Description

Breaking Down the Description

Description (also known as Ekphrasis, the 12th exercise in the series of the Progymnasmata exercisesOpens in new window) is a descriptive composition which consists in bringing the subject clearly before the audience mind’s eye. TheonOpens in new window defines ekphrasis as “descriptive language, bringing what is portrayed clearly before the sight.”

EkphrasisOpens in new window as a progymnasma deals with vivid description. It can give a vivid description of something from start to finish, its subjects are like those of encomiumOpens in new window, such as persons, actions, times, places, animals, and growing things.

The usefulness of ekphrasis is that it brings clarity and vividness. It makes room for hearers to become spectators. More so it can function as an element of discourse in other progymnasma exercises including fablesOpens in new window, narrativesOpens in new window, common–placesOpens in new window, and encomiaOpens in new window.

Template for Description

Other similar terms and expressions (effictioOpens in new window, characterismusOpens in new window, enargiaOpens in new window) for vivid descriptions abounds in rhetorical manuals, such can be employed to describe a person or other subject so that it stands before the listener's eyes. TheonOpens in new window, in his discussion of topos, opines “we shall create vividness whenever we describe the crime in the process of execution and the suffering of the one wronged.” And he proceeds with an example of a murderer:

In the same vein, CiceroOpens in new window, in his discussion of the indignatio, expresses a similar idea, “a passage which results in arousing great hatred against some person, or violent offense at some action.” In describing the act of a crime, the speaker should “by [his] language bring the action as vividly as possible before the eyes of the judge before whom [he is] pleading, so that a shameful act may seem as shameful as if he had himself been present and seen it in person.”

Citations:
Cicero, De invention 1.53.100 (Hubbell, LCL).
Theon, Progymnasmata 118;
Hermogenes, Progymnasmata 22;
Aphthonius, Progymnasmata 46;
Nicolaus, Progymnasmata 68.
Further Readings:
Kennedy, George Alexander, Progymnasmata: Greek Texbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric. Leiden, The Netherlands: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.
Selby, James “The Vertical Integration of Aphthonius’ Progymnasmata”
Selby, James “Aphthonius’ Progymnasmata as a Means to Preparing Innovative Communicators”
Selby, James “The Characterization Stage of Aphthonius’ Progymnasmata in Light of Hermogenes’ On Style: Exploring the Border between Contemporary and Ancient Classrooms”
Silver Rhetoricae: ProgymnasmataOpens in new window