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Reading: Officium auditoris: rudiments of a history of hearing


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Officium auditoris: rudiments of a history of hearing


Pantelis Bassakos

Pantheion University, GR
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Rhetorical discourse involves two parties, or two roles, the speaker and the hearer, stereotypically characterized as active and passive respectively. The history and theory of rhetoric concern themselves almost exclusively with the active side of the pair. It is the speaker who needs instructions in order to compose her speech, so a ‘rhetoric’, that is a handbook containing such instructions, is thought of as a book meant for the speaker. The history of rhetoric is largely the history of these books ‘meant for the speaker’; in such a history there is nothing much to be said about the hearer. This division of the rhetorical roles into active and passive is a stereotype, and quite a drastic one; for the historian of rhetoric influenced by it (as most of us tend to be) the activity of the hearer of rhetorical discourse is something that passes unperceived even when it is emphatically asserted, as is the case e.g. in the Rhetoric of Aristotle; it remains invisible, even where it is most blatantly obvious, as is the case e.g. in the Rhetoric book of Martianus Capella’s encyclopedia. In what follows I try to point out some instances of the concept of an ‘active hearer’, in the history of rhetorical theory, and give a first description of their context.

How to Cite: Bassakos, Pantelis. 2015. “Officium Auditoris: Rudiments of a History of Hearing”. Redescriptions: Political Thought, Conceptual History and Feminist Theory 18 (1): 12–25. DOI:
Published on 01 Mar 2015.
Peer Reviewed


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