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Rhetoric, Medieval

Beth S. Bennett

Subject Linguistics
Communication Studies » Rhetorical Studies

People Cicero

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


As an area of investigation, “medieval rhetoric” refers to the discipline taught as rhetoric in the liberal arts curriculum of western Europe, as well as to how that art was adapted to communication practices for secular and ecclesiastical purposes, between the fifth and the fifteenth centuries. Study of medieval rhetoric includes examining the continuance of the classical rhetorical tradition, as it was transmitted from the ancient societies of Greece and Rome (→  Rhetoric, Greek ; Rhetoric, Roman ), along with the development of rhetorical education and pedagogical practices in composition that fostered the emergence of distinctive medieval discursive genres, which persisted even into the Renaissance (→  Rhetoric, European Renaissance ). In its scope, medieval rhetoric is necessarily complex and only truly began to be studied on its own terms in the twentieth century, as medieval Latin texts were discovered and made accessible for close examination by scholars investigating the history of rhetoric. The study of medieval rhetoric originated in the second half of the nineteenth century with publication of collections of medieval Latin texts not easily classifiable as literary but which shared recognizable rhetorical features ( Bennett & Leff 1995 , 5). These texts offered evidence of how rhetoric had been taught in the Middle Ages, as part of the trivium of verbal arts that ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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