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Models of Ancient Eloquence

Models of Ancient Eloquence

(p.71) Three Models of Ancient Eloquence
Imagining Deliberative Democracy in the Early American Republic
Sandra M. Gustafson
University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores several ancient models of eloquence. It discusses Cicero's work De re publica and states that Cicero was a crucial influence on conceptions of the republican subject and on republican aesthetics. His works on ethics and rhetoric, as well as his orations, were central to the tradition of humanistic education in both its classical and vernacular forms. The chapter examines how the early American republic's aesthetics of deliberation developed in relation to Cicero's writings. Cicero served as a source for ideals of harmony, communal well-being, and wholeness that were threatened on the one hand by social conflict and disintegration and on the other by usurping authority. The chapter describes the principal English model of eloquence in the works of William Shakespeare and how Shakespeare's plays offered instances of republican eloquence. The Bible is another major influence on American public discourse, and one that presented some fundamental challenges to deliberative ideals.

Keywords:   eloquence, Cicero, republicanism, William Shakespeare, Bible, discourse, aesthetics, De re publica

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