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Winter 2011, 41:1, pages 19 - 40

Figure, Argument, and Performance in the Byzantine Classroom

Abstract:  Drawing on a long tradition of teaching rhetoric that extends back to the late antique and even Hellenistic periods, the Byzantine rhetorical commentaries offer a unique witness to a “syncretic” pedagogy, in which argument and language structure are taught as two sides of the same coin. This article examines the Byzantine commentaries on four figures from the Hermogenic corpus, the standard “textbook” used in rhetorical education in Byzantium. Somewhat “untraditional,” these figures—known as period, pneuma, akme, and antitheton—are assumed to have significant value in the invention and arrangement of arguments. Moreover, the commentaries indicate that teaching the figures presupposed lively peer work among the students as well as much interaction between the performing student and his classmates.

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