Analysis Of Gorgias ' Encomium Of Helen Essay

1195 Words Jan 27th, 2015 5 Pages
Encomium to Rhetoric as Signification in Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen
This essay looks at Gorgias’ epideictic oratory, through his Encomium of Helen. I inspect Gorgias’ encomium in terms of Roland Barthes’ Myth Today (1984). Gorgias’ ‘form’ can be interpreted as the use of Troy and Helen in a way that draws on the historical reception of Helen. Helen is used as the central figure, Gorgias providing four arguments for her exoneration; necessity, force, persuasion and desire. Concepts present shift from the body as argument, to rationalism, the application of reason to human actions. Whilst some may interpret Gorgias’ signification of these concepts as radical feminism, I will present an argument for the Encomium of Helen instead as an encomium of rhetoric, Helen’s nature allowing for an exploration of paradoxologia as a rhetorical device.
Form, in a Barthesian sense, is original media present within a source. In the Encomium of Helen, the form taken is that of Troy and Helen, along with the literary tradition of her condemnation. Where Helen of Troy has her own intended significance, as in the Iliad, Gorgias in part suppresses this. Gorgias instead chooses to diminish much of her culpability as the cause of the Trojan War, trying to “free the slandered woman from the accusation” and to demonstrate “that those who blame her are lying”. Gorgias does not attempt to fully suppress Helen’s origin, but where he differs from more traditional treatments of Helen of Troy is his…

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