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Title: Rhetoric, identity and ideology in the Athenian law-court
Author: Blanshard, A. J. L.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1999
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This thesis examines the ways in which litigants represent themselves (or are represented) to the jury in fourth century Athens. The law-court proved an ideal arena for public self-fashioning. Legalism was virtually unknown in Athenian society. Instead, public persona became one of the crucial issues for the court. It was regarded as one of the safeguards of democratic society that no one should be above the scrutiny of his citizen peers. The speeches are gambits aimed at defining the limits of the acceptable and the unacceptable in Athenian public culture. This thesis examines the Athenian male not from the perspective of prescriptive definition, but through performance. Traditionally, the law-court speeches have been regarded as mines for hard facts on law and politics. Even scholars interested in the social values contained in the speeches have tended to seize upon quotations indiscriminately, and take them out of context as unproblematic statements of public attitudes. In contrast, my study shows that such an approach runs the risk of losing much of the complexity of these speeches. Instead, I have attempted to analyse the speeches as complete 'literary artifacts'. The thesis places the values of each speech in the context of the surrounding narrative, and examines the internal dynamics which structure each rhetorical move and counter-move. In focusing on the dynamics of speech, we get a glimpse of an Athenian morality which is much less stable and univocal than traditionally imagined. My analysis of the speeches is grouped around three themes (warfare, politics, and the family). Chapter 1 examines the role of the law-court as a performance space. It places the forensic rhetoric in its material and ideological context to show the importance of Athenian self-fashioning. Chapter 2 examines the role which the law-court plays in the formation and contestation of democratic ideology. Chapter 3 examines the role of military service in defining identity by contrasting two different genres of speech, the funeral oration and the forensic speech. Chapter 4 examines the ways in which the family is discussed in games of public politics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available