Early Medieval Rhetoric- Epideictic Underpinnings in Old English

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Georgia State University

Digital Archive @ GSUEnglish Dissertations Department of English

12-12-2010

EARLY MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: EPIDEICTIC UNDERPINNINGS IN OLD ENGLISH HOMILIESJennifer M. RandallGeorgia State University, jynrandall@gmail.com

Recommended CitationRandall, Jennifer M., "EARLY MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: EPIDEICTIC UNDERPINNINGS IN OLD ENGLISH HOMILIES" (2010). English Dissertations. Paper 61. http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/english_diss/61

This Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by the Department of English at Digital Archive @ GSU. It has been accepted for inclusion in English Dissertations by an authorized administrator of Digital Archive @ GSU. For more information, please contact tsugarman@gsu.edu.

EARLY MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: EPIDEICTIC UNDERPINNINGS IN OLD ENGLISH HOMILIES

by

JENNIFER RANDALL

Under the Direction of Dr. George Pullman

ABSTRACT Medieval rhetoric, as a field and as a subject, has largely been under-developed and under-emphasized within medieval and rhetorical studies for several reasons: the disconnect between Germanic, Anglo-Saxon society and the Greco-Roman tradition that defined rhetoric as an art; the problems associated with translating the Old and Middle English vernacular in light of rhetorical and, thereby, Greco-Latin precepts; and the complexities of the medieval period itself with the lack of surviving manuscripts, often indistinct and inconsistent political and legal structure, and widespread interspersion and interpolation of Christian doctrine. However, it was Christianity and its governance of medieval culture that preserved classical rhetoric within the medieval period through reliance upon the classic epideictic platform, which, in turn, became the foundation for early medieval rhetoric. The role of epideictic rhetoric itself is often undervalued

within the rhetorical tradition because it appears too basic or less essential than the judicial or deliberative branches for in-depth study and analysis. Closer inspection of this branch reveals that epideictic rhetoric contains fundamental elements of human communication with the focus upon praise and blame and upon appropriate thought and behavior. In analyzing the medieval worlds heritage and knowledge of the Greco-Roman tradition, epideictic rhetorics role within the writings and lives of Greek and Roman philosophers, and the popular Christian writings of the medieval period such as Alfreds translation of Boethius Consolation of Philosophy, Alfreds translation of Gregory the Greats Pastoral Care, lfrics Lives of Saints, lfrics Catholic Homilies, Wulfstans Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, and the anonymously written Vercelli and Blickling homiles an early medieval rhetoric begins to be revealed. This Old English rhetoric rests upon a blended epideictic structure based largely upon the encomium and vituperation formats of the ancient progymnasmata, with some additions from the chreia and commonplace exercises, to form a unique rhetoric of the soul that aimed to convert words into moral thought and action within the lives of every individual. Unlike its classical predecessors, medieval rhetoric did not argue, refute, or prove; it did not rely solely on either praise or blame; and it did not cultivate and rely upon words merely for intellectual, educative, or political purposes. Instead, early medieval rhetoric placed the power of words in the hands of all humanity, inspiring every individual to greater discernment of character and reality, greater spirituality, greater morality, and greater pragmatism in daily life.

INDEX WORDS: Medieval rhetoric, Epideictic rhetoric, Christian rhetoric, Classical rhetoric, Greco-Roman rhetoric, Greek rhetoric, Roman rhetoric, Philosophic rhetoric, Old English, Medieval period, Homilies, Alfred the Great, Boethius Consolation of Philosophy, Consolatio Philosophiae, Gregory the Greats Pastoral Care, Pastoral Rule, lfric, Aelfric, Lives of Saints, Catholic Homilies, Wulfstans Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, The Sermon of the Wolf to the English, Vercelli, Blickling, Encomium, Vituperation, Commonplace, Chreia, Progymnasmata

EARLY MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: EPIDEICTIC UNDERPINNINGS IN OLD ENGLISH HOMILIES

by

JENNIFER RANDALL

A Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences Georgia State University 2010

Copyright by Jennifer Michelle Randall 2010

EARLY MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: EPIDEICTIC UNDERPINNINGS IN OLD ENGLISH HOMILIES

by

JENNIFER RANDALL

Committee Chair:

Dr. George Pullman

Committee:

Dr. Eddie Christie Dr. Scott Lightsey

Electronic Version Approved:

Office of Graduate Studies College of Arts and Sciences Georgia State University December 2010

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DEDICATION This work is dedicated to my husband Gregory whose flexibility and love has allowed this dream to become a reality and to the Gardner family who encouraged, strengthened, and cared for me along the way.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am indebted to Dr. Pullman for his guidance with this project and for his listening ear, attentive eye, and words of advice. His generosity knows no bounds. Id also like to thank my dissertation committee members Dr. Christie and Dr. Lightsey for offering their invaluable assistance and thank Dr. Christie for his inspiring lectures on all things medieval and for the care he shows his students. And, to everyone who has had a hand in this project, may the road rise up to meet you and the sun shine warm upon your face.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......................................................................................................... v

1

MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: CONCEPT, CONFUSION, AND SCHOLARSHIP ......... 1

2

EPIDEICTIC SYNTHESIS AND DEVELOPMENT IN GREEK, ROMAN, AND

CHRISTIAN RHETORIC ......................................................................................................... 52

3

EPIDEICTIC RHETORIC AND STRUCTURE IN ALFREDS TRANSLATIONS

OF BOETHIUS CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY AND GREGORY THE GREATS PASTORAL CARE ..................................................................................................................... 114

4 EPIDEICTIC RHETORIC AND STRUCTURE IN EXCERPTS FROM LFRICS LIVES OF SAINTS AND CATHOLIC HOMILIES............................................................... 171

5

EPIDEICTIC RHETORIC AND STRUCTURE IN WULFSTANS SERMO LUPI

AD ANGLOS AND IN VERCELLI, BLICKLING, AND ANONYMOUSLY WRITTEN MEDIEVAL HOMILIES ......................................................................................................... 236

6

FINAL THOUGHTS: EARLY MEDIEVAL RHETORIC ......................................... 294

WORKS CITED ........................................................................................................................ 310

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MEDIEVAL RHETORIC: CONCEPT, CONFUSION, AND SCHOLARSHIP Though medieval rhetoric cannot be traced with certainty to the Greco-Roman classical tradition, the ancient tradition and its observations of human communication underpin medieval rhetorics development. Too often scholars disregard Romes connection with medieval England because of historical gaps and because of insufficient evidence to concretely assess a relationship between the Germanic, Anglo-Saxon culture and the Hellenistic, Roman society. As a result, scholars tend to distance themselves from this area of exploration or try to find medieval rhetoric within proscriptive documents written at the onset of the medieval period by such figures as Capella and Bede and by later Middle English figures such as Rabanus Maurus and Alain de Lille. While these figures and documents are important for defining medieval rhetoric, they do not tell the entire tale, and ultimately medieval rhetoric is not found in proscriptive, rhetorical handbooks or technical manuals such as those clearly produced by ancient figures from Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. Instead, medieval rhetoric is found in the living language, tone, and moral conviction of its writers and translators evident in such influential Old English figures as Alfred, lfric, and Wulfstan. The writings and translations of these men create a foundation for medieval culture and rhetoric in their reliance upon Roman Christian ideals and in their inclusion of Greco-Roman epideictic structure and amplification. Relying upon the educative Roman rhetorical elements adopted into Christian scripture and religious writing, as well as the classically defined epideictic rhetorical branch stemming from natural human desires like personal validation and social connection, the moral heartbeat of medieval culture, with its rhetorical underpinnings and subsequent unique communicative style, can be identified.

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For the medieval world, there is no definitive date that marks the ending of the ancient world and the beginning of the middle ages. Henry Osborn Taylor asserts that such a transition was one of spiritual change where antique paradigms slowly died and were replaced by a preoccupation with spirituality and moral living (The Classical 1). This is the paradox of medieval rhetoric. Scholars, while acknowledging medieval classical elements, are hesitant to assign classical influences to Englands medieval culture and literary production. The phrase medieval rhetoric can refer to the period from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the early fifth century to the early modern period in the fifteen hundreds. However, the focus here will be upon early medieval England and particularly that of Old English culture, specifically the religious writings of Alfred in the ninth century to Wulfstans sermons at the onset of the eleventh. In regards to a medieval rhetoric, it is generally believed to be a lore of style (Baldwin Medieval ix) while discussions of medieval structure or diction arent always addressed. Those who study medieval rhetoric assert that medieval rhetoric is defined by a concrete body of principles, usually contained in texts and teaching manuals and applied in numerous ways according to changing times and circumstances, or they state that rhetoric is always culture-bound and is substantially different in each time and place (Murphy and Camargo The Middle 58). In looking for a medieval rhetoric, researchers attempt to uncover definable precepts by looking for rhetorical references and handbooks, rhetorical rules associated with poetry, and proscriptive texts like those readily apparent in Greek and Roman societies instead of analyzing rhetorical consistency in dominant literary output, both in terms of structure and diction, to define these principles. The assumption that rhetoric is an invention of the Greco-Roman world and not a naturally occurring communicative impulse has also resulted in current doubts regarding rhetorics role

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within the medieval world, particularly in the developing language and culture of England. Too often, understandings of rhetoric and the classical tradition has become, as Brian Vickers notes, convoluted and confused (13), creating another barrier to overcome in defining medieval rhetoric. Ultimately, there are natural rhetorical principles that humans consistently practice, such as praise and condemnation, that lead to the development of rhetoric as an art, and these forms of human communication adapt with historical, social, political, and religious changes, as demonstrated in Romes prioritization of rhetoric as a political science. It is inevitable then that medieval rhetorical purposes would change to fit the needs of each age, although the underlying human inclinations remain the same. The qualities that define rhetoric as an art are marked with disagreements and uncertainties from Gorgias, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian to modern scholars1. However, most scholars, such as George Kennedy, James Murphy, Charles Sears Baldwin, and Martin Camargo, adhere to Aristotles view of rhetoric as an art of daily communication (Baldwin Ancient 1) and an art of persuasion (Freese 15). In addition, these scholars, as Bryant Donald details, agree that the art of rhetoric includes four main aspects: a practical purpose for daily, individual human life; a literary purpose for human expression, entertainment, and study; a philosophical purpose for scientific investigation, inquiry, and human advancement; and a political purpose for civic life, sociology, and psychology (35-36). In essence, every thought and action, every decision and goal, rests upon expression and communication and is therefore rhetorical. Furthermore, as Richard Johannesen, Rennard Strickland, and Ralph T. Eubanks note, every aspect of rhetoric is based upon human judgment and evaluating an attitude or action (Johannesen 221).

1

See for example Kenneth Burke, Richard Vatz, Chaim Perelman, Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, Edwin Black, Henry Johnstone Jr., Lloyd

Bitzer, Marshal McLuhan, I.A. Richards, and Stephen Toulmin

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These fundamental concepts are important to consider when piecing together medieval rhetoric. The past three decades have seen a growing interest in this field, as well as a deeper appreciation for the medieval period, indicating a desire to unravel the medieval mindset and methods of communication. Such interest has resulted in the medieval period now being, as James Murphy and Martin Camargo indicate, one of the best analyzed and discussed in human history, demonstrated through numerous and varied translations and histories from Saint Augustine to Bede to even Chaucer in the Renaissance (The Middle 47). Anglo-Saxon and Medieval scholars2 explore a variety of medieval issues that touch on rhetorical structure, logos, ethos, pathos, sophistic, technical, and philosophic rhetoric, concluding that many Anglo-Saxons were familiar with the notion of classical rhetoric and often, directly or indirectly, applied these classical tools within their writing or, at least, had little objection to such usages when it was advantageous. Despite this observation, characterizing structures and patterns of medieval communication to define a medieval rhetoric is exceedingly complex. Academics like Marjorie Curry Woods and Martin Camargo have begun to shed light on medieval rhetoric by arguing that the shift away from an oral tradition to a written rhetoric created more pervasive forms of communication that required their own considerations, created particularly within the social and educative venues of the medieval world (Between 84). No matter the venue, the discipline of rhetoric is always tied to cultural concerns and, as Sarah Spence details, the mindset of the author and the theme of the literary work indicates the priorities and values of each age (xiii). As a practical art, the discipline, literature, politics, and psychology of rhetoric naturally arise from human concerns, daily life, and...

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