Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy, and Practice: Essays in Honor of James J. Murphy

By Winifred Bryan Horner; Michael Leff | Go to book overview

Introduction: James J. Murphy
and the Rhetorical Tradition

Beth S. Bennett
University of Alabama

Michael Leff
Northwestern University

In his review of Rhetoric in the Middle Ages, certainly the most ambitious and probably the most influential of Jerry Murphy's books, Judson Boyce Allen concludes with this assessment:

It is good, therefore, to have in Murphy's book a history of medieval rhetoric which not only provides, as any good reference book should, a well-annotated description of the present state of the art; but which also makes it possible, and necessary, to raise the questions which must be the basis for future and better understanding. For many years now Murphy has been insisting, with enthusiasm and persistence, that rhetoric is important. The spate of recent published studies, and of many others in progress, is witness that he is right. In a field so currently active, and whose primary documentation remains so substantially in manuscript, one must be especially grateful for a book which attempts to be comprehensive before it is possible to be fully conclusive.1

A striking feature of this passage is the way the focus shifts, comfortably and naturally, from the book, to the person of the author, and then back to the book. Murphy and his work, it would seem, are so closely connected in Allen's mind that he cannot easily separate them, and an assessment of one leads to an assessment of the other. In this case, the association is probably unconscious, but it also is entirely appropriate. For two generations, students of the history of rhetoric have viewed

____________________
1
Judson Boyce Allen, Review, Speculum, 52 ( 1977), 414.

-1-

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