16.10.13, Donavin and Stodola, eds., Public Declamations

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Frank M. Napolitano

The Medieval Review 16.10.13

Donavin, Georgiana, and Denise Stodola, eds. Public Declamations: Essays on Medieval Rhetoric, Education, and Letters in Honour of Martin Camargo. Disputatio, 27. Turnhout: Brepols, 2015. pp. xxvii, 290. ISBN: 978-2-503-54777-0 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Frank M. Napolitano
Radford University

The latest installment of the Disputatio series is a Festschrift in honor of Martin Camargo, whose nearly forty-year career has contributed immensely to our knowledge of the history of rhetoric. The collection's five-part structure and its sheer range of scholarship affirms the Disputatio series's interdisciplinary mission and characterizes the scope of Camargo's prolific career.

Part I, Commentaries and Ciceronian Traditions, begins with Rita Copeland's exploration of affectio (emotion) in the commentaries on Cicero's De inventione, the rhetorical treatise most influential to medieval Europe. As opposed to the commentaries of late antiquity, which treat affectio philosophically and as a transient foil to more stable or permanent emotional states, medieval commentaries most often discuss emotion in relation to the communes loci, the topics common to all forms of rhetoric (Copeland 4). Copeland argues that by viewing affectio rhetorically, rather than philosophically, Cicero constructed emotion as a viable means for generating arguments. The essay traces the legacy of this argument in the works of several medieval commentators, most prominently Thierry of Chartres, whose Heptateuchon discusses emotions' rhetorical functions mainly to illustrate the inventive versatility of the communes loci. Copeland cautions that Theirry's treatment, while influential for his successors, does not indicate medieval writers' disinterest in emotions, and her own recent work on medieval England's study of emotions in Aristotle's Rhetoric is testament to that interest ("Pathos and Pastoralism: Aristotle's Rhetoric in Medieval England." Speculum 89 [2014], 96-127). Copeland's latest contribution continues to unearth the subject's complexity.

The next two essays explore how medieval commentators expanded the scope of rhetorical studies in their times. John O. Ward's chapter illustrates how William of Champeaux's untitled catena gloss on the Rhetorica ad Herennium indicates that he considered the text's ideas about pronuntiatio (delivery) to be eminently practical, while his eleventh- and twelfth-century contemporaries focused more on theoretical and philosophical conceptions of inventio, like logic and stasis (27-8). William encourages his students to consider how to apply the text's ideas about delivery--including those on gesture--to their own speeches. Karin Margareta Fredborg's essay examines how Manegold [of Lautenbach] incorporated Sallustian materials in his commentaries on De inventione. Manegold situates political, epideictic, and judicial rhetorics in a reciprocal relationship with the varying status that may be applied to them. Manegold criticizes the scope of Cicero's treatment of ethics as being concerned only with political virtues. Instead, he seems to be concerned with the student's overall ethical education, rather than with the ethics of argument (55-6). Both essays show how medieval commentators transcended limitations imposed upon rhetorical study: where William defied custom by emphasizing rhetoric in performance, Manegold expanded his students' conceptions of ethos.

John Pendergast's contribution illustrates how Thomas Nashe's work also transcends boundaries, this time of a literary/historical nature. Nashe blends medieval and early modern literary traditions, Pendergast argues, in his "Preface" to Robert Greene's Menaphon. Nashe appropriates the medieval tradition of the accessus, or critical introduction, in order to uphold traditional modes of textual interpretation and to criticize the practices of literary production of his own day (66). Nashe was particularly concerned with the ethics of his contemporaries' uses of classical authorities without their having obtained formalized education in Latinate letters. Pendergast also explores the tension inherent in Nashe's views on literary production: he deplored the commodification of literature at a time when he was marketing his own work (75).

Part II, Documents and Epistles, begins with two chapters that expand our understanding of the significance of the ars dictaminis, or the art of letter-writing. Carol Poster's chapter analyzes Philostratus's Lives of the Sophists in order to illustrate letter writing's centrality to several aspects of a sophist's professional life. Following Camargo's methods showing the "reciprocal relationship" between the theory and practice of letter writing (84), Poster highlights the interrelated nature of theories of forensic oratory and the ars dictaminis, and the professional spheres of legal training and oratorical performance. In the following chapter, Georgiana Donavin performs a rhetorical analysis of John Gower's "Rex Celi Deus," a coronation poem dedicated to Henry IV. Donavin shows convincingly that Gower alluded to sections of the familiar hymn "Celi Deus Sanctissime" for the occasion. Along with the hymn, Gower incorporated principles of letter writing that he employed in his Epistola ad regem, addressed to Richard II. By combining musical and dictaminal rhetorics into a "liturgical rhetoric," Gower dilates on the historical significance of Henry's ascension and reminds Henry of the abiding responsibilities of kingship (108). Donavin's detailed and insightful close reading of the poem illustrates Gower's connections between worldly and eternal kings, and his own performative ethos as cantor (112, 118).

Malcolm Richardson's essay looks beyond the theoretical ars dictaminis for evidence of a "merchant rhetoric" of letter writing (125). Richardson builds upon Camargo's and James J. Murphy's findings that medieval English mercantile letters, along with civic and royal ones, exist in a separate and parallel history to the academic study of written correspondence. Through the fifteenth century, English guild records followed the forms of written letters (129), and Richardson traces their characteristics, from pre-sixteenth-century hypotactic subordination ("whereas...wherefore") (141), to the efficient but increasingly impersonal tone of the contract after 1500 (143). Richardson also shows that, early in the fifteenth century, merchant letters exhibited an ever-growing sense of narrative that coincided with letter-writers' increasing use English. This emergent use of narrative enabled writers to spice their letters with colorful stories that also influenced the reader's interpretation (137). Without subverting traditional histories of rhetoric, Richardson's analysis of overlooked primary sources illustrates how the training and day-to-day work of medieval English merchants can broaden our understanding of the history of rhetoric and literacy.

Joerg O. Fichte's essay begins Part III, Literature and Theory, by building upon Camargo's work on the "rhetorical function" of geography in The Book of John Mandeville (quoted in Fichte 171). The piece focuses on the metaphorical construction of otherness in Sir Perceval of Gales (c. 1440). Fichte compares this romance with those from the continent to reveal the centrality of place and space to the Middle English text. Perceval undergoes a series of quests in which he attains a sense of "selfhood" in opposition to a moral and cultural "other" (151-2). His final quest--a crusade to the Holy Land--represents the ultimate effort to traverse spatial and cultural boundaries and confront the geographical, spiritual, and moral alterity of the Orient. Fichte acknowledges that his comparison of Sir Perceval to continental sources requires "some retelling of the story" (154), and his generous plot narration is certainly helpful to scholars who, like me, have not read the work.

Denise Stodola's chapter continues to explore the intersection of rhetoric and literature by examining the spatial rhetoric of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to discern the differences between Gawain's perspective and the audience's. Using an "affective critical approach," which Stodola defines as "the technique of gauging the audience's affective response" (175), the essay analyzes the physical and spiritual connotations of the word "left" (lyft, lyfte), in an effort to highlight the audience's "confusion and anxiety" (174) upon realizing that Gawain's concern for his physical wellness outweighs the audience's concern for his spiritual well-being. Stodola's analysis of the poem's four occurrences of "left" reveal informative layers of textual nuance that highlight the poem's characterization of moral and physical dangers. The argument is less successful, however, when she conjectures about what the audience does not notice or value. Speaking of the episode when Gawain sees the disguised Morgan La Fay leading Lady Bertilak by the left hand (SGGK 2.941-49), Stodola states: "The audience is here not as interested in the young woman, perhaps, as Gawain seems to be" (182). Stodola argues that the detail of the left hand would have caused the audience to be wary of Gawain's spiritual peril, and the crone's physical description would have evoked popular depictions of death and old age (182). These are fascinating observations, and, while theoretical justification exists for valuing the reader's potential experience of the text, the analysis would be equally convincing without the assumption of what a reader may not find interesting.

Heeding Camargo's call to "to make available a representative sample of textbooks used for teaching" (quoted. in Spence 191), Timothy Spence translates the anonymous De Modo Dicendi et Meditandi Libellus, a textbook and compilation in the artes meditandi and artes orandi traditions from twelfth-century St. Victor. Spence's critical introduction illustrates how this particular text synthesizes Hugh of St. Victor's ideas about the connections among rhetorical education, interpretation, invention, and ethics, and achieves Hugh's goals of adapting classical ideas of the vir bonus dicendi peritus to a medieval monastic setting (194). This essay reminds us of the vast amount of works waiting to be made available to contemporary scholars.

Richard Newhauser's essay illustrates how Richard de Fournival and Peter of Limoges, two French clerics of the thirteenth century, trace the intersections of the senses, eroticism, and morality. Li bestiaries maistre Richart de Furnival associates the characteristics of animals in the genre with those of a woman who has rebuffed the narrator's amorous advances (221). Such allegorical appeals to the powers of the senses impress Richard's intense emotions upon the memory of the beloved. Peter's Tractatus moralis de oculo also explores the power of the senses, but it does so as part of a theological conversation. Peter uses "perspectivist optics," or the study of how "the position of the viewer is as important for sight as the physics of light passing through a particular medium" (223), to impart spiritual, even allegorical, interpretations on natural phenomena. Newhauser then shows how Peter appears to borrow many of Richard's materials concerning bestial lore and the senses (224-8). Newhauser's intriguing work conveys how two thirteenth-century writers use the same intellectual and cultural materials to different ends.

Part V, Rhetoric and Performance, begins with Lori Ann Garner's essay, which responds to Camargo's challenge for scholars to look at a "broader range of social practices" beyond the standard histories of rhetoric (quoted in Garner 231). The essay unearths complex rhetorical dynamics in what modern readers would consider the most unusual of rhetorical situations: the oral performance of charms meant to persuade plants to yield their medicinal benefits. Garner explains how the rhetorical relationship between healer and herb differed depending upon the textual and cultural traditions from which a particular charm originated, with the Germanic texts displaying "collaborative relationship" between speaker and plant, and the Latin texts conveying a relationship in which "a supplicant [appeals] to a distant and supernatural force" (251). Garner succeeds admirably in showing how even incantations delivered to a plant can take on the characteristics of a rhetorical performance. Not only does the essay provide readers with a more nuanced view of Anglo-Saxon medicinal texts, but it also offers further evidence supporting Janie Steen's argument that writers of the vernacular might have gleaned as much from careful emulation of Latin works as they would have done by following prescriptive manuals (239-40).

Marjorie Curry Woods's entry illustrates how medieval glossators challenged and expanded upon the precepts given in those rhetorical manuals. While glossing the section on modes of delivery in the Rhetorica ad Herennium, a fifteenth-century commentator quotes two of Dido's speeches from the Aeneid as examples of conquestio ("lament") and cohortatio ("exhortation"), and follows these examples with advice for delivery that runs contrary to the admonitions of the original text. As an example of the lament, which the Rhetorica ad Herennium advises practitioners to deliver in a "restrained voice" (quoted in Woods 259), the gloss quotes Dido's initial, sorrowful confrontation of the departing Aeneas (Aeneid, trans. by Lombardo, 4.346-74). Yet the gloss advises its readers to deliver Dido's speech in a tone that "does not lack catching of breath, sighs, and sobs" (quoted in Woods 258). A similar incongruence exists between the commentator's instructions for delivering Dido's second, more vitriolic speech (4.419-48), and the Rhetorica ad Herennium's instructions for exhortation. Woods posits that the commentator glossed the original text with Dido's speeches because emotional speeches like hers were commonly recited by students in the Middle Ages, and they required performative advice beyond what the Rhetorica ad Herennium provided (265). Woods offers thought-provoking insights into the ways that commentators adapted canonical texts for their immediate purposes.

Woods's essay and the final one, composed by James J. Murphy, provide a suitable bookend to the collection, given their return to the commentary tradition. Murphy's contribution acknowledges Roman rhetoricians' inability to address adequately the question of whether ideation exists prior to language, or whether ideas require language in order to exist. He proposes that medieval rhetoricians addressed these uncertainties in different ways. The medieval ars praedicandi (the art of preaching), and the ars dictaminis both require intricate structures that dictate the composition and content of sermons and letters. The ars poetriae (art of poetry) invokes Quintilian's notion of facilitas, in which the mind generates ideas appropriate for particular situations. The essay ends with a call for further investigation into the quandary of invention faced by medieval rhetoricians: whether to trust a tried and true formal system for generating ideas or to rely on the uncertain operations of the human mind.

All contributors cite Camargo's influence on their own work, and the broad range of studies here illustrates the expansive nature of Camargo's career. That being said, there is relatively little focus on the artes praedicandi, most likely because so much scholarship from the last century has focused on preaching. In this way, though, Public Declamations models itself off of Camargo's career, contributing to our understanding of the history of rhetoric by building upon familiar lines of research and forging new paths for future scholars of rhetoric, literature, history, or performance.

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