Guide Rhetoric, Rhetoricians and Poets: Studies in Renaissance Poetry and Poetics

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These four sources include, first, mental conception chapters ; second, fashioning of figures chapters , 32, ; third, diction chapters , 43 ; and fourth, music, rhythm, and word arrangement chapters Chapters 33 through 36 are a digression on the question of how great but flawed writing can and should be recognized as superior to flawless yet moderate or humble writing. These thirty-five chapters offer some of the most interesting writing and virtually all of the arresting examples and commentary found in the treatise. However, Longinus also indicates the lineaments of the particular kind of ecstasy and mastery that characterize the experience of the sublime.

The experience of great writing involves a sudden, ecstatic transport of the hearer or reader; but this delightful uplifting turns upon an exchange of roles between the speaker and listener, between the writer and reader. One who undergoes the experience of greatness is moved and uplifted as if he or she has spoken or written the words that transported, as if he or she were the creator of the words that are read or heard. Such passages, by addressing the reader directly, place him in the middle of the action. Quite often Longinus speaks of superb figural language as being engaged in an assault upon the readers or hearers.

In chapter 34 he delights in the violent effects that Demosthenes achieves with rhetorical inversions, or hyperbata.


  1. Literary Rhetoric!
  2. Concepts - Structures - Analyses.
  3. DUTCH LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE.

But the question remains: why does Longinus employ terms of violent assault upon the emotions and expectations of a reader or an auditor, and how does this characterization link up with the psychology of the sublime experience? Time and again he selects and skillfully forces upon his reader similes, images, and metaphors that surreptitiously suggest his desire to naturalize the experience of the sublime—that is to say, his desire to describe the effects of great writing as if those felt effects were the actions of nature itself.

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Both nature and the creator of great writing can create an experience of sudden transport and exhibit awesome control and mastery over the perilous and exhilarating effects of unleashed energy and light. The natural sublime of Edmund Burke, Immanuel Kant, William Wordsworth and the Romantics finds its source in this Longinian conception of the experience of greatness. The role of the reader or auditor, though, needs further clarification.

Longinus expands this idea by writing: Anyone who looks at life in all its aspects will see how far the remarkable, the great, and the beautiful predominate in all things, and he will soon understand to what end we have been born. That is why, somehow, we are by nature led to marvel, not, indeed, at little streams, clear and useful though they be, but at the Nile, the Danube, or the Rhine, and still more at the Ocean We may say of all such matters that man can easily understand what is useful or necessary, but he admires what passes his understanding.

The tyranny that conquers and subdues greatness is not necessarily imperial Rome; yet the imperial presence nonetheless dictates the metaphors and similes through which Longinus names the tyrannies that block or destroy greatness. The experience of the sublime feeds the soul with a sense of what goes beyond the mortal and the mundane; it reveals an unexpected pathway leading outward from the prison of selfhood. Longinus appears to espouse a Stoic view of the self and the world. On the Sublime has been an influential model of close reading and the notion of organic unity, hallmarks of Longinian criticism that are evident throughout chapters 9 through 43, which have greatly influenced twentieth-century critics of literature.

Allan H. If Aristotle may be said to have determined our view of the structure of a literary work, Longinus has shown us how to approach an individual passage. Longinus emphasizes the felt effects induced by great mental conceptions or figures of speech or well-chosen diction. Frequently such an emphasis produces a subtle and illuminating close reading of lines and phrases.

The lover loses a sense of her own boundaries and identity, as the manifest pronomial confusion makes clear, and is precipitately thrown into a rapid series of metaphors and images that present her experience as a series of natural cataclysms raging fire, roaring waves, rampaging river, unsettling earthquake, the painful descent of autumn. The originality and critical importance of Longinus in this matter may lie in the direction toward which he refines the notion. In a passage that owes much to the same analogy that Socrates uses in the Phaedrus, Longinus writes that: [one of] the factors which give most dignity to discourse is structure, which corresponds to the arrangement of the limbs of the body.

One limb by itself, cut off from the others, is of no value, but all of them together complete and perfect the composition of the whole. So it is with great expressions: scattered here and there, apart from each other, they lose their own value and undo the greatness of the whole, but when they form a whole in close association, joined together by the bonds of melodious word-arrangement, then in the rounded structure of the whole they find their voice. Organic structure and unity, thus, is a combined and cumulative source of greatness in writing. This voice that issues from within the wholeness of the words gathers up the limbs and scattered fragments of ordinary and mediocre articulations and infuses them with an expressive power that transports the reader out of the confines of selfhood toward that sudden flash of greatness found time and again in the works of affective genius.

The first modern edition of On the Sublime appeared in Europe in , and a handful of other editions emerged during the next hundred years; and the reading and critical understanding of this masterwork of antiquity was fundamentally a product of the modern writers and critics who recognized the intellectual energy of this subtle, iconoclastic work. If you have previously obtained access with your personal account, Please log in.


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  • If you previously purchased this article, Log in to Readcube. Log out of Readcube. Click on an option below to access. Log out of ReadCube. Volume 3 , Issue 2. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

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    If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Ann Moss University of Durham Search for more papers by this author. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. But although the conventional study of rhetoric in such condensed treatment as that of the sections in Martianus, Isidore, or Cassiodorus, was definitely intrenched in the educational system of the seven liberal arts, it had no vitality.

    In the first place these treatises gave only the dry husks of rhetoric, the conventional analyses, the stock definitions. In the second place rhetoric was little applied. The political life of western Europe centered in the camp, not in the forum. The classical tradition of trial by a large jury, as the Areopagus or the Centumviri, had given place to trial before the regal or manorial court.

    Thus rhetoric dried up and lost whatever reality it had possessed in imperial Rome. But if the middle ages had no opportunity to apply rhetoric in its function of persuasion in communal affairs, they did have real need of an art of writing letters and of preparing lay or ecclesiastical documents, such as contracts, wills, and records, and of preaching sermons. Thus in the teaching of the schools, as well as in practice, the oration gave place to the epistle and dictamen. And the rhetorical treatise or " ars rhetorica " often yielded to the " ars prosandi ," or the " ars dictandi.

    A characteristic treatise of this sort is the Poetria of the Englishman John of Garland c. In his introductory chapter John explains that he has divided the subject into seven parts:. Under the head of invention John gives definitions, several examples of good letters, a long list of proverbs under appropriate captions so that the letter writer can quickly find the one to fit his context, and an "elegiac, bucolic, ethic love poem" in fifty leonine verses, accompanied by an inevitable allegorical interpretation.

    Tully, he admits, puts arrangement after invention, "but," he pleads, "in writing letters and documents poetically the art of selection after that of invention is useful.

    Rhetoric and Poetry in the Renaissance, by Donald Lemen Clark, Ph.D.

    A writer, he says, should select his words and images according to the persons addressed. The court should be addressed in the grand style; the city, in the middle style; and the country, in the mean style. These principles John illustrates with leonine verses and ecclesiastical epistles. Under arrangement he says that all material must be so arranged as to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    Rhetoric, Rhetoricians and Poets

    Then there are nine ways to begin a poem and nine ways to begin a dictamen or epistle. Next he states that there are six parts to an oration: "exordium, narracio, peticio, confirmacio, confutacio, conclusio. Still under the general head of arrangement John explains the ten ways of amplifying material. The tenth, "interpretacio," he illustrates by telling a joke, and then amplifying it into a little comedy.

    His sixth chapter, on ornament in meter and prose, presents what he has up to this left unsaid about style. It includes a list of fifty-seven figures of speech colores verborum and eighteen figures of thought colores sententiarum. This is logically followed by the ten attributes of man. The seventh and final chapter gives a long narrative poem of the horrific variety as an example of tragedy and several letters as examples of dictamen.

    Such a digest shows better than any generalization a complete confusion of poetic and rhetoric.

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    Poems were to be written according to the formulae of orations; allegory throve. Infinite pains were to be expended on the worthless niceties of conceited metrical structure and rhetorical figures. Garland has neither real poetic nor real rhetoric. As to the late middle ages rhetoric had come to mean to all intents nothing more than style, it is frequently personified in picturesque mediaeval allegory, never as being engaged in any useful occupation, but as adding beauty, color, or charm to life. In the Anticlaudianus of Alanus de Insulis, Rhetoric is represented as painting and gilding the pole of the Chariot of Prudence.

    Palmieri, in his Della Vita Civile , defines rhetoric as "the theory of speaking ornamentally. The most complete example, however, of the mediaeval restriction of rhetoric to style, and of the absorption of poetic by rhetoric is afforded by Lydgate in his Court of Sapyence. The passages which refer to rhetoric are given in full because they can otherwise be consulted only in the Caxton edition of or in the black letter copy printed by Wynkyn de Worde in Throughout this passage rhetoric is never mentioned in any other context than one of pleasure to the ear of the auditor.

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    Of the three aims of rhetoric which Cicero had phrased as docere, delectare, et movere , only the delectare remains in the rhetoric of Lydgate. From his initial invocation to Clio, in which he prays that his style be illuminated with the aromatic sweetness of her rhetoric, to the passage in which he refers to his own writings for examples of ornate speech Lydgate never refers to the logic or the structure of persuasive public speech. Rhetoric, in Lydgate, is not used in its classical sense, but as being synonymous with ornate language--style.

    Here and here only does Lydgate discuss any part of rhetoric in its classical implications. When, in his poem, he discusses the craft of writing as including "coulours gay," he refers to the figures of classical rhetoric--Cicero's " colores verborum. Lydgate's rhetoric is thus a development of only one element of classical rhetoric--style. But Lydgate's rhetoric was not only restricted to style; it was expanded to include the style of the poets as well as that of the prose writers, as the last stanza shows.