- Retòrica Nova
Ramon Llull (ca. 1232–1316) devoted his entire life to the development, deployment, and perfection of his Art, an intellectual system that sought to reduce and unify human knowledge into a series of rules and axioms. His first [End Page 448] and foremost intention was to love, serve, and praise God, thus; by means of his artistic system, he was ultimately aiming to find a repertory of necessary reasons through which to convince and convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity. Llull's New Rhetoric (RN) must be understood as the reconfiguration of a learned discipline in light of his Art.
This new rhetoric gives orientations (e.g., it asserts the need to decorously address every kind of audience), but does not systematize any structured compositional praxis. Llull's rhetoric is philosophical, and moves from the apparent causes for beauty (the nature and order of words) to the intangible core of persuasion: Charity. According to Llull, the tenets of persuasive words are not to be found in their treatment but, metaphysically, in the entities to which they refer, hierarchically disposed according to a Neoplatonic conception of the universe. Since God is reflected in any being, and every creature is closer or further with respect to him (from Christ and angels, to rocks and trees), also the words that represent those beings partake the ontological status of their signifieds. In Llull's rhetoric, then, each word bears an ontological and moral value that makes it more or less effective for the purpose of serving God through the greatest of the theological virtues, namely Charity.
In 1994 Mark D. Johnston edited and translated into English Llull's singular book on rhetoric. The edition by Batalla, Cabré, and Ortín constitutes the first volume in a new series (Traducció de l'Obra Llatina de Ramon Llull) devoted to the edition and translation into Catalan of Llull's Latin works. The base text for this 2006 edition is Jaume Medina's critical edition published in 2005 as part of the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Medievalis. Although Llull's RN was originally written in Catalan in 1301, it has only come down to us in its 1303 Latin translation, except for fifty proverbs which circulated independently. The editors have lightly emended Medina's text, taking into account Johnston's edition, and the Catalan version of those proverbs, which has provided better readings in some instances.
This new edition also benefits from essential contributions to the exegesis of the text since Johnston's English edition—from the fundamental and compendious The Evangelical Rhetoric of Ramon Llull (1996) by Johnston to the useful Diccionari de definicions lul·lianes (2002) by Anthony Bonner and Maria Isabel Ripoll. Additionally, the volume includes a synthetic and essential introduction to Llull's Art by one of its most renowned scholars, the late Robert Pring-Mill, to whom the volume is dedicated.
RN has been edited with careful attention to Llull's cultural setting, and its relationship to the entire Llullian corpus. The search for direct sources in Llull's case is known to be especially tantalizing and difficult; nonetheless, the annotation clarifies his debt to Classical and Medieval rhetoric and grammar (speculative grammarians, artes praedicandi, poeticae, etc.). Despite the unorthodox and original components of the RN, its relations with those traditions is undeniable. The very first paragraph, for example, defines rhetoric as the art of achieving agreement between orator and audience by means of an embellished use of the word. Also the heuristic use of Classical rhetorical [End Page 449] terminology throughout the introduction and notes proves to be a rigorous tool to expound the sometimes obscure meaning of Llull's words.
The notes provide detailed explanations about the lexical choices made in the translation to guarantee a correct understanding of the text. Such philological care not only makes the text less opaque, but also features the first close, articulated...