The Tempter's Voice: Language and the Fall in Medieval Literature

By Eric Jager | Go to book overview

to warn against the rhetorical arts of the old Serpent still lurking in the native vegetation.

Another problem of rhetoric and the Fall emerged later in the context of moral treatises and handbooks written for an increasingly literate laity.Medieval moralists liked to evoke seduction scenarios based on the Fall for the benefit of their readers, especially women. But moralists could go only so far in detailing what such seductions might involve, verbally and otherwise, as anticipated by Augustine in his temptation/conversion story, which mutes the sensual suggestions of his "mistresses." Medieval moralists were similarly aware that a too-detailed account of sin could itself lead into temptation, thus defeating their own purpose.Medieval penitential literature confronts the related problem that confession brings men and women not only into close quarters but also onto dangerous topics. Evoking a patristic emblem for fallen rhetoric, moralists urged their readers to "strip off" the "fig leaves" of self-excusing words and to confess themselves "nakedly"—but not too nakedly, lest the confession arouse either themselves or the priest.

Finally, secular poets writing in the vernacular also inherited certain problems of rhetoric and the Fall.Some poets were obviously concerned that the laity, in reading books of their own, might abuse texts in specifically rhetorical ways. In perhaps the most famous medieval example, Dante links Paolo and Francesca to Adam and Eve, offering a palinode to readers and authors alike about the seductive power of literary rhetoric.Furthermore, the very rise of a vernacular secular literature raised anew the old question of whether such rhetorical art was of a piece with the "weaving" of words inaugurated in the Garden.Even as a typological emblem, the tree in Augustine's garden points toward the autotelic potential of language, a rhetoric and poetics of the self. 116. Increasingly worldly, sensual, and self-preoccupied, the secular literature of the later Middle Ages often seems to play and revel in the very shade of the Tree of Eloquence that patristic culture regarded with such suspicion.

____________________
116.
See Freccero, " The Fig Tree and the Laurel."

-142-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Tempter's Voice: Language and the Fall in Medieval Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 336

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.