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Ethics, Identity, and Community in Later Roman Declamation$
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Neil W. Bernstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199964116

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199964116.001.0001

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(p.114) 4 Visuality
Ethics, Identity, and Community in Later Roman Declamation

Neil W. Bernstein

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses how declamatory narratives guide audiences to review their ethical commitments as spectators. The declamations involving a blind son accused of murdering his father (“The Bloodstained Wall,” DM 1, and “The Blind Man in the Doorway,” DM 2) deprive the defendant of key aspects of personhood (including most desires, capacities, and means of self-assertion), a more extreme representation of the impairment than the literary norm. For the speaker of “The Poor Man’s Torture” (DM 7), the sight of his tortured body will terrify his opponent, as the proof of his accusation will emerge from his pain. The father of “Suspected of Incest with His Mother, II” (DM 19) undermines his case through his failure to provide a self-consistent vision of his torture of his son. There can be no affectless viewing of the scene of torture in these speeches, yet the ethically appropriate response is a subject of controversy. These declamations associate the acts of visualization performed by the characters and the jurors with normative accounts of virtue. They offer broad-ranging claims about the interrelationship between acts of spectatorship, identity, and ethics.

Keywords:   enargeia, moral judgment, torture, disability, spectatorship

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