Encomium

Encomium

[en-koh-mee-uhm]

Encomium is a Latin word deriving from the Classical Greek ἐγκώμιον (encomion) meaning the praise of a person or thing. Related to this general meaning, "encomium" also identifies several distinct aspects of rhetoric:

  • A general category of oratory
  • A method within rhetorical pedagogy
  • A figure of speech. As a figure, encomium means praising a person or thing, but occurring on a smaller scale than an entire speech.
  • The eighth exercise in the progymnasmata series
  • A genre of literature that included five elements: prologue, birth and upbringing, acts of the person's life, comparisons used to praise the subject, and an epilogue.

Famous encomia

  • Gorgias's Encomium of Helen is one of the most famous historical encomia. In it, Gorgias offers several justifications for excusing Helen of Troy's adultery -- notably, that she was persuaded by speech, which is a "powerful lord" or "powerful drug" depending on the translation.
  • A kind of encomium is used by the Christian writer Paul in his praise of love in 1 Corinthians 13. The prologue is verses 1-3, acts are v. 4-7, comparison is v. 8-12, and epilogue is 13:13-14:1. (From David E. Garland, Baker Exegetical Commentary, 1 Corinthians, 606, based on the work of Sigountos.)
  • In Erasmus's Praise of Folly, Folly composes an encomium to herself. It is an ironic encomium because being praised by Folly is backwards praise; therefore, Folly praising herself is an ironic conundrum.

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