Bizzell and Herzberg: Medieval Rhetoric: Introduction

Bizzell, Patricia, and Bruce Herzberg, eds. Medieval Rhetoric: Introduction. The rhetorical tradition : readings from classical times to the present. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin''s, 2001. 429-49. Print.





Christian Treatments of Rhetoric to Augustine


Political oppression increasingly confined rhetoric to the study of style (431).


Fall of Rome, rise of Christianity. Eastern Mediterranean kept up Christian learning.


Greek speakers: Constantine (supported Christianity; ca 4th C BCE). Fl. such homilists as John Chrysostom (Constantinople); 529 CE Justinian closed schools of philos and rhet in Athens. Migration to Constantinople.


Latin folks-- conflict between taking on Classical learning and it being "tainted" by paganism (433). 


Tertullian condemned classical philos more than classical rhet.


Jerome (d. 420 CE) included classical rhet in his condemnation. Implication: "good Christian should rely solely on the Bible and Christian commentary for her or his education" (433). Problem is it was the only "solid intellectual tradition available"; understandable that Jerome included it in curriculum of monastery he founded. Kinneavy argues Christian conception of fath thus influenced by Greek rhetorical concepts.


Augustine (354-430 CE; contemporary of Jerome): attempted to reconcile classical learning with Christianity (433). No baby with bathwater! Legitimated classical studies for Christians. Augustine also composed compendiums of classical learning, thereby preserving it. Yet brings up issues of power and knowledge (hoarding; intellectual capital and the Church) (434).


Rhetoric Under Siege in Europe to 1000 C.E.


So-called "Dark Ages." Only church had any kind of structure; religious and civil authority often linked.


Benedict: 529 CE sets up Rule. Monasteries may have copied classical texts, but monks read sacred, not secular texts (again, Church controls the spread of classical learning)


Martianus Capella: Contemporary of Augustine. non-Christian. Philology and Mercury: Seven necessary branches of education: grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, geometry, arthmetic, astronomy, and music (435). Used as a school text throughout MA; defined the Liberal Arts. Personifies the arts as wedding guests  (e.g. Rhetoric is a tall, handsome woman). Draws heavily from Cicero''s De Inventione.


Boethius (ca 480-524 CE): respected throughout medieval period for philos, logic, and commentary on Aristotle and Cicero. Composed "An Overview of the Structure of Rhetoric"-- rhet is mostly style and subordinate to dialectic. Exchange with Cassiodorus. Art of letter writing becomes formal discipline during Middle Ages. (435)


Rhetoric moves from public to private spheres


Isidore of Seville (d 636 CE): Etymologiae. "Encyclopedic." "Civil questions" is the proper subject matter for rhetoric (sees it as primarily a secular pursuit). Forbade his monks to study secular texts. (436)


Best scholars of classical learning at this time were Irish monks. (woohoo)


Patrick brought Latin and classical learning to Ireland (ca 432 CE); study and preservation of texts. (436)


Columban (543-615 CE) est. monastery at Bobbio. (436)


Latin starts to become a foreign language to be taught as such.


7th C: Rise of Islam; 800 Charlemagne


Alcuin: (almost directly quoting 437-38) (came to France 781) Systematized Church''s earlier efforts educate clergy in Latin, greatly raising level of clerical literacy and also encouraging Charlemagne to promote literacy among general population. Unusual for time in that he greatly valued education in rhetoric.


The "Renaissance of the Twelfth Century"


Charlemagne''s empire starts to crumble after his death in 814 CE. Things start to improve around 1000 as the "invaders" become Christian/assimilated. Political stability; walled cities > growth of towns > craft guilds. Literacy and numeracy grow (male and female).


1054 Roman/Byzantine Church split formalized


1095 First Crusade


Stability = Contact with Classical Learning from Crusades = shift in Euro thinking in 12th C (a renaissance): increased knowledge of classical (esp. Greek) lit; different attitude toward classical heritage. E.g. move from descriptive grammar to new ones acknowledging changes in Latin since classical times. New interest in study of style. Order of learning: analyze model for grammar; commit to memory; declamation of text; create imitations; then look at arrangement (genre); finally consider theories of rhetorical invention.


Late 12th C: ars poetriae -- poetry handbooks -- begin to be produced.


Philosophy transformed by influence of Aristotle (newly available). Abelard uses new method of dialectics to examine contradictions in Church doctrine.


Scholasticism-- today credited for rigor in Western thought.


Dialectic flourished (Aquinas [d 1274]).


The Rise of the University


Education opening up-- not just clerics and nobility. More diversity than would be seen until modern period.


Hildegard (1098-1179) (442)


Universities begin to develop--not self-contained campuses. Collection of schools where lectures offered called studium. Granted licenses to teach (licentia docendi). Eventually LD''s regulated by Church. Eventually teachers developed a sort of guild called universitas. (442-43)


Teaching usually two methods: lectio (lecture) and disputatio (formal debate) (443). Logic most important; language-based highly important; "math" (geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, music) often neglected. Practical rhetorics included letter writing (for legal issues) and preaching.


The Arts of Letter Writing and Preaching


Often only record of laws or commercial transactions.


Power of being able to compose such letters


Alberic (1080s) used Cicero''s concepts of arrangement; developed standardized letter formats. Developed by professors of law at Bologna.


Alain de Lille-- rational persuasion. His style gave rise to a new form of preaching, sometimes called "the university sermon" (445). Aka thematic sermon; takes a scriptural text as theme then explicates in detail.


Margery Kempe (d ca 1439).


Christine de Pizan (ca 1364-ca 1430).


Renaisssance moves away from the schematizing and more into the "humanistic breadth" that Cicero and Quintilian had tried to give it (447).