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Translation and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric



PIMS, Pontificial Institute of Medieval Studies







Translation and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric presents a diachronic case study of how translation is the means by which rhetoric, as the art of reasoning, becomes a part of a lineage of – and a resource for – an ethics of civic discourse. It shows how translation (as practice and as theory, via the medieval topos of translatio as the transfer of knowledge) serves as the vehicle for the transfer of rhetoric as an art of argumentation and persuasion from classical Greece and Rome to modern Paris and Brussels by way of medieval France and Italy.

This study explores a significant and quite specific transmission of rhetorical thought. Beginning with the Roman orator Cicero it proceeds to the medieval Italian notary, philosopher, and statesman Brunetto Latini, whose translations of Cicero’s De inventione would plant the seeds for the renewal of rhetoric as an art of persuasion and radically change the fate of rhetoric in the twentieth century in the work of the French literary critic Jean Paulhan and the Belgian philosophers Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca.

In so doing, Translation and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric serves to underscore the importance of medieval culture to contemporary thought by studying not only how knowledge was transmitted from antiquity to modernity by means of translation, but also by revealing how the Middle Ages made an essential and traceable contribution to modern rhetorical studies.

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