Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.


Sophistry, Composition, Democracy, Social theory, Sophists


This dissertation translates an essay by Mario Untersteiner "Le origini sociali della sofistica" ("The Social Origins of Sophistry") unpublished in English, and explores its significance in terms of classical and contemporary rhetorical theory, as well as the composition classroom. In the process, I attempt to contribute to reestablishing sophistry and rhetoric within our contemporary cultural milieu. More specifically, the dissertation is organized into five main parts: The first chapter offers an introduction to and thorough background of the sophists in ancient and classical Greece; the second chapter reviews the scholarship about the sophists, as well as that on Mario Untersteiner and his "Le origini," exploring the commonly known difficulties of translation. Chapter three provides my translation of the complete essay, while chapter four presents my interpretation of the most salient issues in the essay and their importance to classical rhetorical theory. The concluding chapter presents my conclusions and relates my findings to the composition classroom, the university, and society at large, arguing for the reintegration of certain sophistical rhetorical theories and practices.