Practicing epideictic today: paradoxical encomium in secondary school

Julie Dainville

Abstract


The fact that epideictic aims at building a consensus, a “homonoia” among a community is well established since the first known rhetorical treatises. Making students exercise this rhetorical genre would then probably be of great interest to our society. I was teaching Latin and Greek in Belgian secondary schools during four years and decided to explore this hypothesis by making my students practice epideictic exercises. For they constitute the main model that may inspire us today, I took inspiration from exercises as they were practiced during classical Antiquity. After taking into account theoretical and practical aspects inherent to my teaching area, I decided to work on the so called ‘paradoxical encomium’. My students were then asked to write the encomium of a neutral, or blameworthy object or person. This paper presents the results of this experiment.

I will here focus on the concrete practice of such exercises, on the basis of my own teaching experience. I will broach benefits, but also technical and ethical problems that teachers and students may encounter while practicing them in a nowadays classroom and will illustrate my purpose with examples of productions written by some of my students, from 15 to 17 years old, in a Brussels school of the general secondary education in 2015.

Keywords


rhetoric, epideictic, paradoxical encomium, education, society

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