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-The distinctive humanist contribution to rhetorical education was the use of dialectic

and rhetoric together to read classical texts.

The precepts of rhetoric and dialectic
would inform the readers observation of the practice of Cicero and Virgil; reading
Cicero and Virgil would in turn enrich ones understanding of how to use both words
and arguments. The classical authors would also provide a rich store of material for
use in new compositions. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The
Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-...
Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# -25
Central features of humanism also contributed to humanist rhetoric. /ew manuscripts
were found# notabl* the complete texts of 6uintilians Institutio oratoria 37345 and
Ciceros De oratore 37235# together with texts of several previousl* un"nown
orations of Cicero ten of them discovered b* $oggio 8racciolini in 3739 and 373:5.
8ut although fifteenth- and sixteenth-centur* writers made considerable use of
6uintilian# the basic text for teaching rhetoric remained the Rhetorica ad Herennium#
even after its traditional ascription to Cicero was disproved in 37.3. The development
of ;ree" studies led to new translations of <ristotles Rhetroic and to adaptations of
the second-centur* <' ;ree" rhetorician %ermogenes b* the 8*=antine >migr>
;eorge of Trebi=ond Trape=untius5 and b* +ean ?turm# who reformed education at
?trasbourg. 8ut neither had much effect on the manuals which were the mainsta* of
rhetoric teaching. 8* contrast# the @atin adaptation of the Progymnasmata#
composition exercises of the third-centur* <' ;ree" rhetorician Aphthonius# became
one of the most successful schoolboo"s of the sixteenth centur*. There were no
significant textual discoveries in dialectic# and the publication of the ;ree"
commentaries on <ristotles Organon had more effect on sixteenth-centur* )talian
<ristotelian philosophers than on the teaching of dialectic. The humanist
preoccupation with improving @atin st*le resulted in the composition of dialectic
manuals in classical @atin and the abandonment in some Auarters of the more
technical aspects of medieval logic. Ver* few humanists applied the idea of a Breturn
to the sources to the ;ree" text of <ristotles dialectic. Chat distinguishes humanist
from medieval approaches to rhetoric and dialectic is that the two subDects were
made to wor" together in the stud* of classical texts.( !ac"# $eter. %umanist
&hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism#
edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4#
-&hetoric and dialectic# li"e other curriculum subDects# have undergone man*
changes since their emergence in the fifth and fourth centur* 8C respectivel*. 8oth
subDects aim to teach people how to persuade others# 'ialectic concentrates on
argument# which for <ristotelians is exemplified in the s*llogism.
&hetoric teaches a
variet* of means of persuasion# including self-presentation# manipulation of the
audience# emotional appeals and the use of figures of speech# as well as arguments.
'ialectic originated from the disputation a debate conducted b* Auestion and
answer# as in $latos dialogues5# rhetoric from the political or courtroom oration; but
both came to be applied to other t*pes of writing. Fver their long histor*# rhetoric and
dialectic have collaborated and competed# with both la*ing claim to certain areas of
teaching# notabl* the discover* and formulation of arguments.
!ac"# $eter.
%umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance
%umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit*
$ress# 3..4# -E5
)n the later !iddle <ges dialectic was the most important subDect in the universit* arts
course because it regulated the chief methods of teaching and examination1 the
lecture# the commentar*# the quaestio and the disputation. 'ialectic also became a
speciali=ed research subDect in its own right# exploring difficult areas of the text of
<ristotles Organon# such as the nature of universals Categories5# the relationship
between words# concepts and things De interpretatione5 and the ambiguities arising
from the use of particular words of sentences Sophistical Refutations5. <lthough
scholars continued to compose logical and linguistic commentaries on rhetoric
textboo"s# much of medieval rhetoric teaching focused on the practical art of letter-
writing ars dictaminis5. Teachers of dictamen were among were among the earliest
humanists# and letter-writing remained an important aspect of rhetoric. /ew letter-
writing manuals were composed throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in
the attempt to spread the idea of Ciceronian @atinit*.
!ac"# $eter. %umanist
&hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism#
edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4#
?everal hundred authors contributed more or less voluminousl* to the range of
subDects denoted b* rhetoric and dialectic in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The
present state of our "nowledge does not permit us to organi=e them all into schools
and periods. )nstead# ) shall summari=e the contributions of seven influential authors
as a sample of the humanist approach to these fields.( !ac"# $eter. %umanist
&hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism#
edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4#
-<gricola matches the arts of the trivium grammar# dialectic and rhetoric5 to the
defining characteristics of language. %e assigns the "e* role of discovering and
organi=ing subDect-matter to dialectic. @ater he suggests that dialectical invention is
prior both to Dudgement the part of dialectic concerned with he forms of
argumentation5 and to rhetoric# which he treats as s*non*mous with st*le.
teaches the thin"ing part of language use. 8ut this is not a straightforward exaltation
of dialectic# for <gricolas version of dialectic is an original s*nthesis of material from
both dialectic and rhetoric. <lthough the boo" is centred on the topics and includes
discussion of the proposition and the forms of argumentation# these elements from
traditional dialectic are balanced b* parts of the rhetoric s*llabus such as status
theor*# exposition# the handling of emotions and disposition. !ac"# $eter. %umanist
&hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism#
edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4#
Chile Valla had recogni=ed the importance of the topics but had borrowed
6uintilians version of them# <gricola begins with a new and extensive treatment of
the topics. %e explains wh* the topics are effective# how the* can be used b* a
spea"er and how the list of topics is constructed.
Cithin each topic he provides
explanations# subdivisions and examples# which help the reader explore the nature
and the argumentative usefulness of the relation involved in each topic. !ac"# $eter.
%umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance
%umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit*
$ress# 3..4# -:5
!uch of the rest of the wor" is devoted to the use of the topics. )n 8oo" )) <gricola
explains how a writer must anal*se the initial brief in order to discover what "ind of a
Auestion it is which provides clues about the t*pe of answer reAuired5# what
subsidiar* Auestions are implied within it and which of these will determine the
Fnce the decisive Auestion had been uncovered# topical invention must
be applied to each of its elements in order to generate arguments for the composition
in hand. The method of topical invention is set out carefull*# with wor"ed examples.
<gricola distinguishes two basic t*pes of discourse1 exposition# in which matters or
events are set out# as if to an audience which follows willingl*; and argumentation# in
which each point is argued for and the audience is compelled to assent.
describes the methods emplo*ed in each# how the two t*pes are related and how
one ma* be converted into the other. )n this section <gricola also investigated with
examples from Virgil and Cicero5 different methods of achieving persuasion and a
variet* of wa*s of using arguments. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.(
)n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-
... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# -:5
)n 8oo" ))) he provides an account of emotional persuasion# drawing on <ristotles
Rhetoric and showing how the topics can be used to generate affective material.
<gricolas account of emotion is noticeabl* more thorough and s*stematic than those
found in the rhetoric manuals# which generall* treat the subDect onl* briefl* in
discussing the peroration and some of the figures. %is account of disposition also
improves on the rhetoric textboo"s because# instead of ta"ing the structure of the
four-part oration as given# he shows that man* different arrangements are possible. <
writer must determine the organi=ation of a wor" in the light of his subDect and aim# as
well as the li"el* response of his audience.
!ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and
'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill
,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# -:5
<gricola often uses literar* examples to show how argumentative effects are
achieved# how different t*pes of writing are organi=ed and even how comparisons
wor". %e also proposes a techniAue of dialectical reading which uncovers the
argumentative structures that underpin an oration or a poem. %e gives an example of
such a reading in his dialectical and rhetorical commentar* on Ciceros oration Pro
lege Manilia.
!ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge
Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew
0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# -:5
De invention dialectica is an original and instructive wor" which creates a new
s*nthesis of elements from the trivium. )t was printed fort*-four times in the sixteenth
centur* with a further thirt*-two editions of epitomes5;
but it ma"es considerable
demands on the reader# and it does not fit easil* into the traditional division of the
s*llabus. ?ome of <gricolas ideas were embodied in the educational reforms and the
textboo"s of Hrasmus# $hilipp !elanchthon and $eter &amus. !ac"# $eter.
%umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance
%umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit*
$ress# 3..4# --5
'esiderius Hrasmus was the most famous humanist of he earl* sixteenth centur*# the
friend of princes and bishops# the author of textboo"s and teachers manuals# the
editor of ?t +erome and the /ew Testament.
)n De ratione studii BFn the !ethod of
?tud*# 39335 he suggests reading material and stud* methods for grammar schools.
%e describes a procedure for appl*ing rhetorical anal*sis to other t*pes of literar*
text# pa*ing attention to genre# characters# place and action.
?ome of Hrasmuss
textboo"s aim at improving st*le. )n the Adagia B<dages# 39GG# with man* additions
in later editions5 he comments on the use of classical proverbs; in the Paraolae
$arallels# 39375 he collects together similes ta"en from ;ree" and @atin authors.
Hrasmus also contributed to the humanist production of practical rhetorics# with De
conscriendis epistolis BFn the Criting of @etters# 37.- and 39225# the most
successful of man* sixteenth-centur* letter-writing manuals#
and his half-finished
preaching manual# Hcclesiastes BThe $reacher# 39E95. 8ut his most influential
textboo" was De duplici copia verorum ac rerum BIoundations of the <bundant
?t*le# 39325# which went through at least 39G editions in the sixteenth centur*. De
copia explains that an abundant and varied st*le can be achieved b* two methods1
thic"ening the verbal texture and adding to the subDect-matter. 8oo" ) focuses on
wa*s of var*ing vocabular* and introducing st*listic embellishments. 8oo" )) loo"s to
argumentative strategies and to the topics of person and thing to provide additional
)n one wa*# then# as ;abriel %arve* suggested# De copia contributed to
the bringing together of rhetoric and dialectic. 8ut De copia provided st*listic
supercharging after the main outline of a wor" had been devised# so it would be truer
to sa* that it added the methods of dialectic to the resources of st*le. The idea of
exchanges between st*listic and argumentative devices is also found in <gricola and
!elanchthon.5 <part from his praise of <gricola# Hrasmus tended to be hostile to
dialectic# regarding grammar and rhetoric as the subDects which humanism ought to
promote. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge
Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew
0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# --5
$hilipp !elanchthon# famous as the Bteacher of ;erman*# was one of @uthers closet
associates# the author of the <ugsburg Confession 39EG5 and of numerous
$rotestant-humanist educational reforms. %e became professor of ;ree" at
Cittenberg in 393-. %is first lecture course on rhetoric# published as De rhetorica liri
tres BThree 8oo"s on &hetoric# 393.5 contains so much dialectic# and insists so
emphaticall* on its importance that the next *ear he felt compelled to produce a
separate dialectic boo"# Compendiaria dialectics ratio B< ?hort Course in 'ialectic#
392G5# followed b* a companion rhetoric# Institutiones rhetoricae B&hetorical
)nstruction# 39235. Irom then on !elanchthons accounts of both subDects develop
together# for as he said1 Brhetoric and dialectic have a common purposeJ the
discourse of dialectic is suited to teaching# the language of rhetoric to moving an
%is manuals tend to be Auite conservative in content# emphasi=ing the
topics in the humanist manner# but including a good deal of scholastic logic as well.
!elanchthon himself taught rhetoric and dialectic alongside classical and biblical
texts# showing that the precepts of the arts of language were observed in practice in
the texts. %is published biblical commentaries appl* the methods of rhetoric and
dialectic to the elucidation of the ?criptures. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and
'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill
,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# ----.5
$eter &amus built his academic career on scandalous attac"s on the academic gods
of his time1 <ristotle# Cicero and 6uintilian. @i"e !elanchthon# he understood that
new textboo"s could not ma"e an impression without academic politics and
educational reform. %e too composed paired textboo"s of rhetoric and dialectic#
revising them in tandem.
%e ac"nowledged that ?turms teaching of De invention
dialectica in $aris around 39EG and <gricolas emphasis on the relationship between
dialectic and good literature were the springboards for his own reforms.
Ior &amus#
invention the topics5 and method the proposition# the s*llogism and overall
disposition5 belonged to dialectic; st*le and deliver* to rhetoric. This reflects
<gricolas view# but &amuss treatment of the material is simpler and more formal.
%is treatises operate b* definition and division and hence can be represented in the
famous tree-diagrams5.
%e includes onl* what is undoubtedl* true and what
belongs to the subDect# moving graduall* from the most general element the
definition of the subDect5 to the most particular examples of particular topics or
figures of speech5. &amuss simplification made possible rapid understanding of the
structure of a subDect# but it could seem reductive. %e taught literar* texts alongside
his manuals and published anal*ses of man* classical wor"s K though these too
could seem insensitive since he had to wrench all texts into the onl* two structures
he recogni=ed1 the method from general to particular5 and the prudent approach
from particular to general5. &amuss manuals were immensel* influential# particularl*
in $rotestant countries after his murder in he ?t 8artholomews 'a* !assacre
39:25. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge
Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew
0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# -.5
'ifferent as the* are# these seven authors share certain preoccupations. <lthough the
nature and relative importance of the two subDects was open to debate# most
humanist authors conceived of rhetoric and dialectic together# seeing them as an
education in the use of language; and most of them used the principles of rhetoric
and dialectic to anal*se classical texts. 'ialectic remained primaril* <ristotelian.
/orthern humanists produced new textboo"s covering the entire subDect# written to
classical standards of @atinit* and reDecting scholastic additions to the discipline.
The* emphasi=ed dialectical invention of arguments through the topics. The two
strongest critics of <ristotle# Valla and &amus# differed considerabl* in the doctrines
the* attac"ed. )n rhetoric# humanists generall* retained the classical textboo"s#
especiall* the Rhetorica ad Herennium and 6uintilians Institutio oratoria# though
C*prian ?oare=s De arte rhetorica liri tres BThree 8oo"s on the <rt of &hetoric#
399:5 became ver* influential as the standard rhetoric manual of the +esuits. /ew
manuals written b* /orthern humanists dealt mainl* with subDects on the fringes of
rhetoric1 amplification# proverbs and imitation# for example. &elativel* little attention
was paid in such manuals to emotional persuasion. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric
and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b*
+ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# .G5
Turning now from the textboo"s# man* of them aimed at universit* students# to a
consideration of classroom practice# we can see how the humanist approach to
dialectic in particular affected attitudes to reading and writing. !ac"# $eter.
%umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance
%umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit*
$ress# 3..4# .G5
Commonplace boo"s were widel* used in sixteenth- and seventeenth-centur*
classrooms. The main purpose of the commonplace boo" was to enable students to
store awa* phrases or ideas from their reading for re-use in their own compositions.
?tudents would enter a series of headings# such as Dustice# virtue and courage# at the
top of the pages of an exercise boo". Chen the* came across a memorable passage
in a boo"# the* would enter it under the appropriate heading. )n due course the boo"
became a personal# subDect-organi=ed dictionar* of Auotations. 8ut the effect of this
training ma* also have influenced habits of reading# because the compiler of a
commonplace boo" had alwa*s to be as"ing1 under what heading might ) enter this
phrase and to which subDect is this sentence logicall* relatedL )t is possible that his
habit of mental filing actuall* enabled a &enaissance reader to attend to a romance
or a pla* on two levels simultaneousl*1 following the stor* and also noting the
development of a debate between the points of view expressed b* the various
characters on fortune# valour or wealth.
!ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and
'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill
,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# .G5
The Progymnasmata usuall* studied in the &enaissance classroom in the @atin
adaptation b* <gricola and &einhard @orich of <phthonius ;ree" text of the third
centur* <'5 are fourteen short exercises in composition# including the fable# tale#
proverb# characteri=ation and description. )n each case <phthonius provides an
explanation of the function and t*pes of each form# and one or more examples. Ior
instance# a chreia consists of a piece of advice attributed to an author; praise of the
author; paraphrase of the advice; elaboration of the advice from the topics of cause#
contrar* and analog*; an example illustrating the advice; a testimon* of its
importance ta"en from another author; and an epilogue. <ncient orators saw the
progymnasmata as exercises leading up to the composition of an oration.
&enaissance students ma* have found them useful in themselves. )t is eas* to see
how descriptions# characteri=ations and arguments could be inserted into reports#
romances and poems.
!ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The
Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-...
Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# .G-.35
/ot all &enaissance grammar schools included in their s*llabus a complete textboo"
of rhetoric# but the* all used letter-writing manuals# handboo"s of tropes and figures#
and dictionaries of proverbs and comparisons. )t is hard for us to imagine schoolbo*s
wor"ing through the long lists of tropes# but something of the "ind must have
happened. @earning the figures of speech and their manes ma* have encouraged
students to overuse them; but it ma* also have made them more sensitive to the
manner of their use# since labeling ma"es identification# discussion and comparison
much easier. )n the same wa*# stud*ing handboo"s of proverbs and that doubtful lore
about animals and plants which a modern critic has called Bunnatural natural histor*
ma* have enabled students to compare and critici=e the uses to which such st*listic
devices were put.
!ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The
Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-...
Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# .35
&eading the examples of 2GG wa*s of sa*ing B*our letter pleased me greatl* from
Hrasmuss De copia ma* well have encouraged a tendenc* towards dense and
repetitive writing.
8ut it ma* also have helped students understand that in using an*
given expression the* were choosing among alternatives# since there were 3.. other
inflections that could be given to the same material. )t must also have encouraged
students to rewrite their sentences and paragraphs# and shown them how rewriting
could bring out different aims and emphases. !ac"# $eter. %umanist &hetoric and
'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism# edited b* +ill
,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4# .35
?ome &enaissance schoolboo"s embraced the fashioned for imitation. <gricola
outlined a method for var*ing each aspect of an admired text in turn until eventuall*
one attempts to reproduce the manner of the original while discussing an entirel*
different subDect.
+ohn 8rinsle* set his students to wor" on Ciceros letters# first
summari=ing them# but later attempting to repl* to Cicero in his own st*le. 8rinsle*
also set out a step b* step method for producing Ciceronian word order.
<t its best#
particularl* where more than one model was involved# such imitation ma* have
elucidated the man* aspects which combine to produce an authors manner and ma*
have challenged students to improve their command of @atin. <t worst# it ma* have
encouraged the restrictions on vocabular* and expression which are moc"ed in
Hrasmuss Ciceronianus BThe Ciceronian# 392-5.
( !ac"# $eter. %umanist
&hetoric and 'ialectic.( )n The Cambridge Companion to &enaissance %umanism#
edited b* +ill ,ra*e# -2-... Cambridge; /ew 0or"1 Cambridge 2niversit* $ress# 3..4#