This chapter introduces the book's subject, methodology, and aims. Noting limitations in scope and tendency towards abstraction of previous studies, it considers the broader institutional context for debate and examines its various manifestations in texts. Three arguments are proposed: that debate plays a critical role in both oral and written narrative (epic and historiography) and drama (tragedy); that debate is best thought of in terms of the due management of disagreement; and that its textual representations reproduce an agonistic mental horizon among its many audiences. In making these claims, the introduction draws on the cultural analysis of competition and debate by G. Lloyd, J.-P. Vernant and others, the theory of structuration by the political theorist A. Giddens, which stresses the activity of people working within social structures to enact them, and M. Bakhtin's dialogic approach, which analyses the dynamic between the narrator's voice and those of his characters.
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