The Emperor of Men's Minds: Literature and the Renaissance Discourse of Rhetoric

Synopsis

"In a book that will change the way we read Renaissance rhetoric, Wayne A. Rebhorn shows that the issues at stake are not dialogue and debate but power and control. Looking closely at what rhetoricians themselves said about their art, Rebhorn explores the profound engagement of rhetoric with some of the major cultural concerns of the time, including political authority, social mobility, gender relations, and attitudes toward the body. As he reads texts by Shakespeare, Jonson, Herbert, Carew, Tirso de Molina, Machiavelli, Rabelais, and Moliere, among others, Rebhorn offers a new model for the rhetorical reading of literature. Renaissance literature, he maintains, subjects rhetorical discourse to examination and evaluation and in the process exposes its many contradictions and evasions. According to Rebhorn, rhetoricians imagine orators ambiguously, both as absolutist rulers who employ rhetoric to help maintain the status quo, and as base-born outsiders who use it to promote their own social advancement or even to resist authority. Renaissance rhetoric is equally ambiguous when it confronts issues of gender, for it identifies itself as simultaneously male and female, both "masculine" in its power and "feminine" in its procreativity and adornment. Finally, Renaissance rhetoric conveys a contradictory vision of the body, for although it is most typically aligned with the body image associated with elites, it simultaneously identities itself with the ethically suspect, grotesque body linked with the lower classes." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Additional information

Contributors:
Includes content by:
  • Wayne A. Rebhorn
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Ithaca, NY
Publication year:
  • 1995