Sunday, 4 July 2010

Rhetoric/ῥητορικός

A liar should have a good memory
Quintilian
Sometimes I forget I'm a bit of a Classics geek. Sometimes I forget that studying Ancient History and Classics has had an effect on how I see the world and people. I forget because, well, I forget and these days my brain is completely addled. I've blogged previously about how my brain is now turning to mush. A good example of this dementia was demonstrated the other day my OH, who shares this Classics geekery as we are both graduates of Ancient History, rushed through to the kitchen, where I was stationed at the time and announced that there was a documentary on the TV about Septimius Severus and my first thought was 'why would anyone make a documentary about the bad guy from Harry Potter?'....

A few years ago I had the fortune of taking a class by a visiting professor on Roman Oratory, a class that analysed oratory using modern methods of reading between the lines. Terms were thrown at us in a very Americanised style of teaching and we scrambled to find out their meaning and to learn how to apply these to very ancient writing. Faultlines; Doublespeak and other exciting literary criticism terms were used and really illuminated Roman literature for me for the first time (having a predisposition towards more Hellenic material). The quote above comes from Quintilian (born around 35AD), the celebrated orator and rhetorician from the first century who brought forward rhetorical theory from ancient Greece and from the heyday of Roman rhetoric in the prior century. This theory he compiled in his Institutio Oratoria, an exhaustive and pedagogically oriented treatment of rhetoric in twelve books. Many later rhetoricians, especially from the Renaissance, derived their rhetorical theory directly from this text. The quote is something prevalent to the events and the people in my life right now. Something I've been reflecting on for the last few days.
QUINTILIAN TEACHING AT ORATORY BOOT CAMP IN ROME
Copper engraving by F. Bleyswyk
 To be continued....

2 comments:

  1. A classical education has relevance! I've always wondered what I would be able to apply mine to in the real world but then I'm not as stoic as you!
    Best
    G

    ReplyDelete
  2. Stoic? Moi? Never! I've always found Classics of relevance to the big wide world but then my big wide world is Classics.
    OM

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to comment!