Decorum, power, and the courtly style

Robert Hariman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


If politics is an art, then matters of style must be crucial to its practice. This essay considers how political actions are shaped by rhetorical practices that depend upon aesthetic perceptions. Modern assumptions of artistic autonomy are replaced by the classical concept of decorum, which offers a model for understanding how political life is styled for rhetorical effect. The role of decorousness in contemporary politics is illustrated by the extreme case of the courtly style, which constitutes power through propriety, is centered on the king’s body, displaces speech with gesture, and ends in political paralysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-172
Number of pages24
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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