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  • A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication by Marco Mostert
  • John O. Ward
Mostert, Marco, A Bibliography of Works on Medieval Communication, (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 2), Turnhout, Brepols, 2012; hardback; pp. 672; R.R.P. €115.00; ISBN 9782503544779.

This extremely careful, important, and useful volume is the third, and presumably the last, printed list of books and articles on medieval communication by Marco Mostert. It contains 6,843 titles and ample advice on how to use its contents. The author’s primary research interest, however, seems to be orality and literacy, the volume revealing a strangely literal notion of communication as the transfer of unadulterated, unspun, ordinary factual information and messages, or ‘literature’, in writing, speech, or in non-verbal communication. As such, there is a strange absence of interest in ‘persuasion’ or ‘rhetoric’ (see pp. 572–73 for such references to ‘rhetoric’ as exist, and on p. 565 those interested in ‘persuasion’ are told to look up ‘learning’, a topic which is extensively treated, pp. 261–87, but displays little interest in the teaching of Graeco-Roman rhetoric or any of the related medieval arts of persuasion). These are two of the five parts of classical rhetorical theory, but there is little other interest in rhetoric or persuasion as affecting or constituting communication in Mostert’s book.

There are sections devoted to ‘memory’ (pp. 237–60, as part of a chapter that deals with oral tradition and notions of the past in oral societies), and ‘gesture’ (pp. 133–38, as part of section on ‘Forms of Non-Verbal Communication’ and see ‘Performance’ pp. 426–29). The section entitled ‘Forms of Oral Communication: Parliamentary Rhetoric’ contains a single item and there are seven titles in the section entitled ‘Forms of Oral Communication: Battlefield Language’. Consequently, references to the works of Margareta Fredborg, myself, Jorie Woods, and Martin Camargo, among others in this field, are rare or absent, though one or two titles that would fall into the area of ‘persuasive communication’ do creep in (see in particular p. 619 for the works of T. Haye). The author needs a close acquaintance with the massive Tübingen Historisches Wörterbuch der Rhetorik (1992 and subsequently), however, editor Gert Ueding does not appear in Mostert’s ‘Index of Modern Authors and Editors’.

Mostert does raise the question of ‘persuasion’: ‘people may influence one another’s hearts and minds’ and without this influence, ‘no durable society is feasible’. This influence, though, is part of ‘the exchange of information’ (p. 4). ‘Propaganda’, ‘spin’ (Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson’s Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, rev. edn (Freeman, 2001), ought to be featured somewhere in Mostert’s book), ‘rhetoric’, and ‘persuasion’ needed headings and more references. [End Page 311]

Nevertheless, all scholars who concern themselves with ‘communications’ – however they choose to define the term and its connotations – are advised to secure and comb through Mostert’s volume, which is particularly rich in Germanic items. Indeed, consideration of Mostert’s collection should sharpen readers’ ideas about what communication is, and what rhetoric/ persuasion is. In this regard, George A. Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction (Oxford University Press, 1998) errs in the opposite direction to Mostert, including perspectives more appropriate to ‘communication’ than to ‘rhetoric’.

Finally, an addition for the keen: Slavica Rankovic, ed., with I. B. Budal, Leidulf Melve, and Else Mundal, Modes of Authorship in the Middle Ages (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2012). And a couple of corrections: p. 19 ‘One began to wonder …’ and p. 26: ‘it may also be due to the fact that no longer can much new information be unearthed …’.

John O. Ward
Medieval and Early Modern Centre
The University of Sydney


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