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Show and Tell: Genre and Deixis in Lucian

Inger Neeltje Irene Kuin

The vast majority of Lucian’s works were composed primarily with a live audience in mind. The author’s frequent and skilled employment of deixis, which I shall define as the use of ‘here and now’ and ‘this and that’ expressions, attests to this. It also shows how this intended live audience shaped the composition of Lucian’s epideictic speeches and his comic dialogues. In this paper I will compare Lucian’s usage of deictics between these two genres, which together supply almost the entire corpus. The purpose of this comparison is to determine how Lucian uses deictics in an established and often performed genre (epideictic speeches) as compared to a new and hybrid genre (comic dialogue), which lacked a tradition of performance. In the process I will produce a novel, detailed analysis of Lucian’s use of deictics itself, which is as yet unavailable.

Already in 1928 Bellinger argued that not only the epideictic speeches, but also Lucian’s comic dialogues were performed in front of an audience by a single performer. This idea, while often accepted (e.g. Berdozzo 2011), has not been developed much further since it was suggested. Bellinger based his argument on the prolific usage of vocatives, second person verbs, questions, and imperatives, which all help the audience to follow which character is ‘speaking’, and thus allow for a one man performance of the comic dialogues. Bellinger, understandably, does not discuss the phenomenon of deixis – though many of the expressions he studied are now sometimes classified as deictic – since it was not yet a familiar concept in linguistics in his day, much less in classical philology.

With my analysis of Lucian’s use of deixis I want to build on Bellinger’s work, by further strengthening the case for the recital of Lucianic dialogues, and by expanding our understanding of Lucian’s skill as a writer for performance. It should be noted that, while this paper will necessarily be restricted to deixis, the case for performance of Lucian’s writings does not hinge on these grammatical features alone: historical evidence about the Second Sophistic shows that it was a rhetorical culture where orators commanded large audiences, and the corpus itself supplies various references as to the texts being performed (e.g. Apol. 3; Pisc. 26).

Lucian uses two different types of deixis that can be easily quantified: so-called deictic iota and the three-way demonstrative pronoun ὅδε, οὗτος, ἐκεῖνος. In addition to the deictic expressions Bellinger discussed, even present tense verbs are sometimes considered to be deictic, but the size of Lucian’s corpus makes it impractical to include those. Therefore this paper will focus on deictic iota and demonstrative pronouns. I will separately categorize these deictic expressions from the speeches and the comic dialogues into the commonly used rubrics spatial deixis, person-deixis, temporal deixis, and discourse deixis (with the understanding that the latter is not so much a form of deixis as a textual structuring device), as well as analyze the interplay between deictic instruments in certain selected texts.

Within classical philology deixis analysis has so far been used most often by scholars of lyric poetry, to better understand the performance context of Greek archaic poetry, while in the study of classical Greek oratory deixis is frequently used as an explanatory tool as well. Lucian’s indebtedness to classical oratory, and the rich rhetorical performance culture of which he was a part more then justify a first attempt at applying deixis analysis to his writings. My novel approach, then, will provide further insight into Lucian’s strategies to draw his audience in by connecting the ‘here and now’ of the performance with the ‘here and now’ of the narrative, and the innovations he made to the genre of dialogue.

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Forms of Argument in Dicanic and Epideictic Speech

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