What is Parrhesy?

I’ve become interested in the concept of parrhesia or “parrhesy” and its implications for the way we teach writing to undergraduates.  My thoughts are definitely still inchoate here, but I wanted to start thinking more publicly about the direction I’m heading and offer a few of the bits and pieces I’ve found and recorded in my commonplace book (which is more often digital files).   I’m lowbrow enough that the first things that come to my mind when I read “parrhesy” have been “heresy,” and “Parcheesi,” but “parrhesy” is a rhetorical term that means “candour, frankness; outspokenness or boldness of speech” (OED). It’s usually translated as “free speech.”  The term dates back to Euripedes, and in its classical rhetoric iteration, the candor or “truth-telling” had more to do with the speaker than the listener; the speaker’s moral qualities were evidenced in his speech.  In more recent years, the ethos has been reimagined by the likes of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler.  In Foucault’s formulation, “free speech” comes with a responsibility, a duty to an other, and the speaker is in fact beholden to the listener precisely because of the risk the speaker takes in her outspokenness. Continue reading