Rhetorical Renaissance: The Mistress Art and Her Masterworks

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University of Chicago Press, Jan 17, 2023 - Literary Criticism - 206 pages
Kathy Eden reveals the unexplored classical rhetorical theory at the heart of iconic Renaissance literary works.

Kathy Eden explores the intersection of early modern literary theory and practice. She considers the rebirth of the rhetorical art—resulting from the rediscovery of complete manuscripts of high-profile ancient texts about rhetoric by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and Tacitus, all unavailable before the early fifteenth century—and the impact of this art on early modern European literary production. This profound influence of key principles and practices on the most widely taught early modern literary texts remains largely and surprisingly unexplored.

Devoting four chapters to these practices—on status, refutation, similitude, and style—Eden connects the architecture of the most widely read classical rhetorical manuals to the structures of such major Renaissance works as Petrarch’s Secret, Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, Erasmus’s Antibarbarians and Ciceronianus, and Montaigne’s Essays. Eden concludes by showing how these rhetorical practices were understood to work together to form a literary masterwork, with important implications for how we read these texts today.

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About the author (2023)

Kathy Eden is Chavkin Family Professor of English Literature and professor of classics at Columbia University. She is the author of four books, recently, The Renaissance Rediscovery of Intimacy and Friends Hold All Things in Common, winner of the Roland H. Bainton Prize of the Sixteenth-Century Society. Among her other awards and honors are fellowships from All Souls, Oxford, the Rockefeller Institute, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Center for Hellenic Studies, and the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Eden was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2019.

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