Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

2/1/2014 - 1/31/2015

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The Relationship between Figurative Language and Argumentation in Medieval Greek (Byzantine) Rhetoric

FAIN: FA-57523-13

Vessela Valiavitcharska
University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, MD 20742-5141)

This project examines the relationship between figures of speech and argumentation in Byzantine rhetorical theory and practice, seeking to understand the ways in which style participates in argumentation and vice versa. Using medieval Byzantine rhetorical theory as a basis for research, it offers a comparative analysis between structures of rhetorical arguments and structures of formal syllogistic reasoning, seeking to identify which figural features of language hold argumentational and persuasive value. The book’s material for analysis includes visual representations of the rhetorical figures in Byzantine manuscripts (charts, diagrams), polemical marginal illustrations in polemical Byzantine psalters, and selections of extant practical polemics on the controversy about the use of religious images, known as Iconoclasm. The goal is to illumine the larger question of how the rhetorical figures double as language tools and structures of reasoning.

Associated Products

"Oral Aspects of Argumentation Training." (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: "Oral Aspects of Argumentation Training."
Author: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Abstract: Despite content seemingly irrelevant to Byzantine political life, the two treatises On Staseis and On Invention from the late antique Hermogenic corpus seem to have been studied regularly in the Byzantine classroom. Their archaic language and difficult subject matter may incline us to presume that the two treatises would have been studied "from the book," that is, the material would have been delivered lecture-style by the teacher and absorbed by the students by means of note-taking. This probably was the case – but not exclusively. The approach assumed in the Byzantine commentaries and scholia on these texts exhibit three distinct oral features: dialogic orientation, symmetry and chiastic structure, and repetition and rhythm. These features suggest that practical argumentation training proceeded orally, by means of memorization and informal interchange among students.
Date: 5/16/2015
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Symposium website, which displays description and program.
Conference Name: The Sound of Sense: Orality/Aurality in Byzantine Texts and Contexts.

“Word Rhythm in the Enthymeme: How to Draw a Conclusion.” (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: “Word Rhythm in the Enthymeme: How to Draw a Conclusion.”
Author: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Abstract: The Byzantine commentators of the Hermogenic corpus insist that the enthymeme, a unit of informal argumentation, is related to the Peripatetic rather than the Stoic syllogism. This attitude is generally taken to suggest that the Byzantines regarded the enthymeme as an incomplete syllogism with one explicit and one implied premise. However, a careful analysis of the enthymematic examples offered in the Hermogenic commentaries reveals that the Peripatetic syllogism was preferred as a model for explaining rhetorical argumentation because it uses terms unrelated to each other. When converted to rhetorical enthymemes, the syllogistic terms receive emphasis by means of syntactical parallelism as well as stress-based rhythm, thus transforming the syllogistic structure into a figurative unit of argumentation.
Date: 10/24/2015
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: This website describes the colloquium series. The colloquium continues to meet yearly.
Conference Name: International Colloquium DAMON of the Université Fribourg.

"Rhetorical Figures." (Book Section)
Title: "Rhetorical Figures."
Author: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Editor: Stratis Papaioannou
Abstract: An overview of the most widely used figure theory traditions and treatises in Byzantium, with illustrations of figure types according to function, and an appendix of terms.
Year: 2017
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Book Title: The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Literature.