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Jennifer Dow

Using Homer to Teach Rhetoric

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Hello everyone!

I have decided to use the speeches from Homer's Iliad and Oddessy, but especially from the Iliad, to teach my high school students the three kinds of rhetorical addresses. Have any of you done this before? How did it go? Do you have any favorite speeches for this purpose?

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I recently read the Iliad and the Odyssey and thought about the same idea of using Homer to teach rhetoric. If you read Laurent Pernot's Rhetoric in Antiquity he has a good introduction to the rhetorical theory latent in Homer. Unfortunately, I've not used any Homer in the classroom (yet!) and haven't had an opportunity to plan. I would say that Odysseus' appeal to Nausicaa would be a good example of deliberative rhetoric, since he is appealing for aid under some duress. Also, the speech that Priam makes to Achilles to persuade him to return Hector's body would be deliberative. I suppose any of the supplications could also be viewed as forensic, if you imagine the party being appealed to as an acting judge. Nestor has some good speeches that incorporate historical examples (i.e. one of the types of Aristotle's paradigms).

I have used speeches from Shakespeare to help students with style and delivery, though I think he serves just as well (maybe better) as a source for genres of speech (I haven't read it, but Quentin Skinner has a book, Forensic Shakespeare, that argues that Shakespeare draws on rhetorical theory for his forensic speeches). I've used Portia's Quality of Mercy and Shylock's Hath Not a Jew speeches as contrastive forms of forensic appeals, but only in order to help students deliver them appropriately, rather than to teach them theory.

How do you envision your lesson proceeding?

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On 5/31/2019 at 2:48 PM, Patrick Halbrook said:

I recently listened to a Circe podcast that considered this question: 


Thanks for posting this, Patrick! I recall listening to that podcast episode. One of my side projects is to read through several translations of The Iliad (and also the Odyssey) and get familiar enough to use it to supplement rhetorical instruction (if not eventually replace it!)

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