Repository logo

Verbalisation of non-verbal communication in classical Greek texts.

Change log


Sonin, Joanne Faye. 


My Ph.D. thesis constitutes an investigation into the ways in which non-verbal communication (NVC) is represented and relayed by ancient authors through the use of the written word. This written expression of NVC can be represented in conjunction with oral communication, or independently of it, offering intentionally chosen insight into particular perspectives, concepts or situations. The reasons why a specific author, or authors, chose to include certain non-verbal details are considered, as is the cultural, symbolic, and literary significance of each example. The thesis approaches the subject from historical, anthropological, sociological and philosophical perspectives, while retaining an appreciation of the chronological and methodological limitations of studying the behaviour of a society which cannot be directly experienced. My thesis is intended to fill a gap in the historical scholarship of classical Athens as, with a few notable exceptions, the study of NVC remains virtually ignored by ancient historians and classicists. Indeed, most of the research in this area belongs to the discipline of art history and does not include a thorough consideration of the subject through the use of literary and historical sources. My research of NVC includes the study of gesture and body language, as well as investigations into kinesics, manipulable elements of appearance, autonomic nervous system responses, haptics, posture, gait, and mobility. Within these areas of inquiry there exist sub-divisions that must also be taken into consideration, e.g., gender, age, socio-economic status, and race. Furthermore, the symbolism and meaning of any element of NVC do not remain static, and the changes and alterations occurring within the means of communication of the society under investigation are critical to any attempt at understanding the role of NVC in that community. The point of departure for my research is the Attic orators. However, the scope of my work is by no means limited to oratory. Descriptions of NVC are used throughout Greek prose and verse, allowing a web of comparable and conflicting usage to be unravelled. Of particular interest to my work is the influence of early physiognomies and physiognomical thought on the textual usage of the body. In order to establish continuity or change in the attitudes and understanding of NVC in antiquity, the texts I consider are not restricted to the classical period, but spread into adjacent centuries. For methodological reasons, I have divided this dissertation according to body part or function, and have chosen particular aspects of NVC for detailed analysis, both on a practical and on a theoretical level. While each body movement represents a certain emotion or symbolises a particular response or message, bodily traits and actions need also be considered within the wider context of Greek thought. Bodily movement and expression are evaluated in relation to basic Greek concepts such as the psyche, the body, schema, beauty, civic ideals and values, etc. My thesis deals with NVC both as an expression of the ideal and as a possible reflection of reality, taking into consideration its role both as a means to fantasise and as a tool of criticism.






Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge