Playing around the real : games, play, and the declamation dynamic in ancient and modern rhetorical pedagogy




Wiese, Hugh Clevenger

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This dissertation reassesses declamation, a pedagogical exercise that was prominent in the rhetoric schools of ancient Greece and Rome but that is now, by many accounts, a mere historical artifact. On the contrary, this dissertation presents declamation as the source of an essential and ongoing dynamic that not only survives but actually underlies much of what continues to take place in contemporary rhetoric classrooms. As such, this dissertation is not only about ancient declamation itself, but about a "declamation dynamic" -- what Wittgenstein might have called a "family resemblance" -- that is essential to any form of rhetorical instruction, particularly approaches that involve games, performance, and role-playing. This dynamic is traced to its ancient roots, and the argument is made that the study and reevaluation of this type of ancient exercise will give contemporary rhetoric teachers a clearer view of their own practices and better equip them to instill modern students with that most enduring of rhetorical values, habitus -- the ability to intuitively grasp the constructed and contingent nature of any rhetorical situation and to adapt accordingly.




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