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The Cast of Character

NANCY WORMAN
Copyright Date: 2002
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/791558
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  • Book Info
    The Cast of Character
    Book Description:

    Well before Aristotle'sRhetoricelucidated the elements of verbal style that give writing its persuasive power, Greek poets and prose authors understood the importance of style in creating compelling characters to engage an audience. And because their works were composed in predominantly oral settings, their sense of style included not only the characters' manner of speaking, but also their appearance and deportment. From Homeric epic to classical tragedy and oratory, verbal and visual cues work hand-in-hand to create distinctive styles for literary characters.

    In this book, Nancy Worman investigates the development and evolution of ideas about style in archaic and classical literature through a study of representations of Odysseus and Helen. She demonstrates that, as liars and imitators, pleasing storytellers, and adept users of costume, these two figures are especially skillful manipulators of style. In tracing the way literary representations of them changed through time-from Homer's positive portrayal of their subtle self-presentations to the sharply polarized portrayals of these same subtleties in classical tragedy and oratory-Worman also uncovers a nascent awareness among the Greek writers that style may be used not only to persuade but also to distract and deceive.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79630-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. LIST OF JOURNAL AND TEXTUAL ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    In Patricia Highsmith′s claustrophobic and morally ambiguous novelThe Talented Mr. Ripley, the eponymous antihero faces a situation in which he has to appear before the same policemen as two different people. In his second interview with them he must play himself rather than the dashing and entitled young man whom he had been impersonating. His solution to this dilemma is a simple one: instead of wearing a literal disguise, he alters his tone of voice, his posture and general deportment, the quality of his clothes, and his speaking style. Except for the addition of a pair of glasses and...

  6. CHAPTER 1 KOSMOS AND THE TYPICAL CASTS OF CHARACTER
    (pp. 17-40)

    InCriticism in Antiquity, D. A. Russell argues thatlexishas no metaphorical extension equivalent to the English word ″style.″ Some idea of style as it is embodied by a particular model, he further notes, did exist; later writers indicate the distinctive imprint of an orator′s style with the termcharaktêr.¹ This included the character type that the speaker projects, although its usage does not seem to demarcate this aspect of style in particular. Rather, we see the use of a word that has to do exclusively with language (lexis) and the corresponding use ofcharaktêr, which points to a...

  7. CHAPTER 2 ORAL PERFORMANCE, SPEECH TYPES, AND TYPICAL STYLES IN HOMER
    (pp. 41-81)

    Although this century has witnessed many important developments in the study of Homeric poetry as an oral medium, scholars still sometimes show a tendency to blur the distinctions between oral and written composition.¹ Even those most influenced by oral theory often treat spoken exchanges between Homeric characters as if the situations in which they take place involved only the words uttered. Yet the characters who speak in these exchanges are presented as engaging in face-to-face experiences of each other′s oral performances, the effects of which the narrator frequently emphasizes by describing the stature, deportment, dress, and/or the intimate surroundings of...

  8. CHAPTER 3 VISIBLE TYPES AND VISUALIZING STYLES IN ARCHAIC POETRY
    (pp. 82-107)

    Archaic poets conjoin taste or touch with visual effect to characterize elements of verbal style, which strike the ear as they strike the eye—a conceptual synesthesia that gives physical weight to the spoken word and persuasive force to concrete detail. This sensual characterization of verbal impact has its more concrete extension in the visible features of a speaker′s style. In literary depiction, the narrator may provide these details or they may be found in portraits deployed by adept and seductive performers themselves, who frequently offer visualizations of dress and deportment to flatter or entice their hearers. A speaker′s use...

  9. CHAPTER 4 VERBAL MASQUERADE AND VISUAL IMPACT IN TRAGEDY
    (pp. 108-148)

    The development of the dramatic genres in Athens created an arena in which oral performers impersonated visible types in a fuller and more extended fashion than in rhapsodic performances on the one hand, or in sophistic displays on the other. A performer could now appear on stage as Odysseus, in his costume and mask, and engage in his actions, rather than merely shifting vocal tone and expression as he moved from speaker to speaker in the recitation of narrative. Both rhapsodic and sophistic performances involved one elaborately dressed narrator who stirred the audience by his ability to communicate emotions and...

  10. CHAPTER 5 MANIPULATING THE SENSES IN RHETORICAL SET PIECES
    (pp. 149-192)

    The classical treatments of Helen and Odysseus refract the Athenian political culture of the late fifth century, when a remarkable burst of artistic productivity coincided with a period of political upheaval and external threat from the rival city-state Sparta and its allies. From early in the Peloponnesian war, Athenians had lived more or less continuously in a state of siege, often crowded within the city walls and beset by disease and wartime scarcities. Composing in this climate of ongoing disturbance and faced with potentially devastating challenges to closely held beliefs, Athenian dramatists and prose authors of the period repeatedly indicated...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 193-196)

    Dionysius of Halicarnassus begins his treatiseOn Literary Compositionwith an elaborately worded dedication to Rufus Metilius, in which he compares his literary offering to the embroidered gown that Helen gives the departing Telemachus in book 15 of theOdyssey. With its use ofparonomasia(assonance) and thefigura etymologica, the opening bears some resemblance to the ornate and chiming style of Gorgias. Although his essay covers the basic components of literary composition, Dionysius is concerned throughout with the aesthetics of the written word, what he terms the ″pleasurable″ (hêdeia) qualities of composition. At one point, he compares the process...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 197-238)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 239-251)
  14. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 252-263)
  15. INDEX LOCORUM
    (pp. 264-274)