Module Catalogue 2020/21

CAC3051 : The Ancient Art of Spin: Classical Rhetoric in Theory and Practice (stage 3) (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Jakob Wisse
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



How do you influence an audience so that they will accept what you say as true, or at least plausible? How do you try to influence their behaviour and policies? How do you come across as a nice, trustworthy and/or knowledgeable person? And how can you whip up an audience’s emotions?
The power of oratory, again recognised today, was well known to the Greeks and Romans, and in this module we will study some of the many speeches from antiquity that illustrate it. The emphasis is on the court speeches of Cicero – perhaps the greatest orator of antiquity – but we will also look, e.g., at Greek speeches made in court (Lysias) and in the assembly (Demosthenes). We will also look at rhetorical theory, to see whether it offers answers to the above questions.
Finally, we will study two or three modern speeches, illustrating that the techniques used for studying ancient oratory can also be employed in understanding its modern counterpart. These may include Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ and Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’.

The aims of this module are:
1. To provide students with an understanding of classical and especially Ciceronian rhetoric, including its political, social and intellectual background.
2. To provide students with an understanding of the relevance of (classical) rhetoric as well as its limitations for studying other ancient genres and for studying modern speeches and texts.
3. To enhance students' skills at analysing ancient texts in translation.

Outline Of Syllabus

Rhetoric in practice: orators studied may include (in chronological order) Lysias, Demosthenes, Cicero, Roman declaimers (as preserved by Seneca the Elder), Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King.

Rhetorical theory and related material (in chronological order): authors studied may include: Plato (esp. his Phaedrus), Aristotle (Rhetoric), the anonymous author of the Rhetoric for Herennius, Cicero (esp. his De oratore [On the Ideal Orator] and Orator), Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Petronius, Seneca, Quintilian.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

On completion of the module, students have acquired:
1. a good working knowledge of the prescribed speeches of Cicero, and of ancient oratory more in general, in most of its key aspects.
2. a good working knowledge of the prescribed theoretical texts and of the outlines of the history of the theory of classical rhetoric.
3. an awareness of some of the main issues of research in modern scholarship on classical rhetoric, esp. on Cicero's speeches and rhetorical works.
4. knowledge of a number of aspects of the influence, and relevance, of (classical) rhetoric for studying other ancient genres as well as modern speeches and texts.

Intended Skill Outcomes

On completion of the module, students should have enhanced (to a level higher than that expected at Stage 2):
1. their skills in analysing and interpreting (ancient) texts (in translation), with regard to (a) details of the text, (b) overall issues of interpretation and (c ) the relationship between (a) and (b).
2. their skills in evaluating modern scholarship and in testing its views against the ancient evidence.
3. their adaptability in applying these skills to issues other than those discussed in class, both ancient and modern.
4. their skills in offering a clear presentation of their views and analyses in written form.
5. their capacity for independent study.

Teaching Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

Module leaders are revising this content in light of the Covid 19 restrictions.
Revised and approved detail information will be available by 17 August.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2020/21 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2021/22 entry will be published here in early-April 2021. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.