Book 1.xx. 4-6a: The orators’ custom

(detail) Brit.Lib. MS Egerton 745 f.46 St.Denys preaching. LINK

To make this script large enough, I’ve done a ‘cut-and-paste’. The original format is shown further below, linked to the digitised manuscript.

Einseideln Library Stiftsbibliothek Codex 360(177) f.7  (1143-1178)
(detail) Luzern Library Zentral- und Hochschulbibliothek P34, f.4


Augustine explains the difference between the rhetorician and the orator:

“It is necessary, therefore, that the sacred orator, when urging that something be done, should not only teach in order to instruct, and please in order to hold, but also move in order to win” (467).

NOTE: This distinction between the rhetorician, and the ‘orator’ who aims to move his audience in order to win them for Gd, is one which (however artificial) will be observed here. In this sense ‘oratory’ may be equated with what St.Anselm describes as ‘eloquentia’ – a desirable ability, distinct from the use of rhetoric as instrument of legal argument – as  rhetoric was then formally perceived.

Rhabanus Maurus expresses himself on the issue with more calm than some later writers did saying, in effect: “Rhetoric, by which I understand the art of speaking well in civil questions, which seems to belong to mundane science, still is not extraneous to ecclesiastical discipline, for skill in this art is useful to the preacher for fluent and proper teaching, as well as for apt and elegant writing, and for delivering a sermon. He does well who learns it fully, and so fits himself to preach God’s word.” De clericorum instructione  III.19.

Although our concern here is the relationship between punctuation and an exposition’s forms and phrases, these may be helpful to broader understanding of the topic.

An important article is

  • Gillian Evans and David d’Avray, ‘An unusual “Ars Praedicandi”, Medium Ævum, Vol. 49, No. 1 (1980), pp. 26-31.  The authors rightly credit Rudolf Cruel with first noticing the change in tone and style that occurs in preaching during the thirteenth century.

see also

  • Jean-Robert Amogathe, ‘Plaire, instruire et édifier : les traits spécifiques de la rhétorique de la chaire’,  Littérature, No. 149, ‘La Rhétorique et les Autres’  (March 2008), pp. 45-55. (JSTOR)
  • Samantha Zacher, ‘Sin, Syntax, and Synonyms: Rhetorical Style and Structure in Vercelli Homily X’, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Jan., 2004), pp. 53-76. A rare analytical deconstruction of medieval oratory and rhetoric.  Recommended. (JSTOR)
  • A fine analysis of the techniques as applied in a letter by Philostratus is by Robert J. Penella, ‘Philostratus’ Letter to Julia Domna’, Hermes, 107. Bd., H. 2 (1979), pp. 161-168.(JSTOR)

Outside our period, but still of interest:

  • Walter J. Ong, ‘Historical Backgrounds of Elizabethan and Jacobean Punctuation Theory’,
    PMLA, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Jun., 1944), pp. 349-360.(JSTOR)
– the usual texts are Miller et. al. and Copeland.  Both are still available, though the advertisement published for the first suggests it refutes an earlier belief that rhetoric lay neglected in Europe from the late classical period to the renaissance. In fact – as the suggested readings above are meant to illustrate  – scholars have not often held or promoted such a clear cut distinction.
 About punctuation in general, see earlier posts. Oratory in medieval life is treated further in connection with Etymologies, Book II.


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