Emotion and persuasion in classical antiquity

June 27, 2013 - June 28, 2013
Royal Holloway University of London

11 Bedford Square/2 Gower Street
London WC1B 3RF
United Kingdom

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  • Institute of Classical Studies
  • Centre for Oratory and Rhetoric, Royal Holloway


Chris Carey
University College London
Angelos Chaniotis
Princeton University
Eleanor Dickey
University of Exeter
Catherine Steel
University of Glasgow

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This colloquium addresses the variety of ways in which emotions are used in strategies of persuasion within and between societies, groups and individuals in the ancient world, considering different strata of society, and diverse media of communication.  Persuasion may be effected, for example, by narrative, explicit exhortation, or covert manipulation through the judicious use of certain words and phrases.  Emotional strategies can be aimed at superiors, inferiors or one’s equals; to strangers or friends; and attempted for personal gain or the public good. They can appear in oral communications designed to be heard briefly – i.e. forensic, deliberative, epideictic, hortatory or supplicatory oratory – their representations in literature, or in written communications that can be read again and again (philosophical treatises, other literary works, letters, inscriptions).

In recent years scholarship on emotive persuasion techniques has focused primarily on explicit exhortation to feel a small group of emotions (anger, hatred, envy, gratitude, pity) in Attic forensic oratory, rhetorical techniques as propounded by philosophers (Aristotle, pseudo-Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian), and theatrical techniques such as dress, gesture or vocal techniques. The last of these is outside the scope of this colloquium, and we aim to move discussion well beyond the former two.

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