Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of the Rhetorical Theory from Saint Augustine to the Renaissance

Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of the Rhetorical Theory from Saint Augustine to the Renaissance

Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of the Rhetorical Theory from Saint Augustine to the Renaissance

Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of the Rhetorical Theory from Saint Augustine to the Renaissance

Synopsis

Originally published in 1974, this book follows the threads of ancient rhetorical theory into the Middle Ages and examines the distinctly Medieval rhetorical genres of perceptive grammar, letter-writing, and preaching. These various forms are compared with one another and placed in the context of Medieval society. Covering the period 426 A.D. to 14

Excerpt

In 1974, the University of California Press published a work that was so learned, so broad in scope, and so clairvoyant in its mission that it would come to define rhetorical scholarship for generations of medievalists to come. James J. Murphy's Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: A History of Rhetorical Theory from Saint Augustine to the Renaissance not only transformed the field of medieval studies: it proved exceptionally well-suited to the nascent critical approach that would later come to be known as "cultural studies." Its re-publication is cause for both celebration of its past and anticipation of its continued future influence.

At first blush, the mission of Rhetoric in the Middle Ages seemed so simple. It was the 1970s. Structuralists were more than a little excited about performing close textual analysis. Some even claimed to be in engaged in rhetoric. Perhaps they were. But theirs was not the rhetoric Professor Murphy sought to engage, which was a complex and highly artistic discipline—albeit somewhat dwarfed these days by the popular tendency to associate a once meritorious art devoted to the persuasion of judges and governments with intellectual dishonesty or "spin." Regaling us with a cornucopia of excerpts from primary sources along with his own insightful commentaries, James J. Murphy elegantly guided us through an unbroken tradition which began with the medieval influence of Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and Horace, passed through the mediatory figure of Saint Augustine, encountered the refinements of such rhetoricians as Boethius, Cassiodorus, and Isidore of Seville, and culminated in the medieval rhetorical arts of grammar, poetry, letter-writing, and preaching. Intellectually speaking, this was a massive enterprise. Emotionally speaking, it was if a whole generation of baby boomers trying to figure out "who they were" (as the saying used to go) had received a collective nudge. All of a sudden, they were being asked to imagine that another culture had long codified the inventional, structural, stylistic, mnemonic, and performative tools for knowing, creating, and responding to questions about who it was. They were being asked, moreover, to imagine that that culture, the learned Middle Ages, could have responded unproblematically and painstakingly (if not unambiguously and restrictively) to such questions. The problem was that somebody needed to ask.

James J. Murphy asked. And, slowly but surely, in the rich cultural tapestry which is Rhetoric in the Middle Ages, literate, legal, political, and literary medieval cultures came back to life. Their artistry and sophistry, their beauty and terror, their life in language and their language of life. "Above all," concludes Murphy . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.