

Nathan Crick’s Rhetoric and Power: The Drama of Classical Greece tells the story of how rhetoric emerged as a theory and practice in the centuries leading to Aristotle’s Rhetoric. Crick examines in detail a series of foundational texts in Greek thought based on an understanding of the difference between violence and power, and of the fundamental relation of rhetoric with power. These earlier texts were serving cultural, aesthetic, and intellectual projects of their own, which Crick honors by refusing to regard them as simply struggling to articulate what was later to become rhetorical theory. At the same time, Crick shows how these early texts prepared the intellectual ground for rhetoric as it did emerge, under changing political and cultural conditions, as a discipline in its own right.

Each chapter explores in detail a key text in Greek thought: Homer’s Iliad, the logos of Heraclitus, Aeschylus’s The Persians and Prometheus Bound, surviving fragments of Protagoras, Gorgias’s Helen, the history of Thucydides, Aristophanes’s The Birds, Plato’s Protagoras, Isocrates’s “Nicocles,” and Aristotle’s Rhetoric. The chapters serve as both readings of the chosen text and theoretical explorations of the growing store of resources for thinking about power and symbolic action. In addition Crick gives us a highly informative tour of modern classical scholarship and a lucid, dramatic sketch of the centuries of Greek history from Homer to Aristotle and beyond. Nathan Crick’s Rhetoric and Power is an exciting story of early Greek history and thought and a compelling exposition of the theory of rhetoric.

THOMAS W. BENSON Series Editor . . .

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