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Winter 2005, pages 5 - 23

The Ethics of Epideictic Rhetoric: Addressing the Problem of Presence through Derrida's Funeral Orations

ABSTRACT: I identify three modern approaches used to theorize epideictic rhetoric and suggest that each approach has difficulty dealing with the category of presence assigned to the genre by Aristotle. Drawing on Thucydides and, through him, Pericles' funeral oration, I suggest that Jacques Derrida's funeral speeches provide a way of rethinking the epideictic genre's presence as rhetorical ethics. More specifically, I argue that the function of presence in epideictic rhetoric is to provide an ethical interruption, and that Derrida, as one of our most accomplished funeral orators, helps us clarify the category of presence as it is described in Aristotle's and Thucydides' discussions of epideictic oratory.

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