The representation of authority in Cicero’s dialogues

Author: Stull, William Carnill
Title: The representation of authority in Cicero’s dialogues
Review/Collection: Thesis (Ph. D.)
Place edition: Chicago
Editor: The University of Chicago
Year edition: 2002
Pages: 261
Keywords: Philosophie - Filosofia - Philosophy, Sources - Fonti - Sources, Stylistique et genres littéraires - Stilistica e generi letterari - Stylistics and literary genre
Description: [Stull, William Carnill] [Abstract] This dissertation treats Cicero's dialogues as documents in the history of ideology and aesthetics, using the lens of auctoritas to focus the investigation. I argue that the dialogues are concerned with establishing a new, literary model of authority, one meant to substitute for—and comment upon—the political authority that Cicero failed to attain. Cicero's experiments are not only interesting in themselves; they provide essential background for role played by auctoritas in the Augustan period. The introduction and first chapter give an overview. The former surveys Cicero's cultural authority from antiquity to the 20th century, while the latter claims that the dialogue as a genre is deeply concerned with the analysis of ideas within a social context. In chapter one I pay particular attention to St. Augustine's reading of the Hortensius, arguing that it offers a paradigm for the interpretation of the dialogues.   The next two chapters describe how Cicero created an image of auctoritas as simultaneously an historical and an aesthetic principle. By analyzing Cicero's treatment of setting in De Re Publica and De Legibus, and comparing it with what Plato had done in the Republic and the Phaedrus, I show that Cicero anchored his works in specific temporal and geographical contexts. The goal was not mimetic realism, but the establishment of mutually sustaining relations among author, reader, and text. In the third chapter I connect this structure to dramatic performance, and a discussion of Cato the Elder in De Senectute illustrates the importance of the dramatists (especially Terence) for Cicero's portrayal of the authoritative interlocutor.   The fourth and fifth chapters tie Cicero's analysis of auctoritas to the political developments of his day. With the victory of Caesar, old structures of public authority, dependent on widespread consent to the rituals of political life, were no longer sound. In the major dialogues of the forties (De Natura Deorum, Academica , De Divinatione, and De Fato ), social consensus breaks down, and multiple authorities emerge. Even the persona of the author becomes fragmented. In an epilogue I sketch avenues of further inquiry, especially in the area of Cicero's influence on Vergil.
Author initials: Stull 2002