Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Textual Decorum: A Rhetoric of Attitudes in Medieval Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Textual Decorum: A Rhetoric of Attitudes in Medieval Literature

Article excerpt

Scott D. Troyan, Textual Decorum: A Rhetoric of Attitudes in Medieval Literature, Garland Studies in Medieval Literature 12 (New York and London: Garland, 1994). vii + z88 pp. ISBN o-8153-1555-4. $45.00.

Provoked by the allegation that medieval scholarship is perceived as a `site of pedantry and antiquarianism', Scott D. Troyan wants to salvage 'philology' by merging it with theory both new and old. The old theory is Augustine's assertion in the De doctrina that stylistic strategies are governed by the reactions to be wrought in the reader, not by genre; the new is 'holistic', but appears to owe most to pedagogical explorations of reader response.

The task set, therefore, is to construct an approach to medieval literature which acknowledges the Augustinian criterion (recently brandished by British university assessors) of fitness for purpose, and to demonstrate that identifiable processes of audience response are indeed caused by identifiable stylistic features. The application involves a bizarre and seemingly arbitrary spread of texts: specifically, gobbets from two Old English poems, a lyric by Bernart de Ventadorn, parts of the Mystere d'Adam, of a chanson de geste, of an Icelandic saga, and three later English alliterative poems. Troyan conducts case-studies of the affective quality ('attitudinal potential') of particular repeated expressions and episodes, such as deofies craft and the temptations in Genesis 'B'. …

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