Definition of Apologia

Derived from the Greek root of apologos, the term apologia means a speech delivered in defense of somebody or something. Its corresponding verb is apologeisthai that means to speak defending somebody.

However, in literature, it means some formal writing that defends somebody’s character or behavior. As a literary term, it means a written apology that is long than a formally written concise apology and defends the position of somebody, mostly in political sense. During the early modern period, however, its meanings have emerged as an expression of seeking apology or feeling regret of doing something disregard of reasonability of the action.

Techniques/Strategies of Apologia

There are four major strategies of apologia which are considered important elements of a written apologia.

  1. Denial means to deny in an indirect or direct way having done something wrong.
  2. Bolstering that means to increase the positivity of the person facing attacks or censure.
  3. Differentiation that means to distinguish the question itself
  4. Transcendence that means to place the act into its context to make the audiences or readers the difference

Examples of Apologia in Literature

Example #1

The Apology by Plato

One thing I do ask and beg of you, gentlemen: if you hear me making my defence in the same kind of language as I am accustomed to use in the market place by the bankers’ tables, where many of you have heard me, and elsewhere, do not be surprised or create a disturbance on that account. The position is this: this is my first appearance in a lawcourt, at the age of seventy; I am therefore simply a stranger to the manner of speaking here. Just as if I were really a stranger, you would certainly excuse me if I spoke in that dialect and manner in which I had been brought up, so too my present request seems a just one, for you to pay no attention to my manner of speech—be it better or worse—but to concentrate your attention on whether what I say is just or not, for the excellence of a judge lies in this, as that of a speaker lies in telling the truth.

This passage occurs in the world famous The Apology by Plato written in the defence of Socrates. It is the account of the speech that Socrates make during his trial. This passage shows the act of defence that is also of denial, bolstering as well as differentiating him from the rest of the people. Through these three acts, Plato has tried to save the face of his teacher, Socrates. This is a written apologia that has survived the ravages of time and has been translated into English. The elements given in this passage try to exonerate Socrates from the criminal allegations he faced at that time.

Example #2

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

After that I made a living as a hack journalist. I wanted to write for magazines, but the only interest came from a few local newspapers, so I did things like reviews of provincial shows and touring companies, earning a pittance. I had just enough time to review the warm-up act, peeping from the wings at the dancing girls dressed in their sailor suits and following them to the milk bar, where they would order a suppertime caffè latte, and if they weren’t too hard up, a fried egg. I had my first sexual experiences then, with a singer, in exchange for an indulgent write-up for a newspaper in Saluzzo.

This passage occurs in the popular novel of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. He presents the story of the Catholic Church and Adso. Adso tries to exonerate himself from what he has done as a writer. He says how he has been involved in making a living by writing such things and entering the newspaper, Saluzzo. His argument seems to present the denial to bolster his case for likely exoneration, or a sort of exoneration that he seeks from his readers.

Example #3

Act 26 from New Testament

This is the twenty sixth chapter of New Testament. It takes into account the entire period when Paul is thrown behind the bards in Caesarea. The term has been used by Paul to defend himself when he says, “I make my defense” 26:2. It appears in Epistle to the Philippians in which he again refers to his act of defending himself. These two uses of defence have transformed it into apologia.

Example #4

Apologia Pro Vita Sua by John Henry Newman

I cannot be sorry to have forced Mr. Kingsley to bring out in fulness his charges against me. It is far better that he should discharge his thoughts upon me in my lifetime, than after I am dead. Under the circumstances I am happy in having the opportunity of reading the worst that can be said of me by a writer who has taken pains with his work and is well satisfied with it. I account it a gain to be surveyed from without by one who hates the principles which are nearest to my heart, has no personal knowledge of me to set right his misconceptions of my doctrine, and who has some motive or other to be as severe with me as he can possibly be.

This passage occurs in the essay of Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua. In this passage, he states whey he is not sorry for the charges levelled against him by Mr. Kingsley. This shows his mode of defense and how he informs his readers about it. It is a type of apologia that is very subtle in its message and very beautiful in its argument.

Functions of Apologia

The major function of an apologia is to exonerate a person from wrong accusations levelled by the opponents. This is often presented as a treatise, a speech, or an essay. Its core functions lie in making the public see the other side of the lies or truth as spread in the society.

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