Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Adventures in Speech: Rhetoric and Narration in Boccaccio's 'Decameron'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Adventures in Speech: Rhetoric and Narration in Boccaccio's 'Decameron'

Article excerpt

Pier Massimo Forni's Forme complesse nel Decameron (Florence: Olschki, 1992) examined the way in which, in long works, the creative process itself acts as an `intelligent system', defining the options open to the author and creating inherent order by organic rather than logical processes. The present book is in many ways an academic by-product of similar processes, with intuitions generating new intuitions, and topics presenting themselves by 'suggestion'.

Central to Forni's study is the idea that rhetoric need not be a discipline external to the moment of creation. Rather than subsequent embellishment, the rhetorical mode can itself, in such a model, inspire artistic production. Reversing the polarity of rhetoric and invention, a splendid intuition, provides a rich source of material for investigation, but does so at the cost of Forni's own rhetorical organization, which at times seems a mite haphazard. Examples and arguments jostle for position, and inventio could have benefited from more rigorous dispositio.

One of the most interesting discoveries concerns the bri ata: the rhetoric of the frame narrators as they introduce stories is tied in to the construction of the stories themselves: there is a surprising, and convincing, correlation between apparently casual (and often unnoticed) verbal gambits in the introductory remarks and essential details in the ensuing stories. The frame characters are much more 'involved' artistically than hitherto supposed, and it is to Forni's credit that he has exposed this coyly concealed dimension to the text. …

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