David J. Viera

title.none: Johnston, The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull (Viera)

identifier.other: baj9928.9709.003 97.09.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: David J. Viera, Tennessee Tech University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Johnston, Mark D. The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull: Lay Learning & Piety in the Christian West Around 1300. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. xii, 274. $52.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-195-09005-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.09.03

Johnston, Mark D. The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull: Lay Learning & Piety in the Christian West Around 1300. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Pp. xii, 274. $52.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-195-09005-5.

Reviewed by:

David J. Viera
Tennessee Tech University

This work serves as a companion and sequel to Johnston's The Spiritual Logic of Ramon Llull (1987). The author's purpose is to convey Llull's thought to those who are not familiar with the Mallorcan's works, specifically persons versed in "medieval intellectual and cultural history and the arts of eloquence" (p. 10).

In his attempt to show that the ideas of Llull on eloquence are directed at a moral reform of all communication, Johnston divides his book into ten chapters on different aspects of Llull's proposals on eloquence, especially in ars praedicandi.

In Chapter 1 Johnston reviews Llull's Great Art, a guide for those trying to find meaning in the world. He explains Llull's use of "necessary reasons" and exposition through distinctiones and moralization, practices Llull advocated for use in preaching. Therefore, Llull's discourse on the language arts is directed at evangelizing and reforming society. Specifically, the Rhetorica Nova combines rhetoric and the use of language to promote human community, whereas his other rhetorical work, Liber de praedicatione, brings together the use of his Great Art with ars praedicandi. In Chapter 2, Johnston discusses Llull's basic belief in participated resemblance. Here he explains how likeness, order, and influence are fundamental components in the meaning of the Great Art. In the Rhetorica Nova Llull introduced a more "hylemorphic model of language" to show that language should consist of an order that includes form, matter, and end, and that each of these displays an essential and accidental mode.

In Chapter 3 the author concludes that Llull combined the metaphysics of participated resemblance, epistemology, and his psychology of communication and persuasion to explain thought, speech, meaning, and understanding. Perhaps his most innovative idea on the arts of eloquence is his regard for speech as a sixth sense or "affatus," which was to make the language produced physically serve the soul's spiritual needs.

In Chapter 4 Johnston insists that Llull discarded "inventional techniques" of classical rhetorical theory on dialectics and rhetoric, replacing these with his own sources of invention: the mechanics of his Great Art, strategies for exposition and amplification used in biblical exegesis and preaching, exempla, and other illustrations used in sermons during Llull's time.

Beauty is discussed in Chapter 5 as a characteristic of eloquence that should be placed on language through a "strict correspondence between words and things" (p. 99).

In Chapter 6 Johnston takes up Llull's use of metaphor as a broad term for exemplary discourse; proverbs; the "degrees" of comparison, based on the relative nobility and longevity of persons and things; similitudes; and exempla. The latter, which rarely involve horror, sensationalism, or frivolity, stress devotional and edifying examples, whereas histories and fictions are devoid of Llull's personal experiences.

Chapter 7 deals with order in rhetoric and preaching. Discourse exists on three levels: sentence construction, plan of speech, and circumstances of preaching. Speech is organized according to a beginning, middle, and end. In this chapter Johnston reviews Llull's use of ars arengandi, information contained in his 1987 book.

Chapter 8, titled "Propriety in Speaking," discusses intention, length of speech, delivery, time, place, and appeal to the audience. Regarding the last topic, Llull insists on captatio benevolentiae as a necessity for evangelizing. He also resorts to vernacular moral and courtesy literature to reform Christian society.

Virtue in speaking, the subject of Chapter 9, includes the ideals of decorum, moderation, and discretion, whose ultimate purpose is to unite speakers and audience in love for God and for each other. The emphasis here is on the virtue of love and on the truth of Christian beliefs.

Chapter 10 gives a detailed analysis of several typical sermons from Llull's collected sermons (1302-1313), which he began compiling in 1312 under the title Summa Sermonum. Here Johnston points out salient characteristics of each sermon and describes their allegorical schemes and format vis-a-vis sermons by other preachers. He finds the basic distinction to be Llull's linking sermon techniques with the mechanics of the Great Art.

In his conclusion Johnston describes and quantifies extant manuscripts of Llull's works on rhetoric and his examples of sermons. The author then concludes by stating that we must not look upon Llull¹s oeuvre as a novelty but rather perceive him as a man of his times and reevaluate his works according to the cultural, social, and philosophic relationship and practices of his time.

In view of this recommendation, I would add, in regard to the discussion of concord and contrariety (e. g. the lack of rhetorical speech in the sentence "The queen has great beauty and great malice" (p. 91), that in the literature of medieval Iberia virtue was a primary requisite of woman's beauty. Johnston goes on to quote Llull's Rhetorica Nova on beautiful style as moralization: "'The queen who is beautiful is not good' is foul speech...because through the stain of sin all beauty is befouled" (p. 95). Johnston's discussion of the diversity of audience types contains important references and an example by Llull on rhetorical usage according to professions. Johnston states that Llull's example follows the Gregorian tradition; however, it also reflects the tripartite division of society at the time, described later by Francesc Eiximenis as "ma major, ma mitjana, ma menor" (La societat catalana al segle XIV, ed. Jill Webster [Barcelona: Edicions 62, 1967], pp. 45-66), "nobility, merchants, peasants/slaves."

The choice of a word in two passages renders ambiguous the meaning of two sentences. After citing an example from the Rhetorica Nova, Johnston writes, "These remarks are most relevant to the situation of the evangelist or the apologist, and almost certainly derive from authorities on preaching such as Humbert (4.18, 20) and Eiximenis (3.2)" (p. 150). The words "derive from" should be taken to mean "are contained in" given the dates of Llull (1232-1316) and Eiximenis (1327-1409). Also, Johnston writes "Contemporary preaching authorities such as Humbert (2.11;6.29), Eiximenis (2;3.5) and Thomas Waleys (Chapter 1) unanimously insist on love as the goal of any sermon" (p. 152). The word "contemporary" is ambiguous here as Humbert of Romans (1194- 1277) wrote the De eruditione praedicatorum probably around or after 1264, T. Waleys, the De modo componendi sermones around 1349, and Eiximenis, the Ars praedicandi populo probably between 1379-1404, dates of his extant works.

Aside from these two minor ambiguities, I regard Johnston's book as a significant contribution to several areas of medieval studies, including rhetoric, preaching, Llull studies, Catalan and Hispanic literature, etc. Although he begins by seeking answers to Llull's idiosyncratic tendencies and theories, he proves, using his excellent command of antique and medieval rhetorical theories, that Llull does in fact echo the ideas on eloquence prescribed by prior, contemporary, and later writers. He emphasizes throughout the evangelical spirit and Llull's insistence on moral edification in the many facets of Llull's thoughts on eloquence. And he insists throughout on the defense of moral truth and the Llullian first intention as the goal of Llull's discourse on eloquence and his ars praedicandi. Johnston did a great deal of research and synthesis to produce this study, which involves one of the most prolific medieval authors and numerous antique, medieval, and Renaissance rhetorical treatises. His notes are clear and cross-referencing is made easy by dividing the bibliography according to collected and individual works of Llull, Other Original Sources, and Secondary Studies. Medievalists will profit from reading this book.