Preface to the middle ages--"Dark"Ages (50-1000)

Tertullian: 2nd century Montanist.

De Spectaculis: an exhortative epistle designed to counsel Christian faithful to avoid all pagan ritual. It underscored the desperate rhetorical struggle, on the part of the new Church, to reject the decadent surface of ordinary life in favor of the new consciousness of Christianity. Everything of this world was taken as bad; of the next, good. God did not create the world as bad, but man and his efforts have polluted it. Man's inner life must be protected for communication with God. Mass culture undermines that dialog.

Second Sophistic: Lucian, Hermogenes, Capella

More emphasis on elocutio than ever before. Extensive use of declamatio for education. Growth of demonstrative (rather than judicial or deliberative)

Capella: (c. 420)

the lady rhetoric endowed with many beautiful adornments and powerful weapons

St. Augustine

Practical applications were limited to preaching Invention relegated to inspiration. (more on pages dedicated to Augustine).

Cassiodorus (c.490-583)

Includes letter writing rhetoric as indispensable to the study of the bible and necessary for civil affairs of state.

Isidore, Alcuin Isidore (c. 550)

encyclopaedia of human knowledge which included rhetoric and dialectic. Slows the "slide" to style; treats the 5 canons.

Alcuin (730-804)

Treatise on legal procedure, in the dialogic form. By this time, the church was in cahoots with the state and the state needed the monastery schools to teach civic lessons in addition to Christian coverage.

Bede (672-735)

authored an important book on poetry including numerous stylistic devices. His point was to show (as had Augustine) that the Bible was rich literature. Remember that by this time the monks had been working for some time to produce literary translations of the biblical texts--a testimony to the need for rhetorical elements in sacred texts.

Notker Labeo (950-1022)

Translated Capella thereby encouraging rhetorical study in the old Germanic.


writes on topoi, syllogisms and confuses dialectic and rhetoric.


The very essence of working out the authority of texts became a rhetorical problem in this period. The hierarchy of textual authority depended on the type of text and its "authentic inspiration." Rhetorical analysis, criticism, and argument were required in each step of this process.

A principle force FOR rhetoric in this period was the use of the "lectio" as a teaching and preaching method. The lectio reminds us of the conversia (declamatio) in Rome: a passage was read (almost as though it were a sample case question). It was then discussed with regard to its proper translation, interpretation, and application. Numerous arguments were put forward in defense of the "right" position and, especially, against the current "heresy." This lecture form developed into the "disputatio," a public discussion along the same lines. A significant hitch in the process: one could always retreat to an appeal to "And yet it is true" based on the higher authority of the Word of God. However, SI points out that this practice was not much different from the modern reliance on "facts, science, reason, etc." We still have to deal with the "argument to the self-evident"-- a central point in Perelman's treatment of rhetoric. One does not find rhetoric in operation at these points of self-evidence, except in that they are apparent as junctures where arguers have tried to supplant argument as the operative mode--a sort of argument in itself.

"Three factors in particular have determined this characteristic style of philosophizing. . . it is greatly inspired by JURIDICAL PROCEDURE, which is naturally based on LEGAL TEXTS and their interpretation. . . Secondly, this style of philosophizing is prompted by an unprecedented reverence for the WRITTEN WORD. Whatever has been written is by this very fact already authoritative. . . Thirdly . . . God is a speaking God, his son is called the Word, he has revealed himself through the Word and has become accessible in sacred literature" (52)

Medieval philosophy has a rhetorical structure; although middle agers would vehemently deny it.

Middle Ages (1000-1300)

Those above highly influenced those in middle period. Further, the classics were still fragmented and lost. However, various forms of rhetoric were still important in the schools as illustrated by the organization of topics which held for more than a thousand years: Septennium: Trivium: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic Quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy

Middle Age rhetoricians had a sense of the 5 canons, and

1) sustained emphasis upon style. Rhetoric: related most to the style, manner of speaking. Beauty and the ability to convince were central concerns. (art of speaking well and convincingly)

2) restricting the art to, primarily, grammar (letters and poetry) letter writing (dictamen) became a major rhetorical activity. In grammar: rules for speaking and writing correctly under the presupposition that the structure of language corresponds to that of being and understanding (precursor of modern linguistics).

3) confusing the provinces of rhetoric and dialectic, esp. with regard to the assignment of invention. Remember that Augustine and the churchmen had, essentially, stripped invention from rhetoric. Hugh of St. Victor and John of Salisbury put invention with dialectic. Dialectics: concept, judgment, and reasoning were essential here. Roughly, philosophy.

4) conceiving its area, in the early period, to be theology, in its late parts, with civic affairs. The theological confusion gave rhetoric great strength (socially) but further robbed it of invention. Thomas Aquinas and "Scholasticism" which applied the method of Augustine to the doctrines of Aristotle through Cicero: rhetoric as a part of logic, attached to theology not civic affairs or philosophy in the early period. In the later:

5) retaining some of the classical concepts: for some, politics was still a rhetorical issue. Notker Labeo, Latini. This urge was driven by the need for illiterates to communicate to run their countries and led to the development of letter writing as an important rhetorical activity. "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, 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, theology, and finally to the formulation of scientific inquiry which was to separate philosophy from theology (91 in Golden et al. intro.)

Although always about (1) the subject matter (2) the nature and (3) the ends, of the art, Mediaeval rhetoric was NOT a consistently unitary study. Nor have subsequent studies provided unitary and satisfactory understandings of the nuances of Mediaeval treatments. Three rhetorical lines of intellectual development in this period:

1. rhetorical traditions as established by Cicero and Quintilian

2. philosophy and theology as a reconstructed Platonism and Ciceronianism taken from Augustine

3. "logic," supposedly Aristotelian, which actually followed Aristotle only in terms and propositions, Ciceronian in definitions and principles. Rhetorical constancies: Ciceronian influence on the entire affair. Rhetoric was used not only to discuss its own problems as subject matter, but also to work out disagreements in dialectic and theology. Kinds of oratory (deliberative, judicial, demonstrative) Distinction between the proposition and hypothesis. Delineation of the status of an issue (the questions) In the use of these status/questions (5 w's) to determine the hierarchy of textual authority. As to the treatment of logic, incomplete texts were the rule through to the 13th century. Dialectic gets mixed in with logic such that their subject matter is confused. Some placed rhetoric over dialectic; others did not. The general moving of invention from rhetoric to logic. Many subordinated rhetoric to logic by finding it to be part of logic; or at least, by finding that it is about expression rather than discovery. Others by separating the differences between demonstration and probability. Others define the relationships among the various activities such that rhetoric simply gets "divided" out of important places. Distinction between rhetoric as the "work of the orator" or as "the parts of rhetoric" "Rhetoric was to come into conflict with dialectic . . . as it was to come into conflict with theology . . . Since its discipline was gradually limited by the transfer of the commonplaces, definition, and finally proof . . . to the domain of dialectic, and since its subject matter was limited by the transfer of moral and political questions to theology, rhetoric entered into a second period during which it developed along three separate lines: as a part of logic, or as the art of stating truths certified by theology, or as a simple art of words. Rhetoric was put to use in the Augustinian tradition as a way to further the work of divine eloquence and to further interpret their meanings. Especially as a way to re-align differences pointed out in textual hierarchies. In one of two ways: rhetoric becomes a part of logic (as that part of logic concerned with probabilities); or a part of theology (as the culmination of the trivium). moderni rhetoricians: those primarily concerned with the development of style--mostly derided by others as foolish, but left alone.

Transitions to Renaissance

-rhetoric as a part of rational philosophy subordinate to logic

-rhetoric as dominate in the arts and theology

-all philosophy and subjects assimilated to rhetoric

-invention taken from rhetoric and given over to dialectic

-rhetoric as the discipline of words

-rhetoric as a way to establish verbal distinctions, later leading to physics, mathematics, symbolic logic.

-theories of poetry dealing passion, imagination, truth and virtue

-political philosophy

-stasis (whether, what, of what sort) as basis for scientific methods which eventually sought to supplant rhetorical method.

-basis for analysis of "causes" of things

-thesis/hypothesis into modern scientific methods

-investigation of the passions

-use of common-places to invent arguments

-the "logic" of arrangement

-civil philosophies of psychology, law, literature, and philosophy.

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