Ancient and MedievalMedieval Transitions
The Venerable Bede in England (672/73–735) brought this approach to a kind of fruition by pointing out in his treatise De schematibus et tropibus ("Concerning figures and tropes") that the Bible revealed all the stylistic tricks inculcated by the Latin rhetorical preceptive tradition (under the heading of style or elocution, see Miller, Prosser, and Benson, pp. 96–122). However, although intellectual life in the western European Middle Ages (c. 500–1500) was committed rather more than that of pre-Christian antiquity to notions of revealed truth, it relied heavily upon the Graeco-Roman rhetorical preceptive tradition to organize its communicative needs and its perceptive grids. The Augustinian, imitative and the Ciceronian preceptive tradition were in balance until the twelfth century, when the habit of lecturing on the De inventione and Ad Herennium (begun, at least as far as the former treatise was concerned, in at least the third century C.E.) returned to favor and dominated communications systems, even invading theological discourse and ideas, where the distinction between "literal" and "allegorical" interpretations of a text permitted the carriage of multiple meanings, thus pluralizing "truth" in favor of what Abelard called the multiloquium (or "omnicompetent multifacettedness") of language. From the period between c. 1020 and c. 1215 C.E. some twenty-two commentaries on the De Inventione and the Rhetorica ad Herennium have survived to the present in manuscripts, compiled usually as reportages of lecture series delivered in cities with teaching cathedrals or court and monastic schools. These texts, catering to situations that demanded intensified persuasive discourse (for example the so-called Investitures Controversy of the eleventh century or the intensified study of Roman law or the processes of argumentation in theology and university "arts-faculty" disputations / controversy), produced a series of new departures adapted to expanding government and church administrations and aspirations from c. 1000 onward. It is interesting, for example, that although neither Greek nor Roman antiquity produced any preceptive manuals devoted to letter and document composition, in the later period "formularies" have survived such as the model letter collection of the sixth-century Italian Cassiodorus, the late eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries spawned an important series of classically influenced treatises (on dictamen or "composition") setting out the modes of address and persuasion between potential letter writers and receivers in medieval diplomatic, administrative and intellectual contexts—where the letter was the major carrier of news, ideas, information, and polite discourse of a less-than-treatise worthy nature. In England at least these treatises expanded into regular "business courses" (Camargo, 1995), and the treatise-form was eventually adopted by a wide range of communication arts, including the arts of memory and public address.
The same can be said for the pressing need of the revivalist international (Latin-using) church of the thirteenth century felt to communicate its elaborate salvational doctrines against heresy, apostasy, witchcraft (maleficium), heathenism, Islam, Judaism, secularism, impiety and various forms of lay piety, particularly that of women. This emphasis produced a vast range of sermons and preaching manuals (the ars predicandi or "art of preaching" and the art of "praying" or ars precandi), which matched a somewhat smaller profusion of manuals (c.1175–1250) imitating the ancient ars poetica of Horace (a text commented upon with interest in the twelfth century) and designed to inculcate a maximum of prose and poetic flexibility in the ornate Latin discourse of the day.
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