Rhetorical theory, the core of Roman education, taught rules of public speaking that are still influential today. But Roman rhetoric has long been regarded as having little important to say about political ideas. The State of Speech presents a forceful challenge to this view. The first book to read Roman rhetorical writing as a mode of political thought, it focuses on Rome's greatest practitioner and theorist of public speech, Cicero. Through new readings of his dialogues and treatises, Joy Connolly shows how Cicero's treatment of the Greek rhetorical tradition's central questions is shaped by his ideal of the republic and the citizen. Rhetoric, Connolly argues, sheds new light on Cicero's deepest political preoccupations: the formation of individual and communal identity, the communicative role of the body, and the "unmanly" aspects of politics, especially civility and compromise.
Transcending traditional lines between rhetorical and political theory, The State of Speech is a major contribution to the current debate over the role of public speech in Roman politics. Instead of a conventional, top-down model of power, it sketches a dynamic model of authority and consent enacted through oratorical performance and examines how oratory modeled an ethics of citizenship for the masses as well as the elite. It explains how imperial Roman rhetoricians reshaped Cicero's ideal republican citizen to meet the new political conditions of autocracy, and defends Ciceronian thought as a resource for contemporary democracy.
Joy Connolly is assistant professor of classics at New York University. She is the author of Talk about Virtue (forthcoming, Duckworth), a book about Roman political theory.
"Connolly has applied her impressive theoretical and methodological strengths to this exciting examination of Roman rhetoric and political theory. Delving deeply into Cicero's works, Connolly considers the relationship between Cicero's vision of the Republic and of the Republican citizen. She proposes that rhetoric provides a crucial lens through which to understand Cicero and Roman politics. Connolly commands a wide range of resources to undergird her argument, including the traditions of Greek rhetoric as well as post-classical authors such as Gramsci, Foucault, and Habermas. In keeping with her scholarship to date, Connolly incorporates into this book analyses of education, class distinctions, and gender politics as they relate to the role of rhetoric in Rome."--J. de Luce, Miami University, for Choice
"I have learned much from this book, and it is certain to continue to stimulate my thinking throughout this important election year in the United States. . . . The need for a political community that depends upon mutual trust between leaders and led has received here an eloquent expression."--Anthony Corbeill, Rhetorical Review
"This is, in the best sense, a very American book--thoughtful, historically aware, yet infused with optimism and vigor and deep republican ideals. . . . Against the current American political scene, its conclusions read as nothing short of prescient."--Catherine Conybeare, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"With a comprehensive grasp of political theory and literary criticism, Connolly creates a compelling case for using classical rhetorical texts as a lens for viewing political thought."--Laurie Wilson, Journal of Roman Studies
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