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

Chapter 14
Diego Valadés and the
Origins of Humanistic
Rhetoric in the Americas

Don Paul Abbott University of California-Davis

In 1579 the Tuscan printer Jacopo Pretruccio issued the Rhetorica Christiana, written by a Franciscan friar, Diego Valadés.1 The publication of this work was a remarkable event in the already long history of rhetoric. Valadés was born in the New World, and his Rhetorica Christiana was almost certainly the first book written by a native of Mexico to be published in Europe. More important for its place in the rhetorical tradition, the Rhetorica Christiana is the first rhetoric that is not exclusively European in conception and execution. Not only was Valadés born in Mexico, but the work graphically reflects his Mexican origins and experiences.

The Rhetorica Christiana is an extraordinary combination of old world erudition and New World anthropology. In its pages Valadés transmits the literature of the Greeks and Romans and records the customs of the Mexicas and the Chichimecas. The Rhetorica Christiana, although very much a product of European humanism, is not an entirely conventional rhetoric of its time. It is a treatise that departs in significant ways from the accepted norms of Renaissance rhetoric.

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1
Rhetorica Christiana: ad concionandi et orandi vsvm accommodata, vtrivsq facvltatis exemplis svo loco insertis; qvae qvidem ex Indorum maxime deprompta svnt historiis. Vnde praeter doctrinam, svma qvoqve . . . delectatio comparabitvr ( Perugia, 1579). I have used the Spanish-Latin edition: Retórica cristiana, intro. Esteban J. Palomera, trans. Tarsicio Herrera Zapién ( Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1989). This edition includes reproductions of the original Latin text with the Spanish translation on facing pages. All citations of the Rhetorica Christiana are to the original pagination of the Latin text. Subsequent references to the Rhetorica Christiana are abbreviated RC and cited parenthetically in the text. (Unless otherwise noted, translations from Spanish are mine.)

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