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CALL. 30.11.2015: Forensic narratives in Athenian courts (9th Celtic Conference in Classics) - Dubli



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Mike Edwards (Roehampton) ; Dimos Spatharas (U. of Crete)

INFO: web -


Storytelling is an inextricable element of persuasion. Stories are a medium of signification and, thereby, they are an indispensable element of our cognitive toolbox. Stories not only enable us to understand cohesively our fragmented experience, but also codify in a meaningful manner the values and norms that regulate our social life. Modern legal theorists emphasize that stories play a significant role in lawsuits. Narratives provide a ‘wide angle’ of the case at hand (Scheppele 1989), and, hence, delineate the social background of legal cases, litigants’ civic history, and the context in which the crime was committed. Modern scholars’ emphasis on stories’ ability to offer a wide angle of individual legal cases is particularly relevant to ancient forensic storytelling, because Athenian litigants supported their cases on the basis of arguments that transcended the limits of relevant legal questions. Hence, in the corpus of the Attic orators we find elaborate stories referring to the past of the polis, ‘biographical’ accounts through which litigants seek to denigrate their opponents or highlight their own achievements, and apparently irrelevant mini-narratives by means of which they contextualize their cases by foregrounding social, political, or other concerns. These uses of narratives in forensic oratory are symptomatic of Athenian litigants’ emphasis on what Lanni (2009) has recently described as ‘extra-statutory’ norms. Because stories are vehicles of signification and at the same time an indispensable tool through which legal complexities are smoothed out, their elaborate use in Athenian lawsuits enabled speakers to provide jurors with recognizable conceptual frames in which they invited them to decide legal cases. Furthermore, because forensic stories rest on mainstream ideological assumptions, they can be used as barometers of current political and social priorities.

Stories significantly enhance appeals to emotion. Because emotions are a cognitive phenomenon, i.e. they require evaluations which in the case of forensic speaking revolve around social priorities and normative considerations, stories enabled speakers to construct scenarios designed to arouse jurors’ sentiments. For this reason, the emotive potentialities of storytelling are also directly relevant to enargeia, i.e. ‘vivid’ stories (discussed by Ruth Webb in her 2009 book on ekphrasis). Ancient rhetorical theories stress that the main function of enargeia is to generate emotional experience and thus affect listeners’ perception. Furthermore, in lack of ocular proof, vivid narratives are a medium through which speakers, ancient and modern, appeal to jurors’ imagination thereby providing them with mental images reflecting the circumstances of criminal action. In other cases, however, narratives are employed as a medium of concealment. The arrangement of time in forensic stories, for example, allows us to locate the evidence that speakers prefer to conceal, either by summarizing or by omitting events which are otherwise crucial to jurors’ decision-making.

Confirmed speakers: C. Apostolakis (U. of Crete), “Political Ideology and Character Portrayal in Apollodorus’ Forensic Narratives: [D. 50] Against Polycles” M. Edwards (Roehampton), “Deceptive Narratives in the Speeches of Isaios” N. Fisher (Cardiff), “Narrative and Emotions in Pseudo-Demosthenes 47” M. Gagarin (U. of Texas, Austin), “Storytelling in Athenian Law” C. Kremmydas (Royal Holloway), “Truth and Deception in Forensic Narratives: the Case of Demosthenes 54” D. Spatharas (U. of Crete), “Enargeia and Emotions in Forensic Oratory” V. Wohl (U. of Toronto), “Narrative Time and Legal Time in Athenian Forensic Oratory” We invite papers on any aspect of forensic narratives, but we are less interested in formalism. Please send abstracts (300-350 words) jointly to Mike Edwards ( and Dimos Spatharas ( no later than November 30, 2015.

Possible topics of discussion include: - forensic stories and the law - forensic stories and social norms - ethos, pathos, and storytelling - forensic storytelling and reconstructions of the past - enargeia, visual narratives, and forensic argumentation - forensic (auto)biography and narrativity - forensic narratives and/in literature - forensic narratives and style in individual authors - the interfaces between forensic narratives and historiography - forensic narratives and slander - forensic narratives and the meta-language of ancient rhetorical theory - storytelling and/in the fragments - forensic narratives and the construction of civic identity - comparative approaches to forensic narratives and storytelling in deliberative and epideictic oratory

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