'Despisers of the Commonplace': Meta-topoi and Para-topoi in Attic Oratory

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The forensic oratory of classical Athens exhibits two strategies which markedly display their departure from content-specific commonplaces. The self-conscious “meta-topos” and the elaborative “para-topos” are partly reliant upon the display and appreciation of innovation for their persuasive power. This valorization of creativity can be explained by evidence that rhetorical novelty was sometimes encouraged by teachers of rhetoric and was certainly influenced by the competitive display of verse performance genres. Examples of “meta-topoi” and “para-topoi” are discussed with a view to extending our understanding of originality in Attic oratory and of how we might identify instances of it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-384
Number of pages24
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007


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