Persuasion in the Aeneid

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This dissertation is an analysis of how characters in the Aeneid acquire and use knowledge to manipulate their addressees, and of how the Vergilian narrator employs similar strategies to manipulate his reader. The first three chapters are readings of speeches and scenes informed by a focus on each character’s rhetorical goals and persuasive strategies. I concentrate particularly on passages in which characters invent, distort, and speak tendentiously in other ways. The final two chapters argue that the Vergilian narrator is misdirecting, because he uses untrue character speech to raise unfulfilled expectations, and that he is suppressive, because he leaves out much, and displaces the telling of much onto unreliable characters’ claims. In the first chapter I examine how the reader perceives what characters in the Aeneid know, how the characters come to know, and how they use what they know. In the second chapter I interpret the diplomatic exchanges between Ilioneus and Latinus and between Aeneas and Evander as rhetorical contests for advantage, informed by the chaotic military and political world that is Vergil’s Italy. In the third chapter I argue that the speech in the last four books shifts to disputing the responsibility for the outbreak of the war and the question of over what the war is being fought. In the fourth chapter I argue that the rhetorical strategies used by characters in the Aeneid to manipulate and persuade other characters are closely intertwined with the narrative strategies used by Vergil to misdirect the expectations of his readers. In the fifth chapter I suggest some broader effects on our understanding of the Aeneid that may follow from my readings of character speech and narrative technique in the first four chapters.

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Classical literature; Rhetoric; Classical studies; Aeneid; narratology; Vergil


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Fontaine, Michael Scott

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Ahl, Frederick M.
Pelliccia, Hayden Newhall

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Ph. D., Classics

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Doctor of Philosophy

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dissertation or thesis

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