Well before Aristotle's Rhetoric elucidated the elements of verbal style that give writing its persuasive power, Greek poets and prose authors understood the importance of style in creating compelling characters to engage an audience. And because their works were composed in predominantly oral settings, their sense of style included not only the characters' manner of speaking, but also their appearance and deportment. From Homeric epic to classical tragedy and oratory, verbal and visual cues work hand-in-hand to create distinctive styles for literary characters.
In this book, Nancy Worman investigates the development and evolution of ideas about style in archaic and classical literature through a study of representations of Odysseus and Helen. She demonstrates that, as liars and imitators, pleasing storytellers, and adept users of costume, these two figures are especially skillful manipulators of style. In tracing the way literary representations of them changed through time—from Homer's positive portrayal of their subtle self-presentations to the sharply polarized portrayals of these same subtleties in classical tragedy and oratory—Worman also uncovers a nascent awareness among the Greek writers that style may be used not only to persuade but also to distract and deceive.