Evaluating Jesus and other “heroes”
An application of appraisal analysis to Hellenistic Greek texts in the “Lives” genre
The appraisal framework developed by Martin and White and others working within systemic functional linguistics has been applied in a wide variety of contexts. However, to our knowledge, it has been little used in the interpretation of ancient written documents. We believe that it may have value, amongst other things, in determining the genre of such literature and we see this as particularly relevant in the area of biography, where the author’s presentation of the subject is a key factor. So, in this study, we apply aspects of the appraisal framework to three Hellenistic Greek texts often categorised with the genre “Lives”. Selected passages from these texts were divided into short units for quantitative analysis that focused on the Judgement that the texts’ authors make of their central characters (their “heroes”), how this is amplified and how they engage with different “voices”. These passages were also compared with the rest of the texts in a more qualitative study. Our results show notable differences in the Judgement the authors make and presumably wish their readers to share in terms of the positive/negative portrayal of their “heroes”, the degree of amplification and the interaction with other “voices”. We consider the appropriateness of the “Lives” genre for one of these texts, the Gospel of John, and also a number of methodological issues arising from an area of application that has not previously received attention. These include the difficulty of making clear-cut evaluation choices where authors themselves may be ambivalent about those they are describing and the need to take account of the differing and complex value systems of ancient cultures. We suggest that our findings may have wider relevance for other applications of appraisal.
Keywords: appraisal, evaluation, systemic functional linguistics, discourse analysis, inter-coder reliability, genre, biography, ancient written texts, Hellenistic Greek “Lives”, Gospel of John
- 2.Aspects of appraisal
- 3.Methodology used for systematic analysis
- 3.1Units for analysis
- 3.2Categories of analysis
- 5.Comparison with examples from outside systematic analysis
- 6.Critique of methodology
Published online: 29 September 2022
Burridge, Richard A.
Cortazzi, Martin & Lixian Jin
Dvorak, James D.
Goddard, Cliff, Maite Taboada & Radoslava Trnavac
Gospel of John
Halliday, Michael A. K. & Christian M. I. M. Matthiessen
Lamb, David A.
Louw, Johannes P. & Eugene A. Nida
Macken-Horarik & Anne Isaac
Martin, James R. & Peter R. R. White
Martin, James R. & David Rose
Nacey, Susan, Aletta G. Dorst, Tina Krennmayr & W. Gudrun Reijnierse
Read, Jonathon & John Carroll
Smith, Justin Marc
Thompson, Geoff & Susan Hunston
Wei, Yakun, Michael Wherrity & Yi Zhang
White, Peter R. R.
Appraisal theory 2015 In Karen Tracey, Cornelia Ilie & Todd Sandel (eds.), The international encyclopaedia of language and social interaction: Volume 11, 54–60. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved on 14 January 2022 from http://www.prrwhite.info/prrwhite,%202015,%20Appraisal%20theory,%20Wiley%20Encylopedia.pdf