Published on February 5, 2009
Re [ vision ] ing Medieval Rhetoric Kathie Gossett CWS Colloquium 14 November 2002
four periods of medieval rhetoric Period One: the 10 th Century Augustine, Cassiodorus, Isidore, and Alcuin Period Two: the 11 th through Mid-12 th Centuries Augustine, Boethius, and Cicero Period Three: the Late 12 th through 13 th Centuries Aristotle Period Four: the 14 th Century through the Renaissance Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and Boethius
Period One: the 10 th Century
Augustine, Cassiodorus, Isidore, and Alcuin
Period Two: the 11 th through Mid-12 th Centuries
Augustine, Boethius, and Cicero
Period Three: the Late 12 th through 13 th Centuries
Period Four: the 14 th Century through the Renaissance
Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and Boethius
classical rhetorical historiography
medieval rhetorical historiography
re [ vision ] ing medieval rhetoric—part 1 expanding the definition
medieval rhetoric : expanding the definition “ Most of us remain unaware that modern science, some modern history and modern philosophy have inherited from the Renaissance a trivialization of over 1,000 years of previous history. We have accepted that aspects of modernity began during the Renaissance and that preceding centuries were populated by men and women without historical perspective, [and] without philosophical and logical insight . . . Where thinkers in the Renaissance are believed to be like us, medieval thinkers, even when some concede they may be interesting, are not like us” (xvii).
medieval rhetoric : expanding the definition “ . . . If rhetoric is defined in terms of a single subject matter—such as style or literature or discourse—it has no history during the middle ages. . .” (166) “ In application, the art of rhetoric contributed during the period from the fourth to the fourteenth century not only to the methods of speaking and writing well, of composing letters and petitions, sermons and prayers, legal documents and briefs, poetry and prose, but to the canons of interpreting laws and Scripture, to the dialectical devices of discovery and proof, to the establishment of the scholastic method, which was to come into universal use in philosophy and theology, and finally, to the formulation of scientific inquiry, which was to separate philosophy from theology . . . In theory or application, the art of rhetoric was now identified with, now distinguished from, the whole or part not only of grammar, logic, and dialectic but also of sophistic and science, of ‘civil philosophy,’ psychology, law, and literature and, finally, of philosophy as such” (166).
medieval rhetoric : expanding the definition “ . . . Many moderns have concluded that medieval people did not value originality or creativity. We are simply looking in the wrong place. We should instead examine the role of memory in their intellectual and cultural lives, and the values which they attached to it, for there we will get a firmer sense of their understanding of what we now call creative activity. . . In their understanding . . . it was memory that made knowledge into useful experience, and memory that combined these pieces of information-become-experience into what we call ‘ideas’. . .” (I)
re [ vision ] ing medieval rhetoric—part 2 exploring the visual
medieval rhetoric : exploring the visual “ The struggle between icon and alphabet is not, to be sure, anything new, as the history of illuminated manuscripts attests. This complex interaction of word and image never actually vanished; it only fell out of fashion” (34). “ Multimedia hypertext is closer in spirit to the medieval illuminated codex than it is either to the ancient speech or to the modern printed book. In an illuminated manuscript the decorated letters created a subtle space in which verbal text and image were perfectly merged” (110). “ We can also point to much earlier examples of multiple-media displays, such as the medieval illuminated manuscripts that combine text, graphics, and representational images” (51).
medieval rhetoric : exploring the visual “ It is a great value for fixing a memory-image that when we read books, we study to impress on our memory . . . the color, shape, position, and placement of the letters [and] in what location we saw [them] . . . in what color we observed the trace of the letter or the ornamented surface of the parchment. Indeed I consider nothing so useful for stimulating the memory as this . . . Truly such a visual scheme for one’s learning both illuminates the soul when it perceives and knows things, and confirms them in memory.” ~ Hugh of St. Victor (trans. in Carruthers 261-64)
medieval rhetoric : exploring the visual “ Wherefore one best learns by studying from illuminated books, for the different colors bestow remembrance of the different lines and consequently of that thing which one wants to get by heart” (114).
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