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Vessela Valiavitcharska

Vessela Valiavitcharska profile photo

Director of the Writing Center, English
Professor, Classics

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1205 Tawes Hall
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Research Expertise

Comparative Literature
Language, Writing and Rhetoric
Medieval and Renaissance

Vessela Valiavitcharska’s research explores the intersections of argumentation and style in Byzantine rhetorical theory and practice. Her book Rhetoric and Rhythm in Byzantium: The Sound of Persuasion (Cambridge University Press, 2014) offers a new look at a phenomenon known as “prose rhythm” in  Byzantine and Old Church Slavic literature and argues for its rhetorical origins in both theory and practice. It demonstrates the importance of rhythm to argumentation and persuasion, suggesting also that rhythm can carry across linguistic boundaries. Along the way, the book challenges the entrenched separations between content and style, between prose and poetry, and emphasizes the role of rhythm as a tool for invention as well as a means of creating a shared emotional experience.

She is currently working on a new project which aims to articulate the ninth- to tenth-century Byzantine “philosophy” of rhetoric and language, which recognizes the close relationship between material medium and content, style and argument, and sound and image.   

Her interests include classical and medieval rhetoric, Byzantine and Old Church Slavic literature, visual rhetoric and medieval art, the ekphrastic tradition, medieval scholia and rhetorical commentaries, rhetoric and poetics, and textual criticism. She teaches courses in the history of rhetoric and in medieval literature.

Publications

“Rhetorical Figures.”

This book presents discussions by experts on all significant aspects of Byzantine Studies.

English

Lead: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Dates:
Byzantine Studies deals with the history and culture of the Byzantine Empire, the eastern half of the Late Roman Empire, from the fourth to the fourteenth century.

Rhetoric and Rhythm in Byzantium

Rhetoric and Rhythm in Byzantium takes a fresh look at rhetorical rhythm and its theory and practice, highlighting the close affinity between rhythm and argument.

English

Lead: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Dates:
Based on material from Byzantine and Old Church Slavonic homilies and from Byzantine rhetorical commentaries, the book redefines and expands our understanding of both Byzantine and Old Church Slavonic prose rhythm. It positions rhetorical rhythm at the intersection of prose and poetry and explores its role in argumentation and persuasion, suggesting that rhetorical rhythm can carry across linguistic boundaries, and in general aims to demonstrate the stylistic and argumentative importance of rhythm in rhetorical practice. Along the way, it challenges the entrenched separation between content and style and emphasizes the role of rhythm as a tool of invention and a means of creating shared emotional experience.

“Figure, Argument, and Performance in the Byzantine Classroom.” R

Drawing on a long tradition of teaching rhetoric that extends back to the late antique and even Hellenistic periods, the Byzantine rhetorical commentaries offer a unique witness to a “syncretic” pedagogy.

English

Lead: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Dates:
This article examines the Byzantine commentaries on four figures from the Hermogenic corpus, the standard “textbook” used in rhetorical education in Byzantium. Somewhat “untraditional,” these figures—known as period, pneuma, akmê, and antitheton—are assumed to have significant value in the invention and arrangement of arguments.

Rhetoric in the Hands of the Byzantine Grammarian

From the Journal of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric.

English

Lead: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Dates:
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric.

“Correct Logos and Truth in Gorgias’ Encomium of Helen.”

Gorgias appears to be making a connection between truthful speech (alethes logos) and correct speech (orthos logos).

English

Lead: Vessela Valiavitcharska
Dates:
Gorgias' insistence on correctness of speech surfaces not only in the Encomium of Helen, but also in the Funeral Oration fragment and in Agathon's parody of Gorgianic rhetoric in Plato's Symposium. Correct speech goes beyond the effectiveness of language and into the domain of ethical correctness and responsibility.