John Chrysostom’s use of imagined speech, or prosopopoeia, is an acknowledged and striking aspect of his exegetical practice. In his homilies, he often fills out the spare scriptural record by inserting additional dialogue and unfolding the characters’ thoughts. He even draws attention to what figures did not say or think. An interesting and as yet undiscussed counterpoint to this rhetorical technique is the fourth-century preacher’s practice of imagining objects. This too was an established rhetorical device, called enargeia. The objects that he evokes tend to be ordinary—they are usually pieces of furniture or items of clothing—but they are always associated with extraordinary people. This essay explores the agency that Chrysostom attributes to these objects: what he understood them to say and do to his listeners. Although the messages and feelings vary, they are always intense. And this intensity was the utility of these things for Chrysostom. Imagined objects were a way to stimulate listeners, to get them to overcome inertia and pursue virtue.
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Research Article| November 01 2023
Imagine the Table, the Bed, the Shoes! John Chrysostom on the Affective Power of Imagined Objects
Studies in Late Antiquity (2023) 7 (4): 499–515.
Blake Leyerle; Imagine the Table, the Bed, the Shoes! John Chrysostom on the Affective Power of Imagined Objects. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 November 2023; 7 (4): 499–515. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2023.7.4.499
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