Aristotle’s Rhetoric and the Medieval Preacher

Aristotle’s Rhetoric and the Medieval Preacher
18 October 2018, 5.30pm - 6.30pm
Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB

Lecture presented by Visiting Warburg Institute Fellow Rita Copeland, Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities, Professor of Classical Studies, English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania.

What did Aristotle’s Rhetoric mean to medieval preachers?  Clerical readers owned it and absorbed it, but what did it offer them that was new?  As an art of persuasion, the Rhetoric was indeed something new when it came on the scene in the Latin West at the end of the thirteenth century.  Its distinctive treatment of emotion would certainly speak to the professional needs of preachers, and they would see their own pragmatic knowledge of human behavior reflected there.  But what did it teach them about persuasion that they did not already know and deploy in their practice?  For preachers, the Rhetoric articulated a theory of affective appeal and explained the technical devices that make emotional argument successful.  This new theoretical resource shaped pastoral outlooks, as revealed in the careers of some outstanding preachers, including Bridget of Sweden’s own confessor. 

This event is part of the Director’s Seminar Series, which brings leading scholars to the Institute to share new research and fresh perspectives on the key issues in their fields. Free and open to the public.


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