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Abstract

The subject of this dissertation is the difficulty involved in reading Demosthenes’ speeches, as opposed to hearing them presented in the Assembly or law courts. The speeches I examine, which all were composed during Demosthenes’ “mature” or middle period (351-341 BCE), are the following: the First, Second, and Third Philippic; the Olynthiacs; On the Peace; Against Meidias; and On the False Embassy. Although the periodization can be disputed, there is general agreement among scholars that Demosthenes’ first speech against Philip marks a definite turning point in the development of his oratory. For the purposes of my analysis this period will be treated as synchronic; as a result, I will not take into consideration any possible developments that may have occurred in Demosthenes’ practice between one speech and the next. ,In the first chapter I show that, by the time Demosthenes’ speeches were first distributed, a variety of approaches to interpreting oratory had been developed. In order to reconstruct the 4th century reader’s horizon of expectations, I examine the debates between Plato and Isocrates on the issue of literary interpretation. However, in certain cases, Isocrates’ Helen for example, the modern reader becomes acutely aware that he is incapable of interpreting and experiencing the work in the same way as his 4th century counterpart did. I argue that authorial intention would have been a central issue for these readers and that, in the wake of Plato’s criticism of writing and Isocrates’ multiple responses to it, readers would have defined the process and goal of interpretation in a variety of at times conflicting ways. , In the second chapter I turn to the difficulty of interpreting the style of the speeches. I argue that across each level of grammatical elaboration Demosthenes expands and condenses constructions so as to create the ethos of an almost divine counselor who can see beyond the surface of things. In response to the problem of whether the style was revised for the publication of the speeches, I show how certain features seem designed to position the speeches in a liminal space between the written and oral, for example his use of hyperbaton., In the third chapter I analyze the structure of the deliberative speeches. Using Isocrates’ and Plato’s ideas on the subject as a starting-off point, I examine the unity of the speeches and their relation to the political situation as presented in the text itself. I argue that, whereas previous scholars have posited a single structural principle that informs all the mature deliberative speeches, Demosthenes was actually experimenting with different methods of structuring his speeches in the Philippics and Olynthiacs. , In chapter four I look at the intertextual relationship between Demosthenes and his two greatest influences, Isocrates and Thucydides. In examining the ways in which he does not simply appropriate but rather meaningfully develops material from these authors, I demonstrate the possibility of an intertextual reading of the speeches which has to be contrasted in certain respects with the experience of the original audience. With regard to metaphor and to imagery more generally, I argue that Demosthenes’ usage represents a conscious break with Isocrates’ prescriptions: whereas the latter severely restricted the use of this figure, Demosthenes radically expanded its role and used it in innovative and more versatile ways. , In my fifth chapter I examine the status of the speeches as written texts distributed to readers. The texts of the political trial speeches Against Meidias and On the False Embassy have clearly only been preserved in draft form. I argue that this would have created productive problems for the interpretation of each speech and that distributing them in this form would have had rhetorical (and aesthetic) advantages for Demosthenes himself. With regard to the deliberative speeches, I examine the issue of occasionality. The content of the texts is not as generalized as that of Isocrates’ fictional deliberative speeches, but they clearly are also not simply transcripts of a speech composed for a specific occasion. This ambiguous status allows Demosthenes to negotiate the dangers of writing deliberative oratory in fourth-century Athens by destabilizing the reader’s relation to the work as being neither text nor transcript.

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