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Mass Communication in Classical Antiquity

Year Group 2011/12

Theme group on the nature of public debate and the analysis of some aspects of political rhetoric and mass communication in classical Greece and Rome. 

About the topic

In our present political and societal climate, the nature of public communication is the object of intense societal debate. This theme group will approach this issue indirectly, through the analysis of some aspects of political rhetoric and mass communication in classical Greece and Rome.

Classical antiquity has left us with a striking series of sources demonstrating different speech practices that crucially affect group communication, as well as the folk-theory about their effects. Rumours, gossip, and satire, for instance, are covert or overt strategies for injecting particular types of  information, possibly maliciously false information, onto the ‘information market’. Rumours and gossip also play an important role in bonding and group formation. Satire equally aligns those ‘in the know’: it is a self-undermining and essentially ‘artistic’ communicative strategy in hierarchically charged situations. All of the above can play an important role in voicing formal or informal dissent. They also co-determine the potential of large groups to come to effective decisions, as does the notion of ‘the law’ as a decisive criterion in political decision-making.

By studying theory and practice of speech practices such as these, this theme group hopes to contribute to a better understanding of public rhetoric in general.

In addition to the Fellows working in this theme group there will be two visitors: Josine Blok, Utrecht University; and Ralph Rosen, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

I. Sluiter, Theme Group Coordinator

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