Outlaw Rhetoric

Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England

Jenny C. Mann
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Outlaw Rhetoric
    Book Description:

    A central feature of English Renaissance humanism was its reverence for classical Latin as the one true form of eloquent expression. Yet sixteenth-century writers increasingly came to believe that England needed an equally distinguished vernacular language to serve its burgeoning national community. Thus, one of the main cultural projects of Renaissance rhetoricians was that of producing a "common" vernacular eloquence, mindful of its classical origins yet self-consciously English in character. The process of vernacularization began during Henry VIII's reign and continued, with fits and starts, late into the seventeenth century. However, as Jenny C. Mann shows in Outlaw Rhetoric, this project was beset with problems and conflicts from the start.

    Outlaw Rhetoric examines the substantial and largely unexplored archive of vernacular rhetorical guides produced in England between 1500 and 1700. Writers of these guides drew on classical training as they translated Greek and Latin figures of speech into an everyday English that could serve the ends of literary and national invention. In the process, however, they confronted aspects of rhetoric that run counter to its civilizing impulse. For instance, Mann finds repeated references to Robin Hood, indicating an ongoing concern that vernacular rhetoric is "outlaw" to the classical tradition because it is common, popular, and ephemeral. As this book shows, however, such allusions hint at a growing acceptance of the nonclassical along with a new esteem for literary production that can be identified as native to England. Working across a range of genres, Mann demonstrates the effects of this tension between classical rhetoric and English outlawry in works by Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Jonson, and Cavendish. In so doing she reveals the political stakes of the vernacular rhetorical project in the age of Shakespeare.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6410-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction: A Tale of Robin Hood
    (pp. 1-28)

    Richard Sherry’s A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes (1550), only the second rhetorical manual to be published in the vernacular, begins by imagining its own rejection by English readers. “Doubt not but that the title of this treatise all straunge vnto our Englyshe eares, wil cause some men at the fyrst syghte to maruayle what the matter of it should meane: yea, and peraduenture if they be rashe of iudgement, to cal it some newe fangle, and so casting it hastily from them, wil not once vouch safe to reade it: and if they do, yet perceiuynge nothing to be...

  6. Chapter 1 Common Rhetoric: Planting Figures of speech in the English Shire
    (pp. 29-54)

    Walter Haddon’s dedication to Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetoric (1560) imagines the translation of rhetoric into English as a modest woman’s journey to a new country.

    Sister Logic spoke to her sister Rhetoric whom she recently became acquainted with; the language was English. Rhetoric, struck with great sadness, grew quiet; for she still did not know how to speak in our tongue. Wilson, who had been the teacher of logic and had added our sounds to her, by chance overheard these things. Having consoled silent Rhetoric with friendly words, he addresses himself to her and asks whether she wishes to...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Trespasser: Displacing Virgilian Figures in Spenser’s Faerie Queene
    (pp. 55-86)

    In considering the ancient art of rhetoric’s passion for classification, Roland Barthes observes, “tell me how you classify and I’ll tell you who you are.” This gnomic promise suggests that we can discover a certain truth of identity in the taxonomic decisions made by different rhetorical cultures. Barthes clarifies this declaration by writing that “the taxonomic option implies an ideological one: there is always a stake in where things are placed,” and he later calls taxonomic variation the “place of place.”¹ I have been arguing that the “place” of vernacular rhetoric must be understood as England, and Barthes’ reflections on...

  8. Chapter 3 The Insertour: Putting the Parenthesis in Sidney’s Arcadia
    (pp. 87-117)

    Anne Bradstreet’s “Elegie upon that Honourable and Renowned Knight, Sir Philip Sidney” (1638) itemizes the noble achievements we have come to expect from descriptions of England’s shepherd-knight, presenting a soldier and a poet who successfully navigates the competing challenges of otium (leisure) and negotium (employment):¹

    When England did injoy her Halsion dayes,

    Her noble Sidney wore the Crown of Bayes;

    No lesse an Honour to our British Land,

    Then she that sway’d the Scepter with her hand:

    More worth was thine, then Clio could set down.

    Thalia, and Melpomene, say th’ truth,

    (Witnesse Arcadia, penn’d in his youth)

    Are not...

  9. Chapter 4 The Changeling: Mingling Heroes and Hobgoblins in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    (pp. 118-145)

    Though brief, the following passage from Puttenham’s Arte returns us to two of my most important arguments. In describing the figure hypallage, Puttenham writes,

    The Greekes call this figure [Hipallage] the Latins Submutatio, we in our vulgar may call him the [underchange] but I had rather haue him called the [Changeling] nothing at all sweruing from his originall, and much more aptly to the purpose, and pleasanter to beare in memory: specially for your Ladies and pretie mistresses in Court, for whose learning I write, because it is a terme often in their mouthes, and alluding to the opinion of...

  10. Chapter 5 The Figure of Exchange: Gender Exchange in Shakespeare’ Sonnet 20 and Jonson’s Epicene
    (pp. 146-170)

    The word “case” provides a common lexical ground for grammatical, legal, and erotic concerns in the early modern period. Thus in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, as the villain Cloten attempts to rouse Imogen from her chamber, he mutters, “I will make/One of her women lawyer to me, for/I yet not understand the case myself.”¹ In sixteenth-century usage, “case” might signify a law case, the grammatical form of a word, the garments that clothe the human body, or, as this quotation emphasizes, a woman’s genitalia.² The complexities of the term’s connotations in the English vernacular occur across these various senses of “case,” as...

  11. Chapter 6 The Mingle-Mangle: The Hodgepodge of Fancy and Philosophy in Cavendish’s Blazing World
    (pp. 171-200)

    In the following passage from the Institutio oratoria, Quintilian coins the word sardismos to name a stylistic vice otherwise known by the Greek term soraismus, which refers to the mixture of different languages within a single speech. In defining this form of linguistic abuse, Quintilian writes,

    There is also what is called Sardismos, a style made up of a mixture of several kinds of language, for example a confusion of Attick with Doric, Aeolic with Ionic. We Romans commit a similar fault, if we combine the sublime with the mean, the ancient with the modern, the poetic with the vulgar,...

  12. Conclusion: “Words Made Visible” and the Turn against Rhetoric
    (pp. 201-218)

    Cicero begins his De inventione worrying about rhetoric’s influence on civil society, confessing that “I have often seriously debated with myself whether men and communities have received more good or evil from oratory and a consuming devotion to eloquence. For when I ponder the troubles in our commonwealth, and run over in my mind the ancient misfortunes of mighty cities, I see that no little part of the disasters were brought about by men of eloquence.”¹ As the proponents of the “plain style” quoted in the previous chapter suggest, the sectarian conflict of the Civil War and its aftermath caused...

  13. Appendix of English Rhetorical Manuals
    (pp. 219-222)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-250)