Attic Oratory

Prof. Michael Arnush Ladd 209 x5462 Hours: MF 12-1pm
Web Resources


Over the course of the semester you will develop your ability to read continuous Greek prose clearly and cogently, and to understand Demosthenes' work in the context of the development of the genre of oratory and the events that shaped his world. The course requirements are designed to help you sharpen these skills. You will take one midterm (with the option for a second) and one final exam, which will focus your attention on grammar, syntax and vocabulary, and coherent prose translations. You will write one-page essays either as responses to readings or as creative oratorical exercises, thus honing your writing skills and your ability to understand and synthesize scholarly and/or rhetorical arguments. Finally, you will write and present a final paper which will allow you to demonstrate:

  • a comprehension of Greek grammar and syntax
  • the ability to translate Greek in nuanced ways
  • the use of electronic and print search engines and sources to identify relevant scholarship
  • the sophisticated interpretation of relevant scholarship
  • writing and oral presentation skills
Class participation includes preparation of readings and assignments, and participation in readings, translations and discussions in the classroom. Obviously, if you do not attend class you can not participate. You may take 2 absences from the classroom during the semester without penalty. After two absences, each absence will result in a lowering of the class participation component of 20% by one full grade. Come to class.



Over the course of the semester you will submit (at least) two 300-500-word essays, either an analysis of some aspect of the readings, or the creative construction of a portion of a piece of oratory (in English). The latter will be a short exercise - no more than one page - and is to be accompanied by a brief commentary that explicates the types of rhetorical devices you employ in your essay. Every essay should includes an exercise in appropriate citations of primary and secondary sources. These are due electronically by 8PM Thursday, and should be distributed to the entire class via e-mail.


What I'm looking for in the analytical essay is a single, strong, argumentative point, based on your own attentive, independent analysis of the readings, and supported with a few well-chosen pieces of evidence. You should engage with the assigned scholarship, but don't simply regurgitate it. The role of scholarship is to inform and inspire your thinking, not to replace it.

Obviously 1-2 pages are not enough space to develop a major argument. Instead, think of this essay as your first entry into that week's discussion, and be ready to develop and defend your point further in class. But you should also choose a thesis that you can articulate clearly in a single page. Think small and precise — no sweeping generalizations! Also, don't waste time on summarizing the entire article or speech — get in, make your point, defend it, and get out.


In this exercise you will choose a form of oratory - intellectual, epideictic, forensic or bouleutic - and compose a brief (no more than one page) creative essay that employs various rhetorical devices and patterns that are appropriate to that genre of oratory. On the second page you will present a brief commentary on your essay, explicating the rhetorical choices you made and the reasons for doing so.


As the syllabus indicates, we will read a healthy amount of scholarship, examples of oratory, rhetorical criticism, etc. I expect you to come to class having done the reading and prepared to interject questions, take the lead on issues and generally contribute to the discussions.

The midterm exam (one just after study break, and another only if needed just before Thanksgiving), will be designed for you to show off your best work. The exam(s) will include a variety of tasks - translation of a few passages, attention to grammar and syntax, and an essay on something drawn from our discussions and readings up to that point. The final exam will follow a similar format, on Tuesday, December 15th, 1.30-4.30pm.
The final project for this class will be to write a mid-length research paper (6-8 pp.). Developing an idea, crafting a thesis and supporting your argument will almost certainly require you to explore the secondary (and perhaps primary) literature beyond the assigned class reading. You may address any of a broad variety of issues related to Demosthenes' work, the genre of oratorical literature, the socio-political context for a specific speech, etc., but the core of your paper should be your own close, careful engagement with rhetoric and scholarship.

Some milestones for the project (dates TBD):

  • Topic statement
    One paragraph declaring which essay you've decided to develop, and outlining the precise question you intend to focus on, the approach you plan to take, and any expected conclusions. This paragraph should be the outcome of some thoughtful preliminary work. Note: You may choose to write your paper on a question we haven't covered yet in class. In that case, you should have done the relevant primary and secondary readings and begun to think about them by this point. Think of the work it'll save you later in the semester!
  • Rough draft
    A working version of the project. All matters pertaining to structure and content should at least be settled, if not fully developed. Some gaps here and there are acceptable, provided that there are summaries of what is missing. The topic, approach, evidence, and supporting materials should all be evident. A bibliography of all secondary sources should accompany the rough draft.
  • Presentation
    The last two Fridays of class will be devoted to short presentations describing your projects and their most interesting results for the rest of the class.
  • Final Version
    A polished version of your project.

Participation 20% Throughout the semester
Scholarship 20% Oct. 1st and TBA
Midterm exam(s) 20% Oct. 30th; Nov. 18th-20th (if needed)
Final project 20% Dec. 9th: milestone dates TBD
Final exam 20% Tues., Dec. 15th, 1.30-4.30pm
As you hone your skills as a reader of Greek you will develop your own perspectives, methodologies and solutions to some of the vexing questions that the study of language, literature and culture raises. It is absolutely essential that you take credit for your own work, and give credit to others when you draw upon their ideas and words.

Accordingly, plagiarism and cheating of all sorts will not be tolerated in this course and are grounds for an "F". Be sure to read carefully the Academic Integrity and Ethics of Scholarship webpages.

All members of the College community are bound by Skidmore's Honor Code, included here:

"I hereby accept membership in the Skidmore College Community and, with full realization of the responsibilities inherent in membership, do agree to adhere to honesty and integrity in all relationships, to be considerate of the rights of others, and to abide by the college regulations."